Archive for Birds of Prey

Friday Night Fights: Spy Smashing!

Holy abalone, kids, it’s a three-day weekend! You don’t know how bad I’ve been needing this, especially the way the last few months have gone. So heck, let’s jump right into our weekend with some… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from September 2007’s Birds of Prey #108 by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, and Doug Hazlewood. (from one of the BoP collections that DC has inexplicably allowed to go out of print, which means I’ll probably never get a chance to read the full storyline. Why, no, I’m not particularly happy about that at all.)

The modern version of Spy Smasher, one of Babs Gordon’s rivals from college, has been trying to take control of the Birds away from Oracle and reckons she now has Barbara right where she wants her. Babs doesn’t have her operatives, she doesn’t have her computers, she doesn’t have her Eskrima sticks, she doesn’t even have her wheelchair. But none of that matters, because Barbara Gordon is one of the DCU’s foremost badasses.

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There we go, people, if that chunk of righteous pain-bringin’ skull-thumpery can’t get you through a nice three-day weekend, you got problems that not even comic books can solve.

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Friday Night Fights: Pain Calculation!

Ladies and germs, let’s get this sucker rolling right quick — it’s Friday night, and it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s battle comes from March 2009’s Birds of Prey #126 by Tony Bedard, Claude St. Aubin, and John Floyd, as the villainous Calculator tries to work up a plan involving a computer virus and a bunch of nanobots to neutralize the equally villainous Kilg%re:

As it turns out, Calculator gets better. A lot better. And after that, the Birds of Prey stomp his butt. Evil never wins, Calculator! Except in real life!

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Mystery Hunt

Mystery Society #3

While Nick and Anastasia Mystery escape with the super-psychic girls Sally and Nina to a new hideout in the tropics, the Skull and Jules Verne (in his awesomely cool robot body) travel to Baltimore to look for the stolen skull of Edgar Allan Poe. After evading the police by pretending to be going to a sci-fi convention, they meet up with a possible culprit in the theft — namely, the suspiciously-named Charles Y. Culprit, who runs the Edgar Allan Poe Historical Society. Meanwhile, Sally and Nina reveal that they can read minds and teleport when they take Nick and Anastasia to see Zeke Jones, a tech expert who analyzes the security tapes that purport to show that Nick killed a general. Hoping to find more answers, Nick and Ana return to Area 51, but run into the general’s son, who attacks them with giant robots.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All in all, it’s pretty rollicking good fun. The art by Fiona Staples is just grandly charismatic, and Steve Niles’ story is zipping along wonderfully. I just wish we could see more of the Skull, who is frequently hilarious.

Birds of Prey #5

The newly re-reformed Savant and Creote take Babs to her new Gotham headquarters, while Black Canary handcuffs the White Canary and accompanies her back to Thailand. Hawk and Lady Blackhawk are taken to the hospital to recover, and Huntress almost decides to shoot several arrows into Penguin’s face. After Zinda recovers, she and Huntress make a trip to Bangkok to find Dinah, but they’re attacked by a bunch of martial arts thugs with a surprising leader.

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s boring, and this is not a comic that should be boring.

The Unwritten #17

We get a little stuff about Lizzie Hexam’s past, and then Tom Taylor and Savoy help her escape from the hospital. I actually had some trouble getting this story to make sense, because it’s all told in the style of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. You know, “If you want to take the corridor on the right, go to page 43. If you want to take the corridor on the left, go to page 12.”

Verdict: Thumbs down. I loved the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books when I was younger, but it turns out, they don’t seem to adapt well to comic books. Bad enough you end up reading nearly the entire comic turned over on its side, but there’s just too much bouncing back and forth in a comic that’s not all that easy to read in that format. I think the story was fine, but it wasn’t worth all the hassle of actually reading the durn thing.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • If you’re ever traveling through time and need a convenience store, you now know where to go.
  • Chad Vader, brother of Darth, gives some humorous shout-outs to the cosplayers at Dragon Con.
  • I’m a big fan of gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello, so I really enjoyed this video and interview.

