Or – “Why The Huntress Is Not Black Canary In Five Easy Lessons.”

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Howdy! I usually don’t go off on personal tangents in these recaps (because, really, why the #$&* would you care?) but much like the butcher who backed into the meat grinder, I’ve gotten a little behind in my work. Mea culpa… This issue came out LAST week, but I was busy runnin’ an’ runnin’ an’ runnin’ like a constipated weiner dog, I missed it in the pull list. But, nil desperandum, dear friends, I’m not going to let something like being an idiot deter me from my appointed rounds. After several superlative years of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey, various powers have removed Gail and Black Canary from the book, to be replaced by Tony Bedard and The Huntress. One is a borderline Batman character, the other is DC’s new workhorse, and this issue is one of those “jumping-on points” you always hear about in Previews…

Previously, on Birds of Prey: After Black Canary left the book for a new life, Oracle BP1.jpgrestructured her organization, adding more agents as well as restructuring the way they interact. Most of the female heroes of the DCU are in her rolodex now, but more problems arose when an old enemy from college reared her ponytail as the new Spy Smasher. For long days, Oracle worked for ‘Smasher until they finally had it out, and S.S. was soundly defeated by Oracle and remanded to Checkmate for assorted slapping around. Last issue, Black Canary returned to ask Babs (Oracle) to be her bridesmaid, Knockout of the Secret Six was murdered by the New God Slayer, Big Barda learned to play Pokemon, and I didn’t hate it. This issue, Oracle has a problem, only one agent can handle it, but she’s a bit busy… “I’m busy!” Huntress tells her, “Some carjackers crashed a stolen hummer trying to outrun the cops and–” Oracle interrupts, telling her that she, too, listens to the police band, and already knows…

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Oracle’s mission is also pretty serious, in a different way. Apparently, a group of comic geeks (who must have quite a time in the DC Universe, where every third kid was rocketed from a dead planet where the gravity gives them super-powers) have idolized an old-school Superman villain so much that they’re helping him to finish his evil works…

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Huntress interrupts, telling Oracle that the idiots in the bus are running red lights, and Oracle quickly switches them all to green, giving Huntress and the idiot carjackers a clear run through town. She then drops the bomb… literally. Atomic Skull’s device is an explosive device, loaded with chlorine gas, and it it blows, the entire downtown area of Metropolis will be engulfed in a poison cloud, just to prove that Skully still matters. Huntress still maintains that she’s too busy to get involved, and tries to get Oracle to call somebody else…

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No, you’re not, “dawg.” She may not be Batman’s daughter in the current continuity, but Helena’s got moves that four idiots with automatics aren’t going to touch. Huntress suggests that Oracle send Barda, but she counters that a teleporting super-strong god might be too much gun. Huntress tries Power Girl, but she’s busy with the JSA. Helena sighs melodramatically and decides upon her plan. With thirty tons of bus right on her tail… she hits the brakes.

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The cocky would-be criminals are so busy high-fiving and mangling their grammer that they don’t hear the thump on the roof, but the driver realizes that the motorcycle is wedged under the front wheels of the bus. “Y’think she meant to do that?” asks one of the idiots, and I have to suspect probably, as Huntress makes her entrance.

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“Twenty-one seconds later…” Huntress pulls up to the curb, and offloads the children from the bus, backing it off her Bat-Cycle (because Hunt-Cycle sounds silly) and contacting Oracle. “Do that thing with the traffic lights again. I need a clear shot from here to the waterworks.” We see the three carjackers hog-tied with crossbow bolts sticking out of various non-lethal points of their anatomy, and Helena asks why Oracle didn’t just recruit somebody new. Oracle explains how she got Catwoman to stop a jewel heist, but Selina sank the yacht under the theory that if SHE couldn’t have the jewels, nobody could. Phantom Lady, on the other hand, was involved in a case against genetically-altered criminals who looked like children, and nearly got killed because she wouldn’t fight all out. Of course, some people have the OPPOSITE problem. “Remember Black Orchid’s tryout?”

