The Writers of Xena Warrior Princess

A column article by: Ray Tate

Welcome to Tate Necessarily So. Nightwing brings the Strayhorn Case to a conclusion. The Birds battle one of their own for the sake of the world. Wonder Woman fights gods for the sake of a babe yet born, and Homer takes on wolverine.


Pick of the Brown Bag


Nightwing #12

Kyle Higgins; Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez & Mark Irwin, Rod Reis


The second story arc in Nightwing ends up as a first-rate mystery. Framed for a murder he didn't commit, Dick Grayson pieced together the clues to arrive at a fairplay solution. Everything fits together like a well made puzzle. However, I should preface this designation with a warning for those expecting a whodunnit. Nightwing is a whydunnit.

We find out who killed the Strayhorns, but his identity isn't important. Motive is the key. Nightwing had to figure out why the Strayhorns were killed, and why he was framed for the crime. All the clues pointed to the solution, and that's why it's still a fairplay mystery even-though you could never have doped out the identity of the killer. Honestly, he's nobody. The shall we say presence of the killer acts as another clue.

Where were you on the night of...

Because this is Nightwing, Dick reveals the solution as he battles the killer in the Gotham Sewers. His typical acrobatic style of fighting and scifi weaponry replaces the shoot-out common in a 1940s styled hardboiled crime film. In that case, the detective would have hammered out the solution over exchanged gunfire with the killer. In Nightwing, Dick explains the solution while hopping out of the path of the killer's plasma whip. Sometime changes are merely cosmetic.

In addition to the smooth transplant of the whydunnit to comic book form, Higgins displays Detective Nie's evolution of acceptance and generates sparks amidst Dick's goal to establish an amusement park in Gotham City. Both subplots enhance the entertainment factor, and while Andres Guinaldo, Raul Fernandez and Mark Irwin may not be familiar names, they do a fantastic job plotting out the visual narrative and keeping Nightwing action-packed. Colorist Rod Reis enhances the entirety with a rain-soaked palette that imbues the atmosphere during the climax.


Birds of Prey #12

Duane Swierczynski, Cliff Richards, Gabe Eltaeb


The Birds of Prey implode thanks to Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy in a previous issue introduced a plant based "time bomb" in the Birds of Prey's bloodstreams. Triggering the biological weapon will evolve a chain reaction. The Birds will become ground zero for a new global plant-based epidemic that will doom human life.

Birds of Silk

An improvement in the artwork is the first thing you will notice about Birds of Prey. That's because Cliff Richards is on board. Now, I don't know how much time Cliff Richards had to finish this issue, but if rushed, his art exhibits no signs. 

Richards cut his teeth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer for like a billion stories. So, he's very comfortable depicting women gymnastically battling evil. That ease of subject matter shows in Birds of Prey. What's even more appealing is that Richards sculpts unique forms for each of the characters. He demonstrates with the Birds differences in height, body composition and bone structure.

Faces of Prey

In a previous column, I said that Birds of Prey wasn't special because it was more interesting to see Poison Ivy as a good guy. Seeing Poison Ivy as a nefarious ecoterrorist is simply more of the same. That hasn't changed. However, this is Poison Ivy at her worst, and we've never actually witnessed that. 

Poison Ivy used to be a low-level Batman threat. With the New 52, things changed. Using the team, Ivy threatens CEOs, she destroys oil rigs, and as the Birds attempt to stop her, Ivy exhibits a greater control of plants, reflective of her abilities in Batman: The Animated Series. So Ivy's New 52 incarnation exhibits a strong evolution both in characterization and power level.

Batgirl and Black Canary exhibit team work that fans of the older Birds of Prey series will find quite appealing. Starling has a great moment as she with her freewheeling attitude impedes Poison Ivy's intent to punish the Birds for revolting against her lethal plans, and Katana catalyzes a bitter moment of realization from Canary at the cliffhanger. 

The Birds don't pull rabbits out their hats to prevent the spread of Ivy's schemes. Instead, their plan hinges on Batgirl escaping to seek Batman. However, writer Swierczynski doesn't frame the team as losers, unlike Justice League International. Canary's aims were laudable. Until Ivy turned, she fostered a strong team dynamic, and Canary's recruitment of Batgirl proves to be pivotal in saving the world. Besides, there's never any shame when going to Batman for help.


Wonder Woman #12

Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson


Writer Brian Azzarello pays off his readers nicely with this issue of Wonder Woman. First and foremost, Apollo's role in the story comes to fruition. Apollo appeared central to the first issue of Wonder Woman, but then the sun god seemed to disappear as Azzarello turned his attention to Poseidon and Hades. Apollo returned last issue.

Apollo gathered the like-minded of his brethren to stage a coup against both Wonder Woman and Hera for the throne of Olympus, but Wonder Woman is no longer just an Amazon in the New 52. She's the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyte. This rewrite of her origin makes Wonder Woman more than capable of facing Artemis in a duel to to the death. Xena however beat Wonder Woman to this reworked origin. 

The writers of Xena Warrior Princess suggested that Ares is in fact Xena's father. The fight between Wonder Woman and Artemis is somewhat reminiscent of Xena's battle against Ares; a newly discovered demigod battling a god. That said, Azzarello does have a few tricks up his sleeve, tricks beautifully played by artist Cliff Chiang and colorist Matt Wilson.

...All Our Hopes Are Pinned Upon You and the Power You Possess...

In addition to the surprising move Wonder Woman makes against Artemis, the last of the Amazons deals with Apollo. Hera experiences a shocking turn, and Hermes displays his true plumage. Finally, Azzarello, Chiang and Wilson end the book on one helluva cliffhanger.


Simpsons Comics #193

Paul Dini, Phil Ortiz, Mike DeCarlo, Art Villanueva


After losing big from a business venture involving vegetarian burgers, Krusty looks to reality television for a monetary boost. Though what to produce...

It's Like the Rifleman with a Banana Instead of a Gun

As stated in the opening, Homer takes on wolverine, a real wolverine that is. The goofy story rips on reality shows by taking advantage of Homer J. Simpson's cast iron stomach. We've seen Homer duel gustatorily before in "Maximum Homerdrive," but two humans fought in that battle. Not so in Dini's latest.

Homer vies against numerous animals for the haute cuisine crown, and it's absolutely hilarious. There's no contest between Homer and fauna. Dini doesn't make it even remotely even. The comedy arrives in the form of Marge's increasing discomfort over the whole affair and Phil Ortiz's superb quick timing for each contest as well as Homer's ballyhoo expressions when facing each furry opponent.

In addition to being an outstanding Homer J. story, Dini's tantalizing tale also turns out to be a strong Marge vignette. She orchestrates the destruction of the program through the catalyst of an elliptical plot point. Dini furthermore concocts the perfect finale by bringing back an old friend for another bow in the eating contest of champions.



Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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