Monday, January 4, 2010

Birds of Prey: Issues #1 - #14 [Jan 99 - Feb 00]

I better say this outright. I am not a DC reader and apart from the Justice League Unlimited episodes I enjoyed on TV, my contact with DC comics was non-existent. Then I came across a loose television adaptation that ran for thirteen episodes and then was cancelled. That was 2002 I think. The idea for the team made me curious, I hopped on Wikipedia and got to know that the comic book series is far different than what was shown on TV, so I planned one day to read it from issue to issue. I also received motivation from a friend, who is a big Huntress, and I took the plunge. That being said as foreword, I will break down the series by years as far as the story arcs allow and present you a more summarized view on the whole year with various highlights.


Issues: #1 - #14 [January 1999 - February 2000]

I am not entirely sure on how to summarize a whole year [and somewhat above] in a review, so bear with me as I explore these uncharted waters. To me it’s most logical to speak a bit about the creative team behind this year.

Chuck Dixon has written all fourteen issues so far. From the small notes I have scribbled on arcs and story in general there are quite a few trademarks, which can define Dixon’s era in the series. For starters Dixon has a love for made-up countries, islands and all sorts of geographic landmarks, where he sends the team on their missions. In most cases we are talking about countries that are torn in political conflicts and the missions pattern involve Black Canary stealthily making her way to her objectives, which are usually prisoners or hostages, while Barbara Gordon aka Oracle manages behind the scenes.

I myself never minded this repeating pattern, because this is the first steps of the series. The readers need to get a good sense of the dynamic between the characters; get in rhythm, so to say. The better aspects around the story telling include the secondary plot lines, which show a bit of Oracle’s personal life: her relationships and the woman she used to be back in the day. I also liked the mystery one-sided partnership Oracle lead with Dinah Lance [Black Canary], which to a point reminded me [and still does later on] of Charlie’s Angels.

I didn’t like the banter and pun-talk as it sounded cheesy. The abnormal code names some characters had such as Pistolera and Lashina tested my patience, but that I guess was something characteristic for super hero comics in the late nineties or early 2000. I am not well read on the matter, so I may be mistaken. The least liked arc for the year involved a time travel scenario with a Soviet satellite. I didn’t get the time traveling theory very well and then the organization and coordination between the villains and mercenaries was laughable. [Issues April to June]

The strongest arc for the year involved sabotage, a guarded train with metahuman convicts, Catwoman as a guest character, a Boom Tube [teleportation device] to Apokolips [another dimension that resembles a technological hell with evil overlord Granny Goodness] and a full blown war between the metahumans and the demonic and technologically equipped native inhabitants of Apokolips. It may sound like a bad acid trip, but I certainly kept turning pages, waiting to see what happens next. The action packed inside certainly got the better of me and I am a great fan of catfights so no problems with me there.

Art-wise things are a notch or two more complicated. Greg Land was the official penciller, who started the series with his last issue being #10, but in between these issues we are treated to quite a few guest pencillers: Pete Krause, Dick Giordiano and Patrick Zircher. To be honest this is the area, where the series could have benefited more, because I didn’t enjoy the artwork that much and I am not sure whether or not this is because the style back in 1999 was typical for its time. Krause was my least favorite artist. Land didn’t generate an opinion. Giordiano was the same way. Zircher certainly surprised me pleasantly in issues #13 and #14 and this is prime example how story can only gain from the appropriate art style, even though it is all subjective and individual for every reader.

General Impression: I would have dropped the series, because I found it irritating that the artists would change every two or three issues. There were also instances, when one major story line was illustrated by three different people. Then I was discouraged by a few situations that happened here and there, but there must have been a reason, why this series kept coming out every month for a decade.

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