11 February 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Birds of Prey, Part IV: Of Like Minds

Comic trade paperback, 143 pages
Published 2004 (contents: 2003-04)
Borrowed from the library
Read January 2013
Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Ed Benes
Inkers: Alex Lei with Rob Lea
Letterers: John E. Workman, Rob Leigh, Jared K. Fletcher

The cover of this one made me feel a little skeevy when I picked it up from the library-- only one button, Oracle? a "belly window," Huntress?-- but this is the start of Gail Simone's celebrated run on Birds of Prey. For most of the story, Black Canary is captured and seemingly under threat of torture, an interesting contrast to what happened to her at the beginning of Mike Grell's Green Arrow run in The Longbow Hunters. That torture removed her sonic cry, destroyed her ability to have children, and caused her to largely abandon her crime-fighting career. And, of course, she was utterly dependent on Green Arrow to rescue her. (Though what's not often mentioned is that in the prelude to The Black Arrow Saga a couple years later, Green Arrow was just as badly tortured, and rescued by Black Canary in an amazing example of sheer ass-kicking.) The torture her serves as a rebirth of sorts for Black Canary: she remasters her sonic cry, and she's rescued not by her boyfriend, but by her new best friends, Oracle and the Huntress, working together as they've never done before-- not to mention Canary's own quick thinking. It's an effective way to signal the beginning of a new era.

Otherwise, this is a serviceable but unremarkable superhero story, involving captures, double-bluffs, escapes, and lots of fighting. The best part of it is Simone's grasp of the characters; she ably picks up the ball from Chuck Dixon and carries on the development of Dinah and Barbara, adding Helena into the mix as well. There are a lot of great moments: Helena saving a baby, Dinah having to cope with a wheelchair of her own, Barbara's battle of wits with Savant.

If only Ed Benes didn't feel compelled to show off all the female characters' butts and boobs at every opportunity. Are you fifteen, dude? What is this supposed to be in aid of? I also miss the Black Canary costume introduced at the beginning of Dixon's run; I'm not sure where it went in the gap between Old Friends, New Enemies and this story. Benes also draws Dinah a little too young; especially with that haircut, she looks like she's 20 years old, when in fact she's a few years older than Barbara. On the other hand, I think he gets Barbara down perfectly, and he's pretty adept with facial expressions, which is important when you have a largely immobile character!

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