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Book of Dreams

Daytripper #9

It’s the next-to-the-last issue of this incredible series. Brás de Oliva Domingos is — well, he’s everywhere. A wide variety of ages. Sometimes a boy, sometimes an adult, sometimes married, sometimes visiting old friends and relatives, sometimes a completely different person. He’s dreaming, he can’t seem to wake up, and there’s something he needs to learn.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Thumbs up. Thumbs up. People, if you haven’t been reading this, you should’ve been. See if you can find the back issues. See if you can hunker down and wait for the trade paperback. This one is going to win awards, it’s going to wind up on everyone’s “Best of 2010″ lists, it’s going to be the type of story they teach in textbooks someday. It’s a beautifully illustrated and beautifully written story, and I hope you’ll go buy it and enjoy it.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #1

It’s definitely a new world for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense — they have a new mandate from the United Nations, a much larger staff and budget, and a new global focus on the supernatural threats popping up all over the world. While new field director Kate Corrigan works to coordinate worldwide operations, Abe Sapien heads up north to investigate a string of mysterious disappearances. Andrew Devon still worries that Abe is somehow allied with the recently defeated frogs, and Johann Kraus is deeply wishing he had his old body back again. What other secret threats and resentments are lurking in wait for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice new start for everyone, with several new interpersonal subplots that we haven’t had to deal with before — the tensions between Abe, Andrew, and Kate are going to end up being pretty interesting. Guy Davis’s artwork is as interesting as ever — he doesn’t do the prettiest, glossiest art, but he’s brilliant with characterization and mood — his facial expressions are great, and the scene where Abe discovers how empty the Canadian town has gotten is wonderfully creepy.

Birds of Prey #4

Eeeeverybody’s in trouble. Black Canary is taking on the White Canary, who is at least as good a fighter as Dinah is and quite likely better. Savant and Creote are planning on dropping Babs Gordon off a bridge. Hawk may be dying of poison, and the Penguin has just stabbed Lady Blackhawk because he thinks he’s going to be given a database that includes the secret identities of every superhero on Earth. Things are dire all around, and several sacrifices are going to have to be made if everyone is going to get out alive.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not the greatest story in the world, but Gail Simone structures it very entertainingly. The tidbits we get from the White Canary’s life are pretty interesting, the fight scenes are good, and Oracle’s confrontation with Savant is quite nice.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Evidence of Absence

Daytripper #8

Brás de Oliva Domingos is now 47, and for the first time, he doesn’t actually appear in this issue. Our focus is on his wife and young son — Brás is traveling on business. But he keeps in touch with frequent phone calls and e-mails, telling them how much he loves them, making up new bedtime stories for his son, and telling them he’s looking forward to coming home soon. And of course, this series being what it is, we all know that’s not going to turn out the way Brás had planned…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good grief, this is just a great series — very likely the best we’ve seen so far this year. If you’re not reading it, you shoulda been, man. Just two issues left of this one…

Batgirl #12

While Oracle fights against the Calculator inside his own subconscious, Batgirl makes her way through the deathtraps in his secret headquarters. Can Stephanie save Oracle and everyone in Gotham City from Calculator and his techno-zombie virus?

Verdict: Thumbs down. It’s an awesome cover, but I just couldn’t get excited about the story. Do we really need Wendy Harris as a second Oracle?

Birds of Prey #3

The Penguin is hallucinating from blood loss, a bunch of rogue cops attack the team with a couple of tanks, Savant and Creote aren’t actually dead after all and have shown up to kidnap Oracle, the White Canary manages to injure Hawk and force him to switch to his unpowered form, and there’s a secret mastermind — maybe several secret masterminds — behind everything.

