Monday, June 23, 2003

Birds of Prey #56 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Ed Benes
Inked by: Alex Lei
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Lysa Hawkins
Publisher: DC Comics

Birds of Prey has been in something of a funk for the last few years. The title has been bounced from writer to writer ever since the departure of Chuck Dixon and been unable to sustain a regular art team or a consistent “look” since Greg Land left the title. And let’s not even go into the TV Series, which had nothing to do with the comic it was “based” on. Although Dina Meyer was a damn good Oracle and the one good thing in the entire show… but I digress.

My point is that a lot of people are looking towards the new creative team with a good deal of hope and dread. There has been a lot of questioning among some of the fan base as to whether or not Gail Simone (most recently of Gus Beezer and Agent X) can turn the writing on the title around. Likewise, may have wondered whether the team of Benes and Lai (most recently of Supergirl) can make this book worth looking at again. Well, let me tell you folks: It is MORE than worth looking at.

The story is a treat for old and new readers alike. We are introduced to Oracle and Black Canary and how they operate through their dealing with an Enron/Halliburton style executive, whom is planning to steal the retirement funds of his employees and flee to Europe. This allows the new readers to get an introduction to “the Birds” but Simone also explores some subjects left untouched by past writers; like how Oracle justifies the more ethically questionable elements about her work. And in a 180 from how most writers of the last 10 years have treated her, Dinah Lance is portrayed as a woman of intelligence and humor; not an impulsive, empty-headed bimbo who needs someone else to give her direction.

With a writer as skilled as Simone, there is a danger that the writing will overshadow the artwork. But that warning is unneeded here as Benes and Lai do an excellent job, whether it is illustrating a tense fight scene or a simple meal between two friends. And they also manage the difficult task of drawing attractive, distinct female characters without resorting to exaggerated curves or “pin-up” style art panels.

Worry no more, Bird-Lovers! The “bold new direction”, as it says on the cover, is just that and not only is this issue the best Birds of Prey issue I have read in years- this is the best book I have read all week! It is a bit early to say that this team can equal the book during its’ “salad days” when Dixon and Land were handling the writing and art. But based on what I’ve see here, I think Simone, Benes and Lai could surpass the golden boys by the end of this first arc

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