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Wow. That really takes me back… The original Black Orchid series is pretty good (it’s Neil Gaiman before he was NEIL GAIMAN) and I thought she was forever lost on the Vertigo archepelago… Huntress races across town, snarkily telling Oracle, “any more of your sob stories and I’ll scream.” Huntress ascertains that the bomb is in the main building, and makes a leap of faith…

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Any Ernie Devlin impersonator can jump OVER a bus, but it takes a special kind of woman to jump IN a bus. Smashing through the front of the building, her vehicle snapping nearly in two, Huntress catapults through the windshield, somersaulting and landing with her crossbow drawn. “First one that moves gets a bolt in the brainpan.” The punks scatter, and Huntress puts up her weapon, and grabs one of the schmendriks by the collar. She takes him to the weapon, and orders him to disarm it. Another kid skulks out of the shadows, puts a gun to her neck shakily, and tells her he’ll shoot. “If there was even a chance of you firing that thing,” she responds, “I would’ve put a bolt in you the minute I saw it tucked in your waistband.” She tells them that Atomic Skull set them up to die, and that this is their one chance to not only make good, but to, y’know, live?

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Heh. Done in one, with a nice twist at the end. Interesting… Tony Bedard does a good job here, keeping Oracle recognizable (though a bit more strident than usual, which we could chalk up to the seriousness of the situation) and making Huntress a kick-ass action hero. Now, I personally wouldn’t have driven a bus off a bridge onto a bomb, but that’s why I’m not a member of the Bat-family.

It’s a nice issue, without anything that I would consider a continuity glitch, (except maybe the assumption that Spy Smasher is still on the roster, given the dialogue in a recent Checkmate about Mlle. Marie tossing her “down a deep, dark hole” which I took to assume that she’s in prison) certainly nothing as glaring as the Shado error from last month. Nicola Scott’s art is as gorgeous as ever, handling both expressions and cinematic car chases with equal aplomb, making the issue a well-done and pleasant diversion, earning 3 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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4 Comments

  1. Mark I.
    September 28, 2007 at 11:03 am — Reply

    I can’t stand the Huntress. There. I said it. It’s hard to explain. Obviously she’s drawn to look pretty hot, she’s had some good moments here and there…I just cannot stand the character to the point of rolling my eyes when she’s in a high-profile storyline. Even in JLU, one of the best portrayals of the character period, I couldn’t stand her and was tempted to skim through the 2 or 3 episodes centered around her (though I HAD to stick it out because of Question.)

    I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because she comes off like a snotty Batgirl with a crossbow? Maybe it’s because the character has been turned over and rebooted so many times? Personally, I didn’t mind the old Earth-2 Huntress as a “What If Batman had a daughter?” character, but when they shoehorned her into Earth-1 I just never came around to her.

    Ahhh, who cares what I think? Wait, the INTERNET cares! It is my friend!

  2. September 28, 2007 at 12:03 pm — Reply

    Ahhh, who cares what I think? Wait, the INTERNET cares! It is my friend!

    Indeed… Much as with art, every character is in the eye of the beholder. I like Huntress, but not as much as I loved Black Canary in the book. This is why I review the array of titles that I do, so everybody can be happy.

  3. Dr. Strange Cubicle
    September 28, 2007 at 12:28 pm — Reply

    I preferred the Earth-2 version as well, but I think Huntress is okay, particularly in the JLU. Anyway, I thought I’d link (credit to bluefall, who posted it on scans daily) to one of the scenes which really illustrates how great Scott’s art is here;

    http://img527.imageshack.us/img527/2889/birdsofprey110021jd4.jpg

    Perfectly captures how she’s annoyed by the amateur, and isn’t really in danger (although Huntress’ bus driver face/talk to the kids was fun too, in my opinion). Overall, I think this issue didn’t match up to the last few, but it was still a fun read.

  4. ykw06
    September 30, 2007 at 6:48 pm — Reply

    “Anyway, I thought I’d link (credit to bluefall, who posted it on scans daily) to one of the scenes which really illustrates how great Scott’s art is[….]”

    One of the few pages this issue that didn’t suffer from John Statema Syndrome (wherein an up-and-coming young penciller is seized by the compulsion to ape the surface trappings of Jerry Ordway without any of the structural or philosophical underpinnings that make his “tics” work). Scott does great work in her own style, and I hope to see more of that (and less of this) next time ’round.

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