Threads of Prey: A Look at the New Huntress and Black Canary Designs
With DC Rebirth comes a new take on the Birds of Prey, specifically Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, written by Julie and Shawna Benson with art by Claire Roe, and along with that comes some new costume designs.
While Batgirl seems to be keeping the same basic costume she's worn since moving to Burnside (though it looks different when drawn by different artists), her new teammates, Huntress and Black Canary, have new looks designed by series cover artist Yanick Paquette. But what do these new looks tell us about the characters and the series, and how do they compare to the characters' previous looks?
First, there's Huntress. And to be clear, we don't know 100% for certain yet who this Huntress is. She's probably Helena Bertinelli, but the post-Flashpoint Bertinelli's career lies with Spyral and she's yet to put on a superhero costume. But with Dick Grayson returning to his costumed identity, it's not inconceivable that she will join him, especially since that will line her up with the pre-Flashpoint Helena Bertinelli, who was active as the Huntress for more than 20 real-world years.
The new costume incorporates elements of two of her most notable previous looks. The one on the left first appeared in 1996 (and I can't find a creator credit for it). It was her look in the early Birds of Prey books, as well as her time on Grant Morrison's JLA roster. The costume on the left was designed by Jim Lee for Batman: Hush, and was controversial for showing a lot of skin compared to the previous look, and especially that big rectangular belly window. It also introduced the white cross, which has been an element of her look ever since.
The first New 52 Huntress was Helena Wayne, daughter of Earth 2's original Batman, but her costume was a combination of the two Helena Bertinelli costumes shown above. And that white cross was also part of the new Helena Bertinelli's Spyral outfit. In fact it was the only part of the Huntress costume that Bertinelli retained.
Interestingly, the new costume eliminates the cross shape, while keeping the wide white lines that suggest it. It also makes her cape into more of a coat, complete with a hood, which is a new element as far as I know. It's a good look, one that's recognizably the Huntress, without being anything we've quite seen before.
Then there's Black Canary. Her costume incorporates a bird design, which isn't new, but it's not a part of her usual look. Also the black-with-blue-highlights of her classic costume has been separated into a blue top amid an otherwise entirely black ensemble. The fishnets are, of course, retained. Also in this sketch she's clearly wearing a different pair of shorts in the front view than she is in the back view, but that will surely be worked out.
The basic elements of Black Canary's outfit have been in place since her first appearance in 1947. Black jacket, black boots, some kind of leotard or halter and shorts, and of course fishnets. Over the years various artists have tried to change up the look, but it always comes back to something much like this, just adjusted for the times.
That brings us to how she looks in the current (imminently canceled) Black Canary book, which is drawn primarily by Annie Wu. In her current role as a rock star, she doesn't wear the same thing every issue, but she keeps the basic elements I mentioned above: boots, jacket, fishnets, bodysuit. It surely helps to have a young female artist with a great sense of style on the book, because even though Canary's outfits are over the top, they always feel like real clothes that a real woman is wearing.
The new design clearly draws on the spirit of rock star Black Canary. The boots, the jacket, the belt --- Paquette is working to keep that rock and roll style. However, without Wu's fashion sense, it's not quite working. The shorts and top feel over-determined, and the jacket with the appliqué bird on the back looks like something a middle-aged biker would think is cool, rather than a young woman in band. My hope is that interior artist Claire Roe will tweak the look a bit to make it less clunky.
My reservations about the new Black Canary costume aside, this is a book I'm excited to read. My hope is that it brings in more female heroes than just these three along the way, and maybe there will be more new designs to talk about when that happens. For now, I'll be trying not to be too sad about the departure of Annie Wu from DC, and getting the most out of the final issues of Black Canary.