Or – “Time, Time, Time… See What’s Become Of Me…”

reviewbubble.jpg

bp14.jpg

Okay, somewhere along the line I lost track of how many hours there were in a day. I felt certain that there were 24, but somehow no matter how many things I get done, five or six more end up falling by the wayside. Usually those involve bills, or buying pull-ups for little Molly, but somehow, I completely forgot to review Birds of Prey #101. I blame Dan Didio, actually.

It seems like this book comes out more often than other comics (which these days probably means monthly) so we’re going to double up and get back to speed, twice the review at half the price! (Well, half of nothin’ is still nothin.’) You’re welcome! Last time, we left the BoP in two different precarious situations, one fighting an enemy on the cerebral level, with four engaging in a more conventional slobberknocker with corrupt prison authorities, and (accidentally) the United States Air Force. Is Zinda good enough to combat fighter planes in a helicopter?

bp1.jpgOf course not. That’s just ridiculous. But, she does have a few equalizers here and there, notably the services of Oracle, the most intense and clever computer geek of all time. Unfortunately, even the mighty Oracle needs a few minutes to vamp in order to con the Air Force off their backs. How can the Birds buy some time? Meet one of Zinda’s OTHER equalizers… Barda Free, late of Apokalips, former leader of Granny Goodness’ Female Furies. How’s she gonna stall a jet fighter?

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

She’ll think of something. I have to say that Nicola Scott is my new favorite artist. That panel is simply awe-inspiring, from the coastline down to the details of Barda’s armor. Plus, she gives Mrs. Free cleavage without going overboard, something many artists wouldn’t be able to balance. Barda crashes into one of the fighter planes, and brandishes her Apokoliptian Mega-Rod with devastating force, but not so overwhelming as to stop Huntress and Judomaster tittering about the Freudian overtones of her chosen weapon.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I also love nearly every little bit of dialogue, especially Lady Blackhawk’s. This should be DC’s top-selling book, darn it! Unfortunately, Batman rules the roost, and poor Barda watches, a bit stunned, as the pilot simply ejects and his partners lock missiles on HER. “Perhaps I should have thought this through?” Thankfully, though not fast enough to outrun fighter planes, Zinda’s mysterious black helicopter is at least maneuverable enough to swoop in and catch a falling Fury. Of course, the next missile hits their helicopter dead on, blowing it to hell and gone. Back at the DoD command center, Katarina Armstrong (Spy Smasher) explains that documents are being forged as she speaks to make this whole operation look like pilot error. The head of the department she’s commandeered speaks up to question her, and Spy Smasher makes me really dislike her.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I really really hate her. Anybody who revels in their ability force others to their will is a supervillain, in my book, and her grandpa is probably spinning in his grave. A sad state of affairs, indeed. With most of her friends blowed up real good, Manhunter is left alone in Mexico, which actually seems to suit her fine. She mysteriously makes her car disappear (a power she doesn’t actually possess) and then heads BACK to the prison.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Something is afoot, here. I think maybe Manhunter has her own agenda in the Birds. Luckily for her teammates, Barda’s Mega Rod is also equipped with Boom Tube (teleportation) technology, so the other members were just dumped in the ocean rather than annihilated. Oracle is so good at her kung fu that she manages to have a fully stocked limo on the beach to meet them. That’s impressive. Also impressive is Spy Smasher’s ego, only a teensy bit deflated when Oracle calls HER up, having had no idea what was going on or who was behind it mere minutes ago. Smasher revels in messing with Oracle, telling her that she’s leaked information to JUST the right person to bring the whole operation down. Who is Barbara’s mystery date?

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

And a very Margo Kidder looking Lois she is. Luckily, Barbara is wearing glasses, so she just has to pull them off to make her escape… Barb thinks her people are in the clear, so she agrees to go and have a talk with Lois. Unfortunately, that means there’s nobody in the command center to answer the call for help that inevitably has to come. Well, almost nobody…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

bp8.jpgIt’s like a zen koan: What kind of help is worse than no help at all? But you have to admit that skirt is pretty adorable. Meanwhile, back in Mexico (and also in the next issue) Manhunter is forced to face down Miguel, the super-strong but also superhumanly stupid side of beef who acts as the prison enforcer. Given his strength, he has only a slight advantage, but given his general macho dunderheadedness, he never thinks to question how the fight SHOULD go. How DOES it go?