Verdict: Thumbs down. There’s just too much going on — and even with all the stuff going on, we’re still not seeing the plot advance quickly enough.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The New New Avengers of Avenging Avengers

The New Avengers #1

It’s yet another “Avengers” title from Marvel. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark want Luke Cage to lead a new Avengers team, but Luke is hesitant. To sweeten the deal, Tony sells him Avengers Mansion for a dollar. Man, real estate values are just crashing like crazy. So while Luke picks out his team, Dr. Strange is in some trouble. He was called out to help Daimon Hellstrom with some problem, but it turned out that the Son of Satan was possessed by… something. And whatever it was possessed Strange, too, then they both went after Dr. Voodoo, the new Sorcerer Supreme, so they can steal the Eye of Agamotto. Back at Avengers Mansion, Luke has selected his team — Iron Fist, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Mockingbird, Jewel, Ms. Marvel, and Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. But when the Eye of Agamotto magically appears in Luke’s hands, and the possessed Strange and Hellstrom teleport in, is the new team going to be finished before it even begins?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So far, it’s just an introductory issue, making sure we know who the players are, but it’s got some good moments, particularly the purchase of Avengers Mansion and Ben Grimm’s induction onto the team.

Birds of Prey #2

Black Canary and the Huntress are facing off against an extremely skilled martial artist called the White Canary. Lady Shiva formerly used that name, but this doesn’t seem to be her — it’s someone else entirely. And White Canary is very, very good. She pwns Dinah and Helena without very much effort, and even the intervention of Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk doesn’t do much to even the odds. And it gets worse when the White Canary — or someone associated with her — releases information to the press making Black Canary look like a murderer. A bunch of crooked Gotham cops appear on the scene. The Penguin, injured previously by the White Canary, tells them to take him to his club, where they’ll all be safe, so the team fights its way through the cops — and then finds out that Black Canary’s real name has been released to the media, along with embarrassing information about her past — and two old associates of the Birds of Prey have been killed. How much worse are things going to get?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very intense storyline, so far, with a villain — or maybe a group of villains — whose physical attacks are devastating — and whose non-physical attacks are even worse. Excellent writing by Gail Simone — and while I can’t normally stand the art of Ed Benes, I’ve gotta say, the art here seems to be pretty good. So hey, go pick it up.

Today’s Cool Links:

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Bird Watching

Birds of Prey #1

Huzzah! “Birds of Prey” is back! With Gail Simone still writing it! And with Ed Benes on art! Oh, wait, that’s not good. Ed Benes’ main artistic skill is drawing girls’ butts. Well, at least Gail Simone is writing it!

We start out with Black Canary very gratifyingly beating the snot out of a kidnapper in Russia while Lady Blackhawk provides air cover. Then they and Huntress get a call from Oracle — she’s getting the gang back together. While Lady Blackhawk recruits Hawk and Dove, Barbara tells Huntress and Black Canary why she needs them back — she’s getting blackmailed by someone who’s compiled every important secret there is about every superhero and supervillain in the world. If the Birds of Prey don’t go after him, he’s going to release the entire list in mere hours. And even if they do go after him, he’s going to kill someone on the list once an hour until they stop him. But who’s really behind this scheme? And do the Birds have a chance to survive?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s great that this series is back, especially with Simone in charge. Benes’ more unsubtle cheesecake impulses are at least reined in, which makes his artwork more bearable. I’m not sure how thrilled I am to see Hawk and Dove here — both of them just bore me to tears, but maybe Simone has a plan for ‘em. I also wish Misfit were in this one. As for the story itself, I’m pretty pleased with it. The opening scene is just plain awesome, and the impending crisis and the confrontation with the blackmailer on the last pages is very good. Definitely looking forward to reading more of this one.

The Unwritten #13

Tom Taylor has been lying low for a few months, along with Lizzie Hexam and Richard Savoy, as they try to avoid tipping off the authorities that they’re still alive. Meanwhile, the world is abuzz about the brand new Tommy Taylor novel that’s about to be released. The evil literary assassin Pullman is being prepped to kill both Tom and his father Wilson. And it turns out that the new Tommy Taylor novel is a complete fake — the evil conspiracy is publishing a completely crap-quality novel in an attempt to get Wilson Taylor to come out of hiding. Tom and Savoy both run into old acquaintances — one a friend and one a great enemy…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very nice start to a new storyline. Characterization, dialogue, artwork — this one hits everything it needs to. And hey, pay attention to the captions on the TV reports in the story — there are a few good laughs lurking in there…

