The citizens of Gotham City are sick, but it's only the men. With roughly half the population out of commission, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey have called upon just about every superheroine they could reach to help in this time of crisis. In addition to Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress, the likes of Orphan, Spoiler, Batwoman, Gotham Girl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and even Wonder Woman herself have come to help.
With few leads to go on and an intensifying situation, these heroes have their work to cut out for them.
For starters, I'm up for any story that unites the likes of the Birds of Prey, Batwoman, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Wonder Woman. I truly cannot stand Harley Quinn, but her presence in this issue is restrained except for the odd bad joke.
We have a couple of good moments of them playing off of each other, but they separate into teams for most of the issue, with Wonder Woman going off on her own.
The action sequences are spaced out quite a bit, as much of the comic is spent trying to figure out how this plague came about.
Roge Antonio's artwork is heavily-inspired by anime, with layouts often highlighting a series of reaction shots which is common in a lot of manga and anime. These reaction shots aren't often necessary and do take up a lot of unnecessary space, but the layouts are mostly economic with page allotment. Also, there isn't a lot of detail, especially in faces. This does get a bit distracting at times. However, the artwork is largely effective and makes good use of its characters and figures. It has its flaws, but it is solid enough.
Marcelo Maiolo's color work is good as well, giving Gotham City a damaged and uneasy atmosphere as the Birds of Prey try to keep everything from falling apart.
The most interesting talking point of this issue is the reveal of the culprit(s) and their motivation for causing this plague. As such, here is your spoiler warning for the rest of the review.
The people responsible for the outbreak are called the Daughters of Gotham. They are a group of women interested in cleansing the city of the corrupt men they see as infesting it and raising a new generation of males to replace them.
This harkens back to many a man-killer, bra-burning radical feminist villains from older comics. I mean hell, there is literally a villain named Man-Killer (who actually spent some time with the Thunderbolts back in the day). Thundra was a "Femizonian" villain in her earlier days. Poison Ivy is an environmental terrorist, but her MO always included the dominating of men. Even Carol Danvers, then Ms. Marvel, was framed as an upstart woman in need of being put in her place in her earlier days as a hero. Wasp and Invisible Woman were considered better for their subservience to their partners, Ant-Man/Giant Man and Mr. Fantastic respectively.
I'm using mostly Marvel examples here, but DC wasn't excluded from this issue, though Wonder Woman was largely an outlier in all of this from the beginning.
In any case, this comic is interesting in that it flips that somewhat. Firstly, there is a lot of subtext in the motivations of the Daughters of Gotham, much of which alludes to victimization through sexual violence, which is a real problem which really can damage people (Weinstein, Louis C.K, Roy Moore, take your pick). As such, there is a strand of warped logic in this ploy, unfeasible as it is, but comic book logic. This is far better than the pseudo-comedic representation of such antagonists in the past.
The comic also seeks to point out that this extremism isn't representative of most feminists—hi, I'm Josh, and I'm a feminist because I believe there is a systematic oppression of women while still having damaging effects on men—and it aims to point out the difference between positive feminism, women seeking to rise up and better their world, and negative feminism, women who believe that men are inherently bad (this doesn't include someone tweeting out "men suck" as a joke in light of revelation of sexual misconduct).
There's even a scene of Lois Lane specifically stating, "Misandry isn't feminism."
Now, all of this should be pretty obvious, but, with the rise of some…spirited anti-feminist YouTube personalities as well as conservative pundits who call feminism cancer, I can get why Julie and Shawna Benson felt the need to articulate the difference through use of badass superheroines.
With a deceivingly simple plot with a lot of implications, solid artwork, and a great cast, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #16 is a compelling read. It has a point to make, and that's always appreciated. This one earns a recommendation, and you should definitely check it out.
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