Year eight has come and gone, so let’s see what the twelve months of 2006 have left for the comic book crowd and potential readers. I have elevated Gail Simone to godhood status and with every next issue she expands her kingdom and strengthens her reign. One can tell that she’s taken these characters to heart and wants to do them justice with the very plot lines ever.
A funny trend I see in overall arcs per year is that there are three major arcs with one arc per main character from the Birds of Prey. I think that there is some sort of rotation principle or a similar mechanism involved, but one which evolved naturally is in sync with the rhythm of the series. To the regular reader that might not make an impression, but to the reviewer this is easy to spot and speaks volume about the quality of writing and plotting. Comic book series are a peculiar breed. They deal with large casts [though mostly superhero ones are the primary examples in this category] and usually the end is not in sight. It may come after 100 or 200 issues or it may come unexpectedly. Given these variable that aren’t in the writers’ hands [as far as superhero comics go] it’s pretty darn hard to move story and develop more than two key to the series characters. At least I imagine it being so. Maybe comic book writers are different as species from novel writers and they may not have issues with this, but nevertheless I think this is worth mentioning. Simone, my hat’s off to you.
The eight year is intense and I label it “Cataclysm Year”. Setting’s changed once again as the Birds of Prey settle in Metropolis. What’s of greater interest, however, is what happens to the team in the mean time. Barbara is paired against the Calculator, an OCD villain, who is the Oracle’s antithesis. It would seem that Barbara has met her match after taking control of the Lexcorp satellites. The resulting cat & mouse game progresses in violence, when Savant has been kidnapped and interrogated about Oracle’s true identity. Then we have the Gotham mob arc, where Helena has successfully gained access as a Capo within the families. Tension rises as Batman threatens to ‘retire them all’ and this is Helena’s moment to shine and gain prestige in the superhero society. Last, but not least we have Dinah becoming Lady Shiva’s apprentice and traveling to Singapore to become the next Shiva.
The results from these arcs affect the team in the same way an explosion’s shockwave has immediate effect on its surroundings. The Oracle/Calculator showdown’s a bloody promise of war [trust me on this] and the collateral damage comes in the form of Savant and Creote’s resignation from the team after the kidnapping episode. There is a sort-of irony in the way he leaves the team, since his involvement with the Birds had to do with him kidnapping and now he is the one, who is held in captivity. Perhaps, it’s karma, perhaps the cycle of the world. It makes for an interesting moment, especially when one takes into consideration about Creote’s romantic feeling towards his partner. So far this is DC’s first homosexual character I have encountered and always kept my eyes on him to observe where this would be taken. Savant is heterosexual, so the relationship remains on friends/colleagues level, but his behavior, when the kidnapping took place added some characterization to Creote, who largely remains as a secondary character.
The Mob arc resolves issues between Helena and Batman, which I never supposed existed, but the major gist of it is that due to her methods Batman doesn’t value Huntress’ work in the field and possibly as a hero. There is also the notion is that doing the right thing for the right reasons matters more in the end of the day than doing the right thing by becoming that which you fight. Old as the universe as a theme, but adequately handled, poignant and relevant to the Huntress as a character.
The Black Canary arc is spectacular, because we have Dinah go a bit dark side on the readers, because she has accepted the apprenticeship of Lady Shiva, who is not a sweet little lamb by anybody’s criteria. This choice leads down to a major crossroad, where Dinah’s identity is at stake. Acquiring the needed skills to become one of the most lethal assassins comes at the cost of the good, the kind and the pure. Dinah is standing with one foot on one side, where she is the fun and chatty Black Canary [who helped found the Justice League] and then there is the other side, the warrior. The decision is a bit obvious; there is not much suspense here whether she will go Rocky ruthless, but nevertheless the arc is interesting, because of the small Sin, who is meant to become the next Shiva. Dinah comes back to the US as the mom of a girl with some mean ninja skills and leaves the team… [Yeah, I was shocked and this event shifts the whole series into a whole other direction]
Art-wise, I am not even following the art that much, because the series have gathered enough momentum to carry me through every issue without thinking about how awesome the art is or whether it makes me cringe. Yes, I enjoyed the synergy between Simone and Ed Benes, who is not on the series anymore, but I also didn’t mind Joe Bennett doing the pencils. I was not thrilled that the art quality [for me personally] dropped, because Brad Walker, Paulo Sequeira and James Raiz didn’t come near to satisfying my aesthetic expectations as to what the Birds of Prey should look like. But again, the quality of the writing overshadows all complaints I can have about the writing.