Gail Simone's previous Birds of Prey trade paperback, The Battle Within, offered a good pre-One Year Later cliffhanger regarding Barbara Gordon's paralysis. But Birds of Prey still had a couple pre-One Year Later issues to go, making Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch something of a combination trade--two stories, one set just before the events of Infinite Crisis, and one picking up a year after the fact. As such, Perfect Pitch offers an interesting transition, serving as both a coda to Simone's work on Birds of Prey so far, and the beginning of something new.
Over their long histories, the Birds of Prey characters have had something of a rough go, with Black Canary often serving as a hostage for Green Arrow to rescue, Oracle many times relegated to Batman's secretary, and Huntress kicked out of the Justice League. In the first Perfect Pitch storyline, as the Birds fight the Calculator and the Secret Society, Simone takes time to address the issues facing each of the Birds. Black Canary confronts Green Arrow about the ways he's mis-treated her, and ultimately forgives him, while Barbara Gordon reveals her Oracle identity to her father, in that way perhaps fully accepting her Oracle role herself.
This leads to a confrontation where Oracle and Commissioner Gordon defend Oracle's actions to Batman, and Batman must later admit his own mistakes when he finally gives Huntress the approval she deserves. Indeed, the brusque pre-Infinite Crisis shadow of Batman falls in one way or another over all the Birds of Prey, and Perfect Pitch serves to bring this to a close; when Black Canary kisses Batman in the end, it is a symbol of the humanity often missing in the pre-Infinite Crisis Batman, now brought to the surface by the Birds.
Simone features Black Canary in a solo story in the second half of Perfect Pitch, as Dinah trains under a woman proported to be Lady Shiva's mother. As Dinah single-handedly defends an entire village from an armed militia, Simone brings Black Canary nearly full circle from the start of her Birds of Prey run--from victim, captured by Savant and needing to be saved by Huntress, to martial arts expert and full-fledged super-hero in her own right.
The rise of Black Canary here only underlines the injustice this character has faced for most of her incarnation--a mid-level fighter, ill-treated by Green Arrow, and ultimately aimless before being recruited by Oracle; it's no wonder that, until recently, Black Canary was often relegated to supporting character status. Here Simone, without necessarily detracting from Lady Shiva, turns Black Canary into a Shiva-level fighter, and she becomes that much more interesting for it. Why should Shiva, as a villain, be the greatest fighter in the DC Universe? Giving Canary that same potential is a change very long overdue.
At the same time, Simone differentiates Dinah by showing that, even though Dinah now has Lady Shiva's potential for violence, she tempers it with humanity, partially in the form of adopting the child Sin. At face value, having Black Canary adopt a child would concern me; in the hands of a lesser writer, giving Black Canary a child would be a step toward "domesticating" Black Canary, having her retire from crime-fighting, at least until another writer wrote out or killed the child in some gratuitous way. But Oracle's protest that super-heroing "eats kids and family members" only serves as a reminder of the amount of death the DC Universe has faced lately; surely Simone introducing a child, one that reminds Black Canary of happiness, must be a good thing. I'm hopeful other writers will believe the same.
[Contains full covers, brief biographies, brief One Year Later page.]
On now to read Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits, before we start a run-up to Justice League of America: The Tornado's Path. Stay with us!