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Ouch. Poor Kate. I’m hoping this is all part of the plan, and that it will all come together, in a manner Hannibal Smith might enjoy. Barbara “Oracle” Gordon isn’t having much easier a time of it, as Lois Lane drags her out to an apparently closed restaurant (“The owner owes me a favor…”) and begins circumlocutively asking Barbara about rumors of a legendary “super-hacker” whose been bouncing around and putting Senators behind bars and the like. Lois is quite brilliantly written here, her obvious intellect putting Oracle in a rare position: On the defensive. Barbara gently deflects her loaded questions (though what goes UNSAID is more important here) until Lois reaches into her handbag to get her notebook.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

It almost makes you want to forgive her for all those stories in the 1950’s where she kept nosing around trying to find out Superman’s identity. Almost… The verbal sparring Barbara endures is NOTHING compared to the fistfight most of the rest of the birds are going through, facing two dozen thugs who claim to have government authority. Lady Blackhawk’s call for help leads to a conversation with Misfit that goes about where you expect it to go (“Well, nice talking to ya, CRAZY GIRL!“) and Manhunter fares little better, awakening tied to a chair in what’s obviously the torture room. She bluffs that any attempt to remove her mask will lead to an explosion, but they don’t buy it and beat her down again anyway. Misfit, unable to find her way into Barbara’s computer systems (she’d have it unlocked in seconds if it were “Grand Theft Auto”) thinks like Alexander the Great, and tries to untie her Gordian Knot.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

She… just teleported… to MEXICO! Without even knowing WHERE she was actually going, no less. Suddenly, this girl’s powers start to look mighty interesting, especially given that she apparently intends to be a Bird of Prey whether they want her or not. The Birds take the proferred distraction, opening a can of whoopass so big Barda has to start chucking limousines, while Manhunter asks the question that no one in the room with her thought she knew: Why are there American federal agents involved in a minor Mexican cesspool of corruption? As her captors lean in to hear her (she’s whispering, you see), Kate starts cracking a few skulls of her own, knocking out half the men in the room while STILL CUFFED TO A CHAIR. You don’t get to be a superhero just cause you found a pretty mask, folks. The others draw guns and bear down on her, when her power staff rises of it’s own accord and knocks them right out (also a power she doesn’t possess). “You’ll have to take it up with my partner,” smirks Kate.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

I wondered what happened to Gypsy after the events of the Jade Canary arc. It’s good to see the old Detroit League getting some respect (Vixen in JLA, and a new Commander Steel apparently coming to JSA) after years of laughing at them. Even Vibe isn’t as bad as the mockers would have you think he was. Gypsy and Manhunter start to leave, but are confronted by Miguel of the Iron Head, who tells Manhunter that he’s gonna beat her just like he did before. Okay, says Kate, “but THIS time, I’m not throwing the fight!” Oh, snap.

As Lois Lane starts getting a little too close for comfort, Barbara is forced to bring out her trump card. She sets a photograph on the table, face down, but before she becomes nearly as bad as Spy Smasher, Lois interrupts her. “Barbara, I’m a reporter… I get a message from a high-level government source. It’s toned a bit hysterical, to be blunt. Threatening, as well. But she forgets that I do my OWN research. I choose a side. I do it all the time… But Lois Lane is NO ONE’s pawn. I think we’re done here.” YEAH, LOIS! Now, I forgive you for the 1950’s. But not for “I Am Curious, Black.” Never for “I Am Curious, Black.” Lois drops a napkin she’s been doodling on, as Barbara prepares to destroy her Lois Lane ballistic missile…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Well, it looks like two samurai of equal intelligence met on the bridge this afternoon, and seeing that neither could defeat the other, both turned to find another path. Truly an awesome sight to behold… Barbara’s phone rings again, with another threat from Spy Smasher, nasty sorority girl extraordinaire: Get Manhunter out of that prison. NOW! But Manhunter isn’t even on the clock, replies Oracle, she should have been out of there hours ago… Manhunter has gone rogue! Dun dan DAAAAAAAAAHHHH!

These were a couple of awesome issues, with seamless synthesis of art and story, an unexpected twist, and a decent amount of action. The new dynamic is interesting, with a fun sort of “anything goes” air to the proceedings. The higher profile role for Lady Blackhawk is interesting, and this book does more to make me like Lois Lane than anything this side of Teri Hatcher in a tight skirt. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as the book shifts from the “buddy movie” idiom to a “Mission: Impossible” vibe that’s enjoyable as hell. Taken together, these issues earn a pretty awesome 3.5 stars. This review will self-destruct in 5 seconds.

35stars.jpg

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

Previous post

The Darkness Gets The Ultimate Treatment!

Next post

Jon Favreau Iron Man Update

4 Comments

  1. Gail
    January 19, 2007 at 9:43 am — Reply

    Very fun review, I really enjoyed it. And thanks especially for the kudos to Nicola Scott, who is simply an astounding new talent.

    Best wishes,

    Gail

  2. January 19, 2007 at 10:45 am — Reply

    Hi Gail,

    As you can tell, we do love our Birds of Prey around here :D

    Cheers
    Stephen Schleicher

  3. Matthew
    January 19, 2007 at 11:00 am — Reply

    What can I say? I like a smart book, and Barbara Gordon was never really this much fun as Batgirl… Plus, the “Mega-Rod” riffs had me laughing like a loon.

  4. January 21, 2007 at 11:08 am — Reply

    great review Matt. Nicola has been one of my favorite artists ever since I got the chance to work with her on Season of the Witch mini-series from Image a year or so ago. The emotion she puts into her characters, and her realistic posing and proportions really sucks you into the pages and makes them very believable. She’s doing a real bang up job on BOP.

You know you have something to say, say it in the comment section