Monday, September 26, 2011

Birds of Prey #1 - A Review

Birds of Prey #1 was a book I simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded. I dreaded it because – as a devout fan of Gail Simone – I was sad to see her leaving the book that she is probably the most famous for writing, especially after having returned to writing it just barely over a year ago. But as a Black Canary fan, who was intensely curious as to what the status quo of her background would be post-Revamp, I was still looking forward to it and hoping that DC Comics newcomer and experienced mystery writer Duane Swierczynski would do the character justice.

We start in the thick of it, with two of the titular “Birds” – Black Canary and Starling - acting to protect an investigative reporter who has been spying on the pair of them. It seems he was brought in to expose The Birds but was reluctant to publish without hard evidence – an attitude that his source responded to with ninjas in chameleon armor. A flashback reveals that Black Canary is wanted for a murder she didn’t commit and that she’s out to form a covert team of crime-fighters. Rejected by a newly mobile Barbara Gordon, Babs does see fit to give Dinah a list of potential candidates, including the swordswoman Katana. But before Dinah can investigate that, she’ll have to get herself, Starling and the reporter out of the fire.

Previous readers of Birds of Prey will no doubt be disappointed at how little there is regarding the team history… or if indeed they still have a history! The flashback indicates that Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance clearly have some kind of previous working relationship but there is nothing to suggest that Babs was ever Oracle or the depth of friendship the characters shared previously. The news that Dinah Lance is a wanted murderer is somewhat less surprising (she was framed for murder and a wanted fugitive in Gail Simone’s BoP last year) but again – no details of just who she is supposed to have killed and why are forthcoming.

Thankfully, Black Canary is as tough as ever. Whatever else may have changed in her background, Dinah Lance is still a lady who can kick your ass and look good doing it. Starling is a little more of a cipher, her only character traits thus far being an apparent Catholic girl and of good enough character to worry about destroying a church while having no trouble gunning down ninjas. She’s no Huntress but it’s an interesting hook.

Jesus Saiz calmed my other fears about this book and what it might become. In a week where debate over the sexualization of superheroines has taken front and center in the reviews of many a comics-reading pundit, Diaz has gone unmentioned and unpraised. He draws beautiful women but he does not ever sacrifice action or story for the sake of a poster pose.

Should you read this book? If you’re a fan of good stories about truly strong women, you’ll like it. Should fans of the old Birds of Prey series read it? Provided you are patient about receiving answers to your questions and can hold your tongue about how much better it was a year ago, yes. I miss Huntress. I miss Misfit. I especially miss Zinda! But it isn’t fair to judge this book for being what it isn’t. Taken for what it is, it’s a damn fine read.

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