Published since October 2016, the first six issues of the current run of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey are available in a TPB collection.Previous Birds of Prey runs were vol. 1 which had a total of 127 issues published between January 1999 and April 2009. Volume 2 was published for a total of 15 issues from July 2010 to October 2011. Finally, volume 3 was published from November 2011 to October 2014 for 35 issues.
It feels like an alternate universe storyline taking place on Earth-??, but I have not found this to be the case. Given that I do not like alternate-universe continuities, I was about to put it down after reading the first two issues. However, when I read the first few pages of the third issue, I started to view the three main characters as being more than just a group of crazed anti-crime vigilantes. The main story is interrupted by a flashback that shows that Dinah Lance was physically abused as a child. When the nine-year-old, someday to be, Black Canary tells the other kid that if she stays she will kill her foster-father, one gets the idea that her reason for leaving was very deep (and also very dark).
A few panels after that we see another flashback where the still young Black Canary is in a martial academy conversing with her deceased mother in the mirror. At this point, I was drawn into the story because it represents an origin story for Black Canary that I was not familiar with. Perhaps the same will apply to Babs/Batgirl and Helen/The Huntress as the story goes on.
I just learned the other night that the Black Canary character can be seen in the “Green Arrow” series on CW, but I believe her back-story is much different from the main continuity character of the comic books. For those who are not familiar with the Black Canary character and her origins, I will lay it out briefly.
Black Canary turned 70 years old in August 2017. The DC Comics character debuted in August 1947, in Flash Comics #86 in a Johnny Thunder story titled “The Black Canary”. There was not much of a backstory. What we were told was she was “the most fascinating crook of all time”.
She was drawn in the style of a Milton Caniff pin-up girl with a Veronica Lake peek-a-boo hairstyle. In the beginning, she is portrayed as being a criminal. Then we learn that the criminal-stuff is just a front, a false persona and that in reality, the Black Canary is another vigilante crime-fighter, but then again she is not just “another hero” due to the fact that Black Canary was one of a very few female crime-fighters. In 1947, besides Black Canary, there was only Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl. Supergirl did not come about until the late 1950s.
The “Canary” seems to always know when a job is about to be pulled. She seems to know what all of the different gangs in Gotham City are up to. At the end of story number one, it is repeated that she is a bad guy – “a beautiful villainess” she is called. Then it changes to where she is being framed in the next story and she and Johnny have joined forces in the war against crime.
But what else did we know about Black Canary between her debut in 1947 and her re-make and reappearance, so-to-speak, in the late 1960s? I would say “really not much” and along the way, there were contradictions and major makeover that involved making the current Black Canary be the daughter of the 1940s Black Canary and also making the current Black Canary be one of the founding members of the Justice League. I kind of understand the mother/daughter retconned because Black Canary is not a “goddess” like Wonder Woman or an alien like the silver-age Hawkgirl, but tell me why was it necessary for her to be a founder of the JLA?
Somewhere along the way, she lost her domino mask and we learn that she is actually a brunette disguised as a blonde bombshell. In issue #92, she got her own story and Johnny Thunder and Thunderbolt were gone from the pages of Flash Comics. She is made out to be more of mystery. It is written that she is a “veteran of a thousand strange experiences”. We are introduced to Larry Lance, a Gotham city private eye.
When she and Larry are taken prisoner by a gang of bad guys, we are introduced to her choker-locket where she can store things like gas pellets and tiny knives. All the while – *wink-wink* – we know that Dinah Drake and Black Canary are one and the same
From 1951 to 1963, Black Canary was absent from any publications. When she appeared again, it was on Earth-2 and as a member of the JSA. It was in issue #21 of “Justice League of America” (August 1963). She had become a member of the Justice Society of America in issue #38 of All-Star Comics (January 1948).
From 1963, she appeared every year usually in the late summer within and sometimes on the cover of “Justice League of America”. Up until 1969, she had no superpowers whatsoever until she suddenly acquired her “sonic scream”. The sudden special ability was attributed to a rogue “star” named Aquarius.
Back to the flashbacks in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (2016) issue #3. Black Canary gets her black belt at age 16. In this storyline, Black Canary acquires more than a black belt. When she finally lets go of the pain that she has been carrying around for years and it comes in the form of the sonic scream.
The story is very basic. There are good guys and there are bad guys. Gotham is the center of the universe. All the weird criminal stuff in the world seems to emanate from within the boundaries of the city. All this makes it feel like an alternate-universe story, yet I will go along for the ride at least to the end of the collection and issue #6.