Sunday, January 23, 2005

Birds Of Prey #78 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Tom Derenick
Inked by: Bob Petrecca
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

So here’s the story so far. Pissed off and snubbed by Batman for the last time, hacker-extraordinaire Oracle has taken her act on the road. Set up in a stealth jet piloted by Lady Blackhawk (a WWII heroine, in our time thanks to some considerable time-warping), Oracle is now on the road along with long-time crime-fighting partners Black Canary and Huntress. The Fab Four are currently traveling around the country, following reports of super-powered vigilantes who are using their powers to kill criminals rather than bring them in peacefully.

Last issue, the Birds wound up in Kansas, tracking an urban legend known as The Harvest. Tale says that if you call to the full moon, Harvest will hear you. She can be called to heal the sick or to punish the wicked. The wicked, as the Birds find out as they track Harvest down, is generally anyone who has murdered and gone unpunished; a definition that certainly includes the militant Huntress and Black Canary, who killed the men responsible for torturing long-time lover Oliver Queen to near death. Harvest also, it seems, has the power to take the skills of another person in addition to their life force, stealing the knowledge of a very rare attack from Canary and using it against her.

Simone dances along a very difficult balancing beam with Harvest. Introducing a new villain is always a trick, especially in a team book where a villain who can challenge an entire team often becomes little more than a deus ex machine. Simone manages to keep Harvest grounded, though still shrouded in mystery. I’m still curious as to how she kept escaping unnoticed as well as how she could hear ANYONE who called to her even across a small Kansas town. Of course, all this could be explained away if Harvest’s powers are truly magical but the issue keeps this point vague enough to be uncertain. Thankfully, the ending is left open enough to suggest that we will see more of Harvest in the future and hopefully, get some more answers.

Tom Derenick and Bob Petrecca are the artists this time around, replacing the usual team and they do a credible job. While I still prefer the work of Benes and Lei, Derenick and Petrecca do the characters justice. All the women are drawn to be beautiful, but capable fighters and the artwork never descends into cheesecake territory; a minor miracle considering they are still using Jim Lee’s “Huntress the Hoochie” costume. The action is portrayed beautifully and there is enough variety in the supporting cast that there is no trouble telling characters apart; a problem all too common in action/adventure books like this.

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