Through what I consider a series of mis-steps, the first Birds of Prey series ended in 2009 with issue #127, a ten-year run that was highlighted by the work of Chuck Dixon and then Gail Simone.
With the series over, its super heroines were scattered to various other titles where they didn’t fare particularly well or mostly forgotten about altogether.
So when a relaunch was announced with Gail Simone, as the writer, I was thrilled but a little bit concerned, considering the title is a tie-in to a big DC event, Brightest Day. Tie-ins can be problematic because the creative team has to work around editorial mandates that may or may not make for good storytelling. Mostly, however, this tie-in simply meant the addition of two characters new to the series. That’s made the cast somewhat crowded but its hardly hampered the storytelling
After events in other DC titles, comics, the three core characters of the Birds of Prey–Oracle, Huntress and Black Canary–reunite to face a hidden villain that seems particularly determined to destroy what’s left of Black Canary’s life. At first, they have to face a Batman foe, the Penguin, and then face down villains both old and new to save Black Canary.
I’d elaborate more but that would give away spoilers and the identity of an excellent new villain. I can say there are fist-fights, a helicopter rescue, explosions, and martial arts along with some great character moments. The only drawback is the artwork. The series has had several different artists, all with varying levels of skill and, unfortunately, all seem to delve into too much cheesecake for my taste. I’m not just talking about the costumes, though the return of Huntress’ remarkably ugly belly window costume hurts my eyes, but many of the fight sequences that focus on posing body parts rather than sequential storytelling.
However, I’ve really enjoyed the facial expressions in issues #7-8 that have been pencilled by Ardian Syaf and Guillem March, respectively. Jesus Saiz has been announced as the new regular artist and the previews of his work look terrific.
What Kids Will Like About It:
This series is a good way to introduce kids to the comic book DC Universe. While it does have its adult moments–the Birds go to a male strip club and there’s a lingering sexual fantasy by the Penguin concerning the female cast–its not overly graphic nor any more suggestive than any PG television show. There are also familiar characters from Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, including Black Canary and Huntress. There’s also Hawk & Dove, who have appeared in the Justice League cartoons.
Kids will like the snappy dialogue, the emphasis on action and the strong friendships among the characters as well. The stories are self-contained and don’t require buying any other DC series, despite the tie-in.
What Adults Will Like About It:
It’s no secret that this series features my favorite super heroine, Black Canary. Simone’s run on the first series, particuarly her work on Canary, eventually led to my spending time on her message board and finally ending up as co-moderator. So I have some bias here since I know the writer personally but I loved her work even before I ‘met’ her o the internet. What I appreciate most about her writing in general is the strong friendships and her ability to blend humor with serious situations.
Her heroines in this book enjoy what they do and they enjoy the people they’re doing it with.
Ack. All the best ones give away major spoilers. But it’s not spoiling things to say that Bruce Wayne, back from the dead, appears as Batman and his reunion with Oracle is just perfect.
There are multiple trades of the first series, though my suggestion would be to start with Of Like Minds, the beginning of Simone’s run. I enjoyed the issues by Chuck Dixon–they’re what got me back into comics–but his best arc, The Hunt For Oracle, is oddly collected in a Nightwing trade because it was a crossover. The first trade of this new series, Endrun, is due out in May.