Happy Comic Release Day!
I picked Birds of Prey this week for two reasons. The first is that the canceled series is being relaunched this spring with Gail Simone as writer and Ed Benes as artist, a team also responsible for the comic’s definitive run.
The second is that this book is the one that brought me back to comics. I’d lost track after a cross-country move and the birth of my twins. When I finally had a chance to venture into a comic shop, I found several issues of BoP and was hooked. It’s also the comic guaranteed to interest my kids. I’ve given the trades to all four of them and all pronounced it wonderful and mourned with me when the title was canceled.
For most of its publication history, the comic has been written by only two writers, Chuck Dixon and, later, Gail Simone. Dixon’s run pulled me in and Simone’s writing took it to another level and kept me reading even after my favorite character, Black Canary, was pulled off to another book.
The core Birds of Prey team is Black Canary, Oracle and Huntress. All three of them were somewhat forgotten characters given new life in the series.
Oracle is Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, confined to a wheelchair after being shot by the Joker. Not letting that stop her, Babs sets herself up as the information specialist in the DC Universe. Black Canary is one of the oldest DC characters and one of the few not created as an adjunct to a male character. But that hasn’t stopped writers from shoving her to the background in lieu of her lover, Green Arrow. Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress is a character that was created to replace the popular alternate Earth Huntress who was the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. She’s generally been treated as a third, fourth or even fifth wheel in the Batman books.
All three band together as an espionage team that operates underneath the superhero radar. During Dixon’s run, lots of forgotten DC characters showed up. Simone’s run specialized in giving panel time to forgotten female heroines, especially Zinda, Lady Blackhawk, who became the team’s pilot.
This is a street-level comic, fast-paced, loaded with wonderful dialogue, memorable villains and some of the best panels of hand-to-hand fighting in the DC Universe.
What Kids Will Like About It:
This comic makes my kids smile. The characters face serious problems and threats but they’re not angsty about it. They tackle it head on and with a sometimes dark sense of humor. If your kids watched the Batman: Brave and the Bold episode that featured Black Canary and the Justice Society, the Black Canary in this book is very close to that portrayal.
Also, my twins love the new teen character, Misfit, created by Simone, and Misfit’s exuberant battle cry of “Dark Vengeance!”
What Parents Will Like About It:
I love that it’s one of the few mainstream superhero comics that features female friendships. The main trio might fight and bicker but they’re not just a team, they’re family.
I should mention for the men that the artwork has always been top notch, from Butch Guice to Ed Benes to Nicola Scott. There are times when it gets a little too cheesecakey for my taste but not, I suspect, for most of the adult male readers.
So hard to choose from a run over one hundred plus issues, so I pulled one of my favorite covers instead:
Extras in the Trade:
Alas, I haven’t found much extra in the trades of the series offered by DC. However, I did want to list the trades that include my favorite stories:
Birds of Prey: Old Friends, New Enemies. Collects the first six issues of the original series.
Nightwing: The Hunt for Oracle. When he was writing both Nightwing and Birds of Prey, Dixon wrote a great crossover which resulted in Black Canary and Oracle’s first face-to-face meeting. I think it should be in a Birds of Prey trade but, alas, it’s in the Nightwing collection.
Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student. Black Canary takes center stage as she vows to upgrade her skills and avenge the loss of her mentor. It features the enigmatic female assassin Shiva.
There are seven trade volumes of Simone’s Birds of Prey run. I’d recommend them all.
About the Creators:
Chuck Dixon at one point was writing three Batman-related comics in the 1990s and writing them all well: Nightwing, Birds of Prey, and Robin. He also created Stephanie Brown aka Spoiler who had a short career as Robin and after a death that didn’t take, is currently starring in the new Batgirl series as the title character.
Gail Simone was offered work writing comics after being spotted as the writer of the You’ll All Be Sorry parody column on ComicBookResources.com. You can find her in either the Wonder Woman or You’ll All Be Sorry forums on the same site. I wrote a column earlier this year about her work on Wonder Woman.