Thursday, 10 March 2011

Birds of Prey #10 review


I've waited months to see the Birds of Prey cut loose, and that's what they do in the conclusion to The Death of Oracle. Out in the open, away from his keyboard, the Calculator is easy prey for field agents Huntress, Hawk, Dove, Lady Blackhawk and, especially, Black Canary. Dinah lets go with the sonic scream, a weapon which can take down even the mighty Mammoth.

Calculator is allowed to escape, believing that he's killed Oracle, information broker to the superhero community. Back at base, the very-much-alive (if not kicking) Barbara Gordon lays out her new MO to the Batman Family - Batmans I and II, Batgirl, Red Robin and Rob ... Misfit. 

Misfit?

Who knows why she's with the inner circle, but she has a funny moment with Batgirl - I'm just glad to have the well-meaning wannabe heroine back.

And Babs' new MO? Not to help every superhero who asks for information. 'Oracle was more effective when she was in the shadows. I can't be these people's internet cafe and stay in the dark.'

'These people'? We're not talking folk asking Yahoo Groups for a doughnut recipe, they're superheroes in life and death situations. Noble souls whom she's encouraged to avail themselves of her services. I like the idea that if criminals think Oracle is no more, they won't see her coming, but Oracle has done so much good over the years that it's weird to see Babs remove herself from the frontline.

And won't the news that Oracle is still around get out soon enough, given that she's keeping a line open for the Batman Family? (Which, while including chatty little Misfit, is keeping Cassandra Cain out of the loop apparently 'Cassandra's got enough to deal with right now'. Anybody?)

I'll just have to wait and see how this works out - writer Gail Simone is going somewhere with this, she has the talent to make it work. I just worry for the out-in-the-cold heroes. Oh, the superhumanity!

Simone's script is really rather excellent, with the narrative spotlight on Huntress, the wiliest of the Birds. Hawk and Dove are still a tad undersold, but if Dove, especially, were allowed to be the heavy hitter she is, this 'street-level' book would be unbalanced. I'm still hoping for a Hawk and Dove 'solo' book once the Brightest Day is finally over, and a departure from this comic.

Inaki Miranda offers dynamic layouts and first-class kineticism, drawing with a pleasing economy of line. This approach doesn't work so well with one or two characters, such as Hawk and the electricity-hurling chap, whose costumes are designed with little detail, but Nei Ruffino adds weight and modelling with her considered colours. Steve Wands letters well, as ever - there's not much more to say, comics calligraphy being one of those crafts you usually notice only when done badly. And one thing Steve Wands can't spell is 'sub-par'.

The cover, from Stanley 'Artgerm' Lau is simply gorgeous - that's the one that'll make the trade, kids.
And finally, the return of the BoP lettercol after years in limbo, complete with snazzy masthead (designer, make yourself known - Mr Wands?). Thank you, DC!


19 comments:

  1. Nice review. As a Titans fan, I feel that Hawk and Dove are undersold in this otherwise well-written title and hope that they'll get their own mini or ongoing or join a senior Titans team after BD.

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  2. Thanks ToB. I heart Hank and Dawn too, right back to their debut as a team, and would love to see them allowed to be what they can be, too. I'm thrilled they're back after the debacle of Armageddon 2000 (Armageddon ancient, more like).

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  3. I lost all interest in anything involving Calculator after DC Universe Online. His voice drove me nuts and I can't stand him anymore.

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  4. Gail piped in on her message board and says that Cass *can* know Barbara is alive; she's just not on the tower list. Here's the thread where she 'splains the deal.

    http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/showthread.php?t=204980

    (Posts #5, 8, and 20.)

    I'm looking forward to reading this book again; the one-two punch of Benes and then a parade of fill-in artists put me off and kept me off. But Jesus Saiz, an artist I adore, starts on issue 12, and issue 11 is a Catman/Huntress date. So I'm there, too!

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  5. Did anyone else notice Deadpool's DCU debut in this issue? I guess he ran out of Marvel stuff to be in.

    Excellent review. I love your insight.

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  6. This run has been consistently well-managed; the "gels" are quite the effective team, and Oracles ongoing feud with Calculator carries an emotional resonance here that her mini-series a year or two back lacked. She and her Birds need a nemesis that can carry a tale thru all the riffs it needs to maintain good storytelling. Everythings only told from Dinah and Babs perspective so far; Id like more Hawk and Dove [ loved their 88 series] but oh! no more teleporting Misfit; for some reason i didnt take to her first time around. I do rather like this new direction Oracle has, and only hope its maintained for a long while. She works better in the shadows, a secret prescence known to the select few. Huntress needs a decent storyline tho; i want her hard-nosed ruthlessness nixed with her Catholic upbringing, her loner status competing with her loyalty to the Birds and finding that uneasy balance.
    The first BoP series ran for well over a hundred issues; quite the achievement considering most [if not every] female hero comic rarely reaches a hundred, WW of course excluded. In these times, i dont see this version of BoP reaching that sadly, but under Simones slow-but-sure application of how women characters interact, this book still has the capacity to keep interest high and our concentration held.

