Third year for Birds of Prey, the basis has been established and cemented and the complexity has risen up a few notches, which complicates my function as a reviewer. For the sake of not overly complicating the review and crop some paragraphs meant for transitions I’ll break my thoughts on issues #25 to #37 into several categories. I think it will be quite practical and help me better appreciate the story from all its angles.
Action: After strengthening their partnership after the events from the Blockbuster arc a few issues back, Oracle and Black Canary tackle bigger and more dangerous targets. Barbara’s well established network of connections in the super hero community [Robin, Nightwing, Power Girl, The Blue Beetle, Militia] and Black Canary’s survival instincts and fighting prowess ensure that missions will grow in scale and dynamics and Dixon didn’t let me down. My expectations were met as far as how the series progress as far as kicking-ass is concerned and mind you, that although subtle philosophic, emotional and intelligent undertones are needed to make a comic a worthwhile read, super heroes need their battles.
Dixon supplies those battles. Time traveling and getting to fight alongside Vikings against Native Americans to secure history doesn’t get screwed up? Yes, you have that my friend [even if I am one of those people, who are against time travel as an idea, because it has been done enough already]. Spoiling the wedding between an unsuspecting Black Canary and an ancient evil wizard with custom restoration pools on an exotic island location, know for profuse bloodshed in the past? You got that with all the kicks, fists and gun fire.
Cast Development: Originally, I wanted this to be called simply ‘Emotion’, because Dixon is really trying to shake things up in Oracle’s love life. The woman doesn’t get a break from employing her former fiancé Jason as a P.I. and then working shoulder to shoulder with Dick, who also comes in handy with his gymnastics. Not to mention Ted Kord [The Blue Beetle], with whom there is a spark, but due to the complicated geometric figure that all these relations create, it doesn’t lead to anything but cordial friendship.
There are also small touches here and there between the interactions between Barbara and her men and also some snippets about the lives of these episodic characters, which imply that their roles might expand [they do to be exact]. Oracle is still the main driving wheel, but the personal-life-exploratory limelight happens to fall on Dinah as well, who in the would-be-bride arc is developed more thoroughly. This is the arc with a tough dilemma involved, when both Oracle and Black Canary are hurt and only one can use the custom healing pool. If Black Canary goes in, she will be healed, her ovaries restored and her metahuman power returned. But if Oracle uses it, she will be able to walk again. In the series this is the crucial event, when the special bond between these two women is born and the Birds of Prey gains a whole new dimension. [I bet that you know how this ends, right?]
The Risk: Year three for Birds of Prey picks up steam for DC fans, but for those that are still in the introduction stages and have just that one series to get acquainted with the DC universe; this is a somewhat confusing year. Dixon’s work escalates and gives the readers more intricate and complicated arcs that spread over more issues, but the year is also marked by crossovers all over the DC world, mainly to do with the Bat Family [all series that are in touch with Bat themed and connected to Bat themed vigilantes].
To all hooked on getting on board the Birds of Prey, this review is a kind of warning sign to do their homework as to where this may cross over. The first occurs in the March issue and picks up a story about Catwoman, which has started and is eventually resolved outside Birds of Prey issues. The second concerns a major arc about the Joker taking over the Slab and then supposedly dying from Nightwing’s hand. This takes place around the early winter months and it’s a shame that I don’t know what happens in detail from the other series. But even if one doesn’t have the extra issues to see how the plot lines resolve, a quick Google search will clear all.
Art: Official pencils are handled by Butch Guice, who seems to have grown on me, because either he together with colorist Shannon Blanchard have perfected their styles gradually from the time they are working together or I grew accustomed to their work. I think it’s the former, because the art becomes easier on the eye with every issue. That is until the guest pencillers start making appearances with shocking results. First, it’s Mike Mcdonnell, whole art I think is god awful in the issue he has contributed [I know he is a professional and has his fan base, but I and his lines did not mix]. I’m not sure what to think of William Rosario’s contribution, but it didn’t wow me in any case. James Fry also didn’t push my love buttons and right about now I began to doubt whether DC examined their artists’ portfolio before commissioning them or not. Yes, I am that capricious, when it comes to art. However, Marcus Martin was there to save day with his amazing January 2002 issue, which blew my mind. If I had my way with the series, he would stick with the series to the very end.
[PS: Why is it so excruciatingly hard to locate artists' websites? If anyone finds anything that resembles an official page on any of these guys, post link.]
Verdict: One thumb up with minor inconveniences [the bloody crossovers]. The dialogues still have that sound, which makes you not take the issues seriously, but it’s not jarring and is on its way to being fixed.