B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #5

And here’s the wrapup of another BPRD storyline. In the aftermath of last issue’s disasters, the field team is in the hospital, the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi have been completely destroyed, and a gigantic insectoid leviathan has appeared on the Salton Sea in California — it’s emitting some kind of noxious gas that turns people into monsters. Director Manning, Kate Corrigan, and Johann Kraus are getting raked over the coals by the UN — although the BPRD also gets some very good news out of their interrogation. The field team doesn’t trust Abe Sapien anymore, the frequently evil megacorp Zinco is trying to appear humanitarian, and Liz Sherman turns up alone in Bangkok.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A good finish for a frequently confusing storyarc, with some new status quos for everyone and new mysteries on the horizon. It’s been implied that things are just going to get worse and worse in future storyarcs — hopefully, the storytelling will continue to improve.

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Farewell to the Birds

Well, I was going to devote today’s blog to one of my rare sports posts so I could talk about the Mike-Leach-vs.-Texas-Tech thing. But Tech finally decided they didn’t want to deal with angry, torch-bearing mobs and gave Leach his contract. So in the absence of anything else, let’s hit some quick reviews.

Birds of Prey #127

It’s the last issue of this comic, and they don’t send it off on a high note. The Calculator has new powers that let him control any machinery, and he’s invaded the Birds’ HQ with a giant scary robot. They manage to get away, but lose their headquarters in the process. They raid the last stronghold of the Silicon Syndicate and mash ‘em flat except, again, for Calculator. So Babs has a crisis of confidence and quits the team to see if she can get the use of her legs back and become Batgirl again. Wait, what?

Verdict: Thumbs down. The story was far, far too rushed. The ending was forced. Characterization was almost nonexistent. And I really don’t get DC’s new craze for rolling back their clock to the Silver Age. They brought Hal Jordan back, they brought Barry Allen back, they’re somehow going to shoehorn Babs Gordon out of her completely awesome role as Oracle the computer guru and try to turn her back into one of Batman’s dull sidekicks again. Wouldn’t surprise me to hear that they’re going to de-age Nightwing to get him back in the Robin costume next.

Justice League of America #30

The Justice League has managed to subdue the Shadow Cabinet, but they all get ambushed by the Shadow Thief, who’s managed to get a lot more powerful recently and has decided to kill both teams as a sacrifice to some unnamed god. They all have to fight shadow-versions of themselves. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Rocket shows up (Yay! Rocket!), schools Batman (Wait, what?), and reveals that the Shadow Cabinet has given Dr. Light (the female Japanese superhero, not the crazy evil barfbag villain) a new powersuit that lets her use her superpowers again. So they all manage to defeat Shadow Thief, but he has one last surprise — he’s created an evil shadow-version of the moon, and he’s going to crash it into the Earth. Superman manages to bash it to bits, but the Shadow Cabinet gets away.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I actually liked some parts of this — I still can’t get over how much I’m liking seeing the Milestone Media characters here in the DCU, some of the dialogue was quite good, and the Evil Shadow Moon was both cheesy and cool. But dangit, I just cannot take any comic seriously that tries to tell me that a halfwit dork like the Shadow Thief is a serious threat. And isn’t it about time they gave the superhero Dr. Light a new name?

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Faces of Distraction

Got the car back. Another $350 bucks down the tubes. And actually, I gotta take it to another joint later today for a more minor procedure, but still, here goes another few hours without the car, and another few bucks into the abyss. And on top of all that, I got another couple of job rejections yesterday. So this is what my life is like these days — shovel a few hundred bucks out the window, get turned down for jobs, read the news about another half-million people losing their jobs, and try to find something new to distract myself from thinking about how awful things are.

Luckily, new comics = awesome distraction factor!

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Birds of Prey #126

First of all, could I just say that I do not like DC’s “Faces of Evil” covers? Something a tad more colorful, por favor?

Anyway, it’s the next to the last issue of this series. The dastardly but extraordinarily nerdy Calculator has gotten on the bad side of the Kilg%re, a living computer program who’s allied with the Silicon Syndicate. Basically, the Calculator blundered and gave Oracle access to the Syndicate’s secret Internet — the Syndicate is unhappy, but is going to give him three days to kill the Birds of Prey before they kill him. Can Calculator figure out a way to come out on top? Well, yeah, that and more. And with Calc’s newfound power, do Oracle and the rest of the Birds stand any chance against him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice focus on the Calculator and the Syndicate, and Calc’s scheme is enjoyably baroque and twisted.

