25 March 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Birds of Prey, Part X: Dead of Winter

Comic trade paperback, 124 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 2007)
Borrowed from the library
Read March 2013
Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter

Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Nicola Scott
Inker: Doug Hazlewood
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Dead of Winter picks up pretty close to the end of Blood and Circuits: the Spy Smasher has seized control of the Birds of Prey, sending them on a mission into Russia to track down a dangerous weapon, where they come into conflict with the Secret Six, who I guess are a supervillain/mercenary team that Gail Simone has also written for.

There's a lot of running around and fighting; it's a shame that Simone wasn't able to go out with something more character-focused, though Dead of Winter certainly has its moments. I loved the interplay between the Huntress and Catman, Harley Quinn was hilarious, I am starting to like Manhunter (and looking forward to reading her solo series someday), Creote is in it, and the bit where Deadshot shoots the villain was great. There are some confusing continuity touches, though: Ice, of old Justice League International fame, appears, but not in a way that's really clear to new readers. Or even this old one who hasn't read any JLI-era stuff in nearly a decade. Though bringing in other heroes is nice in theory, I think we have more than is needed here; the Birds seem to work pretty well with three or four.

The highlight is definitely the ending, where Oracle finally takes on the Spy Smasher, and we see what really makes her stronger (hint: it's not being stronger). Dinah puts in a final appearance, which is great, and then there's one, final page that sums up everything that's great about Barbara.

For the first time in so many Birds of Prey books I can't even remember it (six, actually), Dead of Winter is illustrated all the way through by one artistic team, Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood. The consistency is nice, of course, but what's even better is that Scott and Hazlewood are good. Their heroes (male and female alike) are attractive without falling into male gaze-type territory, and the artwork is nice and clean without being too cartoon-ish on one hand, or too "realistic" on the other. Good faces, especially. I don't like the way they draw Oracle's glasses, but if that's not nitpicking, I don't know what is.

This is the last (for now) Gail Simone volume, and though it's not as good as some (The Battle Within and Perfect Pitch are probably the apex of her run to me), it's a good way to go out. I look forward to seeing what happens next, especially if Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood are going to stick around.

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