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26 of 52: Birds of Prey #1

by on September 26, 2011

Last week I thought that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find good comic books to read, and was surprisingly pleased at my selection of Red Lantern, Green Lantern, Frankenstein, and Grifter, which all earned B grades or higher.

This week, I am not left with too many appetizing choices for my second course. So I am starting with the one that is certain to be palatable: Birds of Prey #1. My hope with reading this title, is that the audience for BoP has always been a very female empowered group. Few of the women depicted in the pages of the BoP comic book were ever used for cheesecake shots. So, that’s a nice plus, and there’s a decent history with this title to give it a gander (but never a goose). Plus, the reaction to the title has been lukewarm. I haven’t heard a single person say it sucked, so that’s something.

Birds of Prey #1
Writer: Duane Swierczynski | Artist: Jesus Saiz

The Birds of Prey started as a simple comic book, combining the street superheroics of Black Canary with the intelligent operations of Oracle/Barbara Gordon. In so doing it became a collection of female superheroes that never were really organized under any sort of banner. Almost an all-female version of the Defenders.

Throughout its publication history the Birds of Prey comic almost always contained the characters Oracle and Black Canary. With Batgirl going off on a solo title, Black Canary is running the duties in this one, with additional characters to be added as we go.

Synopsis

  • Charlie Keen is a reporter for the Gotham Gazette, and has been brought to an abandoned church to learn more about a cover operations group run by attractive women.
  • He is followed by Black Canary and her new protégé Starling, where a bunch of assassins in grey camouflage suits attack them.
  • Charlie has been doing surveillance on Canary and Starling for weeks, but they were aware of his presence. He followed Canary to see Barbara Gordon who refuses to join, but gives Canary a list of potential members. And follows Starling to a dance club.
  • After the battle, Starling rescues Canary and Charlie. They take him to the airport, where he can leave to be safe, and then more trouble happens.

Questions and Answers:

  1. Starling makes two references regarding religion, that don’t seem to be ironic or detached. Does she think that she is damned and cannot be forgiven?
  2. Canary is ‘bitten’ and kissed. Which (or both) of these actions causes the reaction of Canary in the airport?
  3. How did the damage happen to Charlie, through the cell phone?
  4. Is Charlie smitten with Starling? Or is he just flirting with anyone.

Analysis

Sometimes comic books blend art and words together in a tremendous symphony where the total is greater than the sum of their parts. And other times, it’s just a story told with pictures and words. This is one of the later. It doesn’t make the comic book bad. No not at all. But, if you aren’t a real fan of the characters, then it does not pull you in to make you read more.

Birds of Prey is a very good book. It does the job asked of it, and nothing more. It establishes the character of Black Canary and Starling quite well. Even Charlie is a pretty decent character, if only because he fits into a nice stereotype (of the diligent reporter tracking down a story with shadowy forces pulling him in all sorts of directions) and a nice anti-stereotype (Charlie is an attractive naïve married black male instead of a cute, plucky, single white female). Give credit for that.

Okay, a cover that shows two costumed characters who aren’t even in the book?  I know you’re using the covers to give the readers a sense of what to expect, but this seems cheesy.

Cliches were really bad in this one. The Birds of Prey get Charlie to the “airport” so he can leave town and thereby save his life? It’s 2011! Cellphones! GPS! Credit Cards!

Cliché: They go over a jump and Starling goes Weeeeeee-Haw! Really? Why not have her press the horn and play Dixie.

Cliché:Starling has clearance that allows Charlie to enter the airport. Maybe she does, but I don’t think they just walk right in.

Much Kudos to Jesus Saiz who drew a young female (in Starling) who looks like a modern rebellious woman. The tattoo going up her arm and up to her neck isn’t there to sex the book up to a modern audience, it’s there because it’s important to her. The writing didn’t match the quality of the look, but still….

The kissing of Black Canary by an unknown adversary is unique. Not sure I like it, but at least it’s something I haven’t seen 100 times.

Bleeding from all the orifices is something I’ve seen before. Heck I saw it in Animal Man #1 just two weeks ago. And Charlie needs to both bleed from all orifices AND blow up?

The artwork was very good, and serves the plot very well.

Verdict

There’s no pull for me to continue reading this book next month. It’s not a bad comic, and might get better. If I was going to the comic book store, and had $30.00 to spend, and was looking for a last title, I’d grab it, and I’d grab any future episodes that seem interesting (like when Batgirl comes back). For now, it was just okay.

C (Serviceable)

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From → Comic Books, DCnU

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