Monday, May 28, 2007

Birds of Prey vs. The Secret Six and FBW's Friend Jenn The Drama Goddess

It was thankfully a light week for comics during the week of May 23 going into the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

It’s been a LONG week which started in New York City for work and ended with a visit down South to see Brianna The Girl Wonder.

(Apologies for so long between postings. While we had our trusty laptop while traveling down South, Professor FanBoyWonder forgot our power cord so we had to pen our blog longhand and wait till we got home to post—technology is only as good as the dumbass using it.)

It had been nearly 15 years since we had last been in New York City. Our stay at the New York Marriott Marquis ( was pleasant enough, especially with our room on the 42nd Floor and the lovely overlook of Times Square.

Even cooler was looking across and down at the clock tower building where Spidey and Doc Ock fought and threw parts of the building at each other in Spider-Man 2.

A special shout out to our old friend and fellow Rockville High School alumni Jenn, The Drama Goddess. As former Golden Goose Players, we met up in NYC during our visit and enjoyed a lovely dinner together at El Azteca Mexican restaurant

Once we had finished going down memory lane about high school, Jenn and FBW realized that we shared common ground with shows on the Sci-Fi Channel and specifically Battlestar Galactica, as well as NBC’s Heroes, which we’ve recently come to enjoy.

It’s for Jenn that we pledge that we’ll get off the stick and (finally) bang out our BSG Season 3 overview. Great to see you again Jenn. Take care of yourself.

Now on to our reviews for books from the week of May 23.

Birds of Prey #106

Quote of the week: “Ah. Better than sex. And almost as brutal.” –from the Secret Six’s Knockout as she braces for a punch from the Birds of Prey’s Barda.

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Secret Six make their move on the Birds as Oracle struggles to regain control of the team she's spent years building.

We’re almost sorry that we liked this issue so much. Right here, right now Birds of Prey is one of the best team books in the DC Universe—not one of the best female books but one of the best books period.

Unfortunately, BoP writer Gail Simone is leaving the book—dispatched by the powers that be at DC to rescue the Wonder Woman book following the disastrous re-launch—just as she was finding her second creative mojo.

Last issue was taken over by guest stars the Secret Six and the issue fell just a little flat at the end with only the promise of action to come. This issue, Simone kept that promise in spades as the Birds and the Six have it out in a full blown metabrawl.

The battle between the two former Female Furies of Apokolips Barda and Knockout takes center stage but everybody gets a piece of everybody else in this issue.

The second biggest pairing was between the newest member of the Six Harley Quinn and the “world’s most powerful teleporter” Misfit—who transported her annoying adolescent self from Oracle’s HQ all the way around the world to Russia in the blink of an eye. We found Misfit annoying in the extreme when Simone introduced her but she is growing on us.

We continue to find Spy Smasher interesting as her arrogance is matched only by her ability to back up her attitude in a fight. She’s tough enough to keep Deadshot on the defensive and smart enough to cow Oracle into surrendering. We do hope that Simone resolves the Oracle/Smasher feud before she moves on to Damage Control duties with Wonder Woman.

The funniest scene of the issue comes as Huntress is required to make a quick change from ball gown to costume before the fight commences. Modestly clutching her ball gown across her naked bosom, Huntress orders Creote, the Birds’ trusty male companion and all around muscleman, to watch over the rescued and unconscious Ice—“and for God sakes turn around.”

His mute facial expression says it all “Hello! I’m Gay remember?” to wit Huntress replies “I know, I know smart guy. Turn around anyway.”

It’s a funny and clever scene of many levels. Huntress is a former mafia princess and cold blooded killer but her modesty reveals a rare bit if humanity and vulnerability in three panels that would have taken a scribe lesser than Simone an entire issue to express—maybe. (Have we mentioned how much we are going to miss you Gail???)

Kudos to the art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood. They handle both the tight character panels and the open fight scenes with equal skill. We are very glad they are staying on the book.

We’ve hardly talked about the return of Justice Leaguer Ice from the dead. She is oddly an afterthought in this story but we expect her to get her due as the story arc concludes next issue. Stay tuned.

Countdown #49

The Upshot from DC Comics: The event of the year is here! This brand-new, year-long weekly series features a cast of hundreds where anything goes! With head writer Paul Dini and a rotating team of some of the industry's best writers and artists, COUNTDOWN will serve as the backbone of the DCU in 2007.When a character dies in COUNTDOWN 51, it sets off an unexpected ripple that will touch virtually every character in the DC Universe. The COUNTDOWN is on…so begins the end!

We are three weeks into the Countdown year-long “event” and we’re already having issues (no pun intended) with DC’s newest weekly series.

Specifically, we’re split by what we see as the promise or potential of the premise that Team Countdown seems to have laid out. Better yet, unlike 52, Countdown actually appears to have a thought out plot and a deliberate direction to follow.

The bad news is that the execution of said premise has been at best clumsy and to be most unkind, it’s been a near-total clusterfrak. Even worse, it’s a the continuation of a clusterfrak that started with the Gods-awful Infinite Crisis, continued with One Year Later and 52 and has infected nearly ever book in the DC line up.

The post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe—under Dan Didio's “leadership” has emerged as a Deliberately Confused mess. DC’s best strength—it’s individual character storytelling—has become its worst weakness and Team Countdown is only the latest of “the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

It’s bad enough that this “mystery” involving Joker’s Daughter is implausible but the reader’s simply aren’t being clued into the basic storytelling necessities. Simply put—DC has shaken up the continuity snow globe so many times, it’s impossible to know what past stories “count” and what is no longer acknowledged as canon. And we pity the incoming new readers.

DC has at the same time managed to totally confuse both sets of readers—old timers like FBW with long-term historical memory and newcomers just looking for an understandable access point.

Example: Jimmy Olsen dodges an attack by Killer Croc by somehow tapping into his old Silver-Age Elastic Lad powers.

Furthermore, this issue’s reveal of the Monitors (plural) loses its impact because it was given away during the Brave New World one-shot.

We’re not sure how we feel about this new “Monitor Corps,” an obvious homage to Marvel Comics’ Watchers. One Monitor—introduced during the CRISIS on Infinite Earths—was special and unique. 52 Monitors are decidedly less special but we’ll let it ride and see where Team Countdown takes it.

As for the art—well we figured it couldn’t last but after two issues of quite good art, the weekly “52 effect” takes hold. The art—with Carlos Magno on pencils and Jay Leisten on inks—wasn’t bad but it wasn’t our cup of tea. But at least its one art team through the entire book lending a visual consistency as opposed to different artists taking different pages as what happened during some weeks of 52.

As it stands, Team Countdown has 48 more weeks to get its act together but it would be better if they did that sooner rather than later.


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