Or – “Russian History, Resurrection, The Secret Six And An Immortal Fistfight.”

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It’s an interesting time to be a DC character. Sure, you’ve got tons of new storylines, a whole new world opened up, an old multiverse lurking ’round the corner, origins retold, World War III, Darkseid’s in the wings, and a host of all-new sandboxes to play in. Why, they’ve even undone the greatest injustice of Mark Waid’s run on “Justice League America” by revealing that Ice survived her seeming disintegration (if that woman WAS Ice to begin with.) It’s a bright, shiny new DCU, full of infinite possibilities. Of course, that doesn’t stop the BoP’s latest mission from going horribly off the rails and $#*#ing everything up…

bp1.jpgPreviously, on Birds of Prey: Oracle was out-maneuvered by Katarina Armstrong, the new Spy Smasher, who agreed not to turn her in to the feds so long as she moved her operations to Spy Smasher’s command. To protect her father, Oracle agreed. When the Russian Mafiya began rumbling of a super-secret auction of some sort of “super-weapon,” Spy Smasher activated the BoP, sending in Huntress and Big Barda undercover. Huntress was distracted by flirting with Thomas Blake, aka Catman, and when the secret auction item was revealed it was just a standard Rocket Red armor. Realizing that Blake’s Secret Six was there to steal the item by any means necessary, Barda and Huntress stole the armor, only to find former Justice League member Tora Olafsdotter (Ice), long believed dead, within. The five members of the Six pursued, but Oracle’s secret backup agent Hawkgirl stranded four of them in the freezing tundra, while the Birds narrowly got away… The following takes place between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Peep peep peep peep peep peep…

As with last time, we start with a bit of Russian history, last time out, it was the Maiden Tower, this time, the story of Rasputin. During the reign of the last of the Czars, the heir to the throne was injured (and that injury was worsened by hemophilia from the inbreeding of the bloodlines) and only one man, called “The Mad Monk” was able to ease his suffering. The Tsarina swore by his ministrations, and Rasputin became a favored member of the royal entourage. But the other noblemen disliked Rasputin’s influence over the throne, and conspired to have him murdered…

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Makes you wonder if he knew Vandal Savage, doesn’t it? The story segues to two men travelling down a steep staircase, one the storyteller, the other confused as to what this means to him. “Let’s imagine, for a moment, that our glorious revolution was at least partially built on the blood of a magician, a man with powers over life and death.” The younger man is confused by this response, and nervously tries to excuse himself, but it’s too late. “Surely you know of [Rasputin’s] many affairs and bastards, Mr. Radzin. Surely you know that HIS blood flows in YOUR veins?”

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The storyteller, the very same former Russian general who was auctioning Tora, orders his underlings to prepare the “ceremony,” that will serve as their salvation, and asks about the mercenaries he hired. No information is currently know, so he mobilizes his force of Rocket Reds to find them. “If this Secret Six have failed us, make certain that they die as well. ALL of them.” Speaking of the Six, most of their members are currently stranded in the midst of a Russian snowstorm, while Catman tries to track the van that holds the escaping Birds of Prey.

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Heh. That’s Deadshot, vulgar as ever. Hard to believe he comes from high-society stock, isn’t it? Ragdoll is adamant that he must have his costume in order to continue, and Catman remarks that he’d rather fight in leather than in silk. Knockout sighs, “Memories…” Heh. Deadshot continues his “nudge nudge” mocking of Blake’s anatomy, and Knockout calls dibs on her target. “The Fury… Barda is her name… She belongs to ME.” Catman, having seen Barda’s super-strength up close and personal, replies, “I think that was ASSUMED, Knockout.” This dialogue is pretty awesome. Sixer Scandal (daughter of Vandal Savage) is on the trail of the Birds, but she’s not as subtle as she thinks…

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Well, this is interesting. Manhunter is working directly for Spy Smasher? Either this means that Katarina is only a world-class bitch to Oracle, or there’s something else going on. Could she be a triple agent, working for Oracle pretending to work for Spy Smasher pretending to work for Oracle? Or am I overthinking it? As for Barbara/Oracle, she’s irritated and appalled to find that her control over her own team has been superseded by a bimbo in a ponytail and cheap sunglasses. And there is still the matter of WHY five villains call themselves the Secret SIX? Might be the fact that, like the Birds, they’ve kept one member in reserve for just such an emergency.

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Well, now… this IS an interesting development. And I think Stephen will be happy to see this, assuming that Ragdoll doesn’t, y’know, push her off a battlement or something. Oracle calls Hawkgirl to scrape Scandal off the other Birds’ tail, and Hawkgirl scoops Scandal right off her motorcycle. In a move that calls her intellect (but not her guts) into question, Scandal punches the woman HOLDING HER IN THE AIR right in the face. They crash to the ground, and Scandal silently removes her tuxedo jacket, then drops her weapons. Hawkgirl follows suit, angrily dropping her mace, and the reincarnated warrior leaps into action against the one who can’t die. Interesting parallel…

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As awesome as that setup is, there’s a little letdown when we immediately cut away, and most of the battle takes place offscreen. Why give us this kind of setup for no girl-kicking payoff? As the Birds arrive at Katarina’s safehouse, they find that the locals revere Tora as some sort of goddess, but Huntress isn’t buying it. Something doesn’t add up, here. The team was lured in with the assumption that someone had technology that would allow them to do great damage, but instead they’ve found a presumably-dead former colleague? When one of the men at the safehouse reveals his tattoo (barbed wire on the forehead, an indication of a life sentence without parole), Huntress threatens to shoot him if he doesn’t tell her what’s going on. Unfortunately, she’s not the only woman with a gun…

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Something is definitely wrong here. (By the way, the girl over Oracle’s shoulder is Misfit, and she’s a teleporter. She has incredible range, he said, hinting broadly…) I love Manhunter, but she’s taking a terrible risk in taunting Big Barda (unless Barda flipping out is what she wants?) I have no idea what’s really going on here (in a good way), and two issues in, it looks like the twists keep coming. The “they’re here” refers to none other than the Secret Six, and they’ve got a little hostage as incentive to deal.

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Nicola Scott is absolutely brilliant. Someday I hope to see her take on the Justice League or (dare I hope?) The Legion of Superheroes. For now, thought, Birds of Prey is that much better for having her on board, and it starts out pretty good. My associate Tom (who is WRONG, sir, WRONG!) and I recently had a discussion about the use of female DC characters (Power Girl and Black Canary’s chairmanships started it) where he wondered if there might not be a backlash against a hail of female-character-elevations. I hold up Birds of Prey as an example to show that, at least for me, if it’s well done, it will work. The overwhelmingly female cast is still compelling, diverse, and powerful, and I’m looking forward to the Barda/Knockout battle with the same sort of excitement I remember having about Hulk/Thing punch-’em-ups as a kid.

Birds retains it’s excellent streak with this issue, and I once again implore anyone who has stayed away to give it a shot. Good story (Gail Simone is still here, for now) and amazing art from Nicola Scott put it in a class above your average book. The “markout” tough guy moment of Hawkgirl facing down Scandal was excellent, and even the small missteps worked in the final product. Birds of Prey #105 earns itself an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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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.

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1 Comment

  1. April 27, 2007 at 3:54 pm — Reply

    Chris Bird + Nicola Scott on Legion of Supes = Teh Win.

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