Thursday, June 23, 2011

Birds of Prey #12

Cover by Jesus Saiz
Birds of Prey #12 (May 11, 2011)
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Jesus Saiz
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

I’ve decided to try my hand at actual comic issues, a medium that I am still completely new to. Aside from buying Wonder Woman #600 last summer, I’ve only ever read graphic novels so I am very eager to become more familiar with the reading process of waiting for new issues to be published to continue a story arc.

I’ve always been slightly confused about how one starts reading comic books in this manner since it seems like jumping head first into a story and playing catch-up with unfamiliar conflicts and plots. But I figured charging blindly into a story arc can’t hurt me and when I saw the great Gail Simone’s name as the writer, I knew I had to give Birds of Prey #12 a shot.

Birds of Prey #12 follows the covert infiltration by the all-female superhero group into a shady and corrupt corporation. As Lady Blackhawk attempts to distract the ominous executive, Stephen Tripe, Dove and Black Canary sneak through empty elevator shafts to reach their goal. I honestly can’t remember what or where that was, all I remember is that Oracle purposely points out  that the building is nearly impossible to break into even with all her finesse. Meanwhile, Huntress follows the Question through the Gotham sewers to help take down some dirty cops while also attempting to bring the Question into the Birds of Prey. No one seems particularly thrilled with that idea.

Though I was somewhat lost with just what this corporation was capable of and just why the Birds of Prey had set their sights on it, I was not disappointed in the plot itself. It was fast-paced and Simone did a great job balancing the two storylines. There was also genuine tension and suspense, especially by the very creepy cliff-hanger conclusion in which Dove and Black Canary find themselves in a dark basement filled with mangled dolls.

The art, especially in those scenes, was effective and very clean. With an all-female superhero cast, it would be easy to draw them overtly sexual but I was pleasantly surprised with Saiz’s rendition of these women. Everyone appeared relatively believable.

Though that is not to say that Simone did not avoid discussing the various ways women can be and are portrayed. When Oracle makes a comment that Lady Blackhawk is laying it on a bit thick in her attempts to distract Stephen Tripe, Black Canary points out rather resignedly: “Dumb and helpless still has a huge effectiveness rating.” At first I thought this was a fun meta sort of way of contrasting this convention against the intelligence and strength of Lady Blackhawk and the rest of the Birds of Prey. But then the lone male hero, Hawk, remarks doofusly, “Who are you kidding? Did you see her skirt?” I’m still trying to figure this moment out. I know it’s light-hearted and a part of me thinks Simone was simply juxtaposing Hawk’s kind of juvenile mentality with the rest of the very focused team but I just don’t know.

What I was most surprised about, however, was how much I thoroughly enjoyed the Question aka Renee Montoya. Now, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that aside from Batman, I have another great comic love and that is the Question. Well, actually the Question as depicted in Justice League Unlimited, another item that I must insist you watch as soon as possible. The Question there is based, on appearance only, on Vic  Sage of the comics and the fact that after Vic died in the DC universe or whatever and was replaced by Renee always instinctively bothered me. I thought it was a stupid and lame excuse to sloppily throw in some (much needed) diversity in the DC universe.  However, that was only because I kept imagining the Question of the DC Animated Universe being  replaced and when I attempted to read Question comics, I quickly realized they are not the same man at all.

Anyway, for that completely superficial reason, I have always disregarded and avoided Renee as a character but in Birds of Prey #12, I found her completely reaffirming everything that I love about the Question as a character. She was intelligent, steadfast in her mission, almost blindly courageous, very dry and sardonic and completely dynamic. Her banter with Huntress was refreshing and sexy without being cloying. Simone is a strong writer and, especially since she wrote my favorite Justice League Unlimited episode with the Question and Huntress as central characters, she really knows these characters’ voices.

One of the other aspects of this comic that pleasantly surprised me was that Simone was not afraid to shy away from violence. While there were no fight scenes in this comic, there was some disturbing imagery such as when Stephen Tripe reveals that a supernatural (?) villain is lurking in the dark basement with Black Canary and Dove. He tells Lady Blackhawk, “I saw her chew through a man’s rib cage while he begged and called her God.” Now, I love gory details. Years and years of being a horror film aficionado will do that to you, and I absolutely love it whenever a comic can be genuinely creepy and draw on elements that I have seen in horror.  This line sounded like something out of a movie I would love so it definitely got me excited to read the next part of the story arc and see just who this female villain was.

1 comment:

  1. The name Stephen Tripe bothers me to no end. But you introduced me to a new word: doofusly! I love it.

    Team Bobby Forever,