Current Reviews


Birds Of Prey #57

Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ed Benes (p), Alex Lei (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens by showing us Savant, the villain who captured the Black Canary and is using her to blackmail Oracle into carrying out his wishes, is not quite together in the head, as he's tormented by visions of Batman. He also seems to be very easily distracted & altogether unfocused. However, in spite of his somewhat befuddled state Savant does look to have the upper hand over Barbara, who finds her vast technical skills are easily matched by Savant's own. We then see Barbara turns to a rather unusual ally for help in the rescue of Dinah, as she makes a call to the Huntress who is in the middle of rescuing a kidnapped child. After the Huntress manages to relieve some of her aggression by busting a few heads as she rescues the young kidnap victim, we learn Barbara has chosen the Huntress as she believes that Dinah's previous experience as a hostage might have her in a decidedly delicate frame of mind if her rescuer was male. We then shift the focus back to Dinah as we see she's not about to play the cooperative hostage, as while her canary cry has been taken out of play by a throat injury, Dinah is not without resources, and in a rather dangerous play she attempts to get on the good side of one of her captors. When this move looks like a failure, she comes up with a rather painful sounding secondary escape plan.

I have to say I rather enjoyed the almost scattered personality of the main villain, as there's a almost comical element to the character, but not so much that he loses the ability to come across a a threat. Still, one has to love a villain who sets up an elaborate moment, where two covered dished are offered to his prisoner, one of which has a meal, while the other holds a poisonous snake, