Or – “Things Are Just About To Get (More) Interesting…”


I’ll say it again: I don’t see why Birds of Prey isn’t DC’s best-selling title. There’s something for everyone here. The main characters have years of history, tying into JLA, into Batman, into the New Gods, even to the old Charlton comics. (Speaking of which, if Renee Montoya does what it looks like she’s gonna do, I’d love to see HER in BoP, wouldn’t you?) If you’re a continuity buff, it’s in there for you. The plots are always involving, the action fast and interesting, with aspects of Action/Adventure, Cloak & Dagger stories, soopah-hero punchouts, even a healthy dose of Jack Bauer-esque run and gun. Add that to some incredibly sweet art (is that not the cutest, sleekest Batgirl you’ve ever seen?), strong characterization, and a healthy disrespect for the status quo. Why am I just talking bout it? Let’s go over this issue, and you can see the awesome for yourself.

bp1.jpgIn issues past, the members of the Birds of Prey (The Huntress, a new Judomaster, Big Barda of Apokalips, and special guest star Manhunter) have been south of the border, investating a prison involved in some… questionable activities. A crimelord named Brennan and his daughter Tabby have been held illegally, and the BoP have busted them loose, only to have Brennan get killed, and Manhunter go rogue on them. Making things worse, Oracle is embroiled in a conflict with the new Spy Smasher, an old “frenemy” from college. SS has set none other than Lois Lane on the trail of the mysterious Oracle, with no success, and now is forced to go even further outside the lines of law and order. But the question that needs answering more than any other: Who is Spy Smasher, and why does she have it in for Barbara Gordon? The truth goes all the way back to their school days at GSU and really underlines how thin the line between friendship and hatred can be…


“Her father was a wealthy pilot…” This intrigues me. The ORIGINAL Spy Smasher, Alan Armstrong, WAS a pilot, but he was active during WWII. Given that I’m pegging Babs and Kat in their mid to late 20’s, then you figure their college days were only 10 years or so ago (bear in mind, they started early.) Based on an assumption that Alan Armstrong was 20 in 1940, when he started his masked career, then he would have been in his 80’s when Katarina was born. More than likely, she’s Spy Smasher’s grand-daughter, or perhaps a grand-niece? In any case, when Babs outruns her, they become the closest of pals, constantly debating, discussing, and competing.

There are two OUTSTANDINGLY beautiful moments of character here, the first coming when Barbara wonders if she’s the first person to have ever beaten Katarina at anything. The second is such a simple statement that it will almost break your heart, as Barbara recalls their days on the track: “More than dancing, more than sunrise walks in the park… God, I miss running.” That is so simple, and such a perfect moment, and I’m so incredibly jealous of Gail Simone’s talent while reading it, I could scream. Kat and Babs (and aren’t they just adorable?) once again compete on the track, this time for a medal, and Armstrong shows just how badly she needs to win…


The ends justify the means, eh? Katarina is getting on my last nerve, and I’m waiting with relish for the moment when she finally gets her comeuppance. Being a violent sort, I kinda hope it comes from Barda, but that may just be me. In either case, their rivalry has come back full force, with Katarina using every piece of leverage she can to get access to Oracle. Either you work for me, says Smasher, or you don’t work for anybody. Oracle accuses her of scrambling her systems but Spy Smasher says she didn’t do it. Waitaminnut, then who did? That indicates there’s more going on here than meets the eye. Before Oracle can deal with this revelation, Spy Smasher throws her ultimatum: Do exactly what she says, or Huntress, Barda, and Judomaster go to prison. “I win this race, Babs.” She knows exactly what buttons to push, doesn’t she?


Mmm… looks like they’ve BOTH got the others’ number. And Katarina is not merely a bitch, she’s a dangerous, sociopathically brilliant bitch with some serious issues regarding power and control. What government agency allows you to pull a gun on a subordinate over your mornign latte, anyway? In any case, while Spy Smasher makes her assistant pee himself, Oracle has to turn her attention to her original problem: how to get her agents out of a SNAFU’d situation that is just getting more AFU. Unfortunately, Manhunter and Gypsy are still fighting a home-brewed metahuman, and aren’t in the mood to talk to her.


Aha… that makes sense. Mr Bones, the head of the DEO, is involved because someone at the prison is using a homemade power-dampener to subdue and capture superheroes, whose services they then sell to the highest bidder. Manhunter uses her own killswitch to jam the power-dampener, and suddenly, six enraged metahumans burst out of a van with a few anger issues. Gypsy and Manhunter watch as the angry super-types take care of the rest of their fight for them. With communications back online, Oracle contacts The Huntress…


Aha. I forgot about that. Turns out it was Misfit who broke everything… Leave my paranoid ramblings out of it. Oracle is as stunned as I was to hear that Misfit can teleport on that scale, and you have to keep in mind that she was flying BLIND. Two words: Holy. Schnikes. Judomaster and Barda have a fun exchange as J-M tries to track the escaping mob goons (remember them?) with an ear to the ground, Tonto style. “If the lummox will stop pounding her hooves, I could track the men more precisely,” snerks Judomaster. Barda responds, “I threw a car at the last man who called me fat. Just a reminder.” Heh. Huntress orders her team to stand down, but Barda doesn’t really take orders so well, and rushes into the fray. Things go from worse to worsener, as, back in Washington, Spy Smasher orders that they bring up all files on one citizen, last name Gordon. First name Barbara, asks her flunky? “No,” she replies ominously. Huntress manages to reach Tabby Brennon, just in time, as Oracle realizes that the situation is much more complicated than they thought.


Oh, god. It looks like the girl has finally reaches the snapping point, doesn’t it? Huntress is horrified, as she, too, grew up in a crime family, constantly being twisted by forces that shouldn’t ever enter a kid’s life. As they clean up the scene, Lady Blackhawk comforts poor crazy Tabby, and Huntress checks the gun as some pretty awful math comes into play. Counting the wounds on the dead goons, the number of missing bullets doesn’t add up…


I think Tabby and Spy Smasher should get together sometime and go bowling… That look in the last panel still gives me the creeps. As for Manhunter and Gypsy, they’ve found the warden, mastermind of the metahuman trafficking ring, and MH informs him that he’s going to quit his job, call the authorities, and report every single thing that’s been happening here, or else… Or else what, he asks? Or else he’s going to get some quality time with a half dozen mightily angry superhumans who he personally kidnapped and tortured. He sees the light, and gives in. Sadly, he’s not the only one, as Spy Smasher has read the “Gordon” file, and has her own ultimatum for Oracle.


I. Hate. Spy Smasher. She is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with espionage, government, and abuse of power all rolled up into one lime green turtleneck. Also, the ponytail and sunglasses combo make her look somehow more arrogant. Huge props again to Nicola for this sequence, however, as Barbara’s facial expressions and body language alone would tell you that she’s giving up. Very nice work.

I am now champing at the bit to see what happens, especially to see Katarina Amrstrong get her slapdown, and that’s a good thing. I enjoyed Manhunter this issue, though it looks like she’s not a permanent addition to the team, and LOVE Misfit, who looks like she is. This issue had a lot of action on three different fronts, and it all ended badly. Simone managed the three plotlines seamlessly, incorporating the college flashback without any awkwardness at all. This issue delivers the goods on all fronts, and nails the landing for a much-deserving 3.5 stars. But seriously, I just want Barda to get one good punch on Spy Smasher… even just a glancing blow? Pretty please?



About Author

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.

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