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  7. Ah Dan, now you have me wanting to try DCU Online. But I have no idea how to find it. Does Calculator sound like a shrill, 'ma-a-a-a-a-d' Scooby Doo villain?

    Rob, cheers for the link. Cass certainly has dedicated fans, doesn't she?

    Erik, I missed that - are you having me on? Do you mean the Hive fellas?

    Karl, the feud with Calculator has been interesting, but I could do with him being in jail awhile, with no net privileges. What with BoP, the Oracle mini, Titans and places I've forgotten, I'm tired of old Noah. I'd like daughter Wendy to put him away, after Kid Eternity recovers and makes him suffer a little. I'd also love to see a meaty role for Huntress here - given that Babs is a co-star of Batgirl, that should free up some time. And (whisper it) I don't like Babs so much these days, she's a tad moody.

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  8. Yeah, Cass's fans are *very* devoted. I never saw enough in her initial appearances to warrant checking out her solo series, which is I guess where she earned all the fan-love. So I don't see the attraction, but I can empathize. If DC had been saying for years that, say, Baron Winters would be appearing really really soon, promise, I'd be pretty frustrated by now.

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  9. The Gimp costume put me off, and when I tried her comic I really couldn't connect with the work of the creative team. But she's an interesting young lady!

    Ah, the Baron - when's that DC Comics Presents Night Force issue coming? I'm sure it's soon.

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  10. Actually, it occurs to me that, in terms of coordinating operatives for missions & being an information broker, etc., Baron Winters is as much Oracle's opposite number as The Calculator is -- except along the magic/science continuum rather than the good/evil continuum. I'd LOVE to see a BOP/Night Force crossover.

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  11. Yeah, Martin, it was the Hive guys. They were even doing the squinting eye thing that Deadpool does.

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  12. Now that would be a good team-up, Rob ... they could open it by having Zinda trying to pop back 'home' to the Forties via Baron Winters' time-spanning rooms.

    Erik, thank you! I've never read a Deadpool comic. Is that bad?

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  13. Not at all, Martin. I haven't read a Deadpool comic either. I don't read garbage....well except for the current Wonder Woman arc.

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  14. unfortunately i never got around to reading any Birds of Prey because i've heard a lot of good stuff about that title. i really like the way DC reinvented the Barbara Gordon character. Oracle a.k.a Amy Beddoes was a regular in the Suicide Squad series which is one of my all time favorite DC titles. i published a posting about the character at the SS blog site if anyone out there wants to see it: http://suicidesquadtaskforcex.blogspot.com/2011/01/from-batgirl-to-suicide-squad-member.html

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  15. Amy Beddoes! Not heard that name for years ... thanks for bringing back some great memoriees, David, and sharing your post.

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  16. hey Martin thanks for visiting my Suicide Squad blog. as you can see i'm a sucker for underdog DC and Marvel titles :) as to your luke McDonnel comment i indeed have not heard about it. please do enlighten sir.

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  17. truth be told i've never been a big fan of LM. it was always Ostrander's writing that sold me on SS. LM's style reminds me too much of Steve Dikto. your probably think WTF!? right now. this very early posting on my ROM blog will explain all. it includes visual aids. http://suicidesquadtaskforcex.blogspot.com/2010/11/gentlemen-prefer-blonds-but-i-prefer-my.html

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  18. I'd much rather have Hank Hall remain in the BoP title.. throw in Savant and Creote and you got some heavy hitting back-up for the ladies if they get in a tough situation they can't get out of too easily.

    Besides.. since Hank has been returned from the dead he NEEDS a spotlight on him, and moving him to ANY Titans book would just bury the character.

    Imagine the testosterone running wild between Hawk, Savant and Creote.. it would lead to some pretty amusing scenarios I would imagine

    Timmy!

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  19. David, thanks for the link, I'll take a look.

    Timmy! Don't let Gail see that first paragraph - 'heavy back-up for the ladies'? My blog title's ironic, honest! :)

    I'm not a fan of Savant and Creosote myself, but I'll spare you hearing that rant again!

    I'd definitely like a Hank spotlight, but in his own
    feature with Dawn.

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