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Green Lantern #37

Hal Jordan and the lone two Blue Lanterns are racing to save Sinestro from being executed by the Red Lanterns. The Blue Lanterns want to save Sinestro — Jordan would kinda like to kill him himself. But he gets ambushed by the blood-barfing Red Lanterns and imprisoned with Sinestro. The demonic Atrocitus pronounces prophecies that Hal will eventually rebel against the Corps, but the Sinestro Corps soon attacks, and Hal finds himself in the crossfire between the Red, Blue, and Yellow Lanterns. Hal tries to save Laira, a former Green Lantern turned Red, but Sinestro kills her. Jordan is enraged by her death — and you know how much the Red Lanterns love rage…

Verdict: I think I’m gonna thumbs-down on this one. I’m really tired of the blood-vomiting Red Lanterns. And I’m not that fond of the Blue Lanterns either. And now that Hal has gone from a Green Lantern to a Red Lantern, with the Blues wanting him as their leader… Hey, do ya reckon, Hal is going to be wearing all seven of the power rings by the time this is all over? Aw, gee, did I figure out the big surprise already?

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Secret Six #5

The horrific Junior is going to kill Bane by throwing bricks at him. Five hundred bricks. But Bane is not without resources — namely, that even chained up and seemingly helpless, he’s really, really good at killing Junior’s henchmen. Meanwhile, Jeanette, the Last Victim and the owner of the Nocturne casino, forces Cheshire to give the rest of the Six the antidote to the poisons they were exposed to last issue. Then they all beat the snot out of the supervillains stalking them through the casino. Finally, they go to find Bane, and we get the revelation of Junior’s identity.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good stuff going on with Bane, and I really do like Jeanette. Not sure how thrilled I am with Junior’s true identity — I kinda liked the character as a shrouded and mysterious creep. Also, the actual disrobing part of it probably requires brain bleach, which I can no longer afford…

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The Monkey of your Dreams

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2

The Umbrella “family” is tearing itself apart from the inside — Kraken is mad at Spaceboy for getting depressed and getting fat while obsessing over TV, the Seance ignores everyone now that he’s a celebrity, Number 5 is missing… and Hazel and Cha-Cha are in town. They’re a couple of loons wearing cartoon animal heads. They’re baaaad news.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still wonderfully loopy. Hazel and Cha-Cha are creepy as heck. I’d like to see the family do something other than argue, but we’ll see what’s coming.

Birds of Prey #125

The Birds are running a two-pronged mission — while Babs and Black Canary distract the Caretaker, a member of the Silicon Syndicate who is an obsessive collector and sadistic kidnapper, by pretending they’re going to destroy a super-rare sports car he wants to buy (he responds by sending masses of hired assassins after them), Huntress and Infinity sneak into his hideout to free his captives.

Verdict: I’m gonna give it a thumbs down. There are a few nice moments in it, including that great Frank Quitely cover, but on the whole, it’s entirely forgettable.

Secret Six #4

The Secret Six — actually just the Secret Five (Catman, Deadshot, Scandal Savage, Ragdoll, and Bane) plus their hostage, Tarantula — are in possession of an actual Get Out of Hell Free card. Every supervillain in the world wants to take the card from them, and impossibly-creepy mastermind Junior has put a bounty on all of their heads. The whole team is at each others’ throats over the card as they ride cross-country in, of all things, a stolen ice cream truck. Junior kills a priest, mainly for kicks, partly because he has no idea how confession is supposed to work. Bane is weirdly attracted to Scandal. When everyone gets to Las Vegas, they meet up with the owner of the Nocturne Hotel, a mysterious superhuman called the Last Victim, who has a fondness for old French fashions and lollipops. But is it already too late for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent dialogue and characterization, dandy plot, gorgeous artwork, evil and entertaining villain, outstanding cliffhanger. Get it, read it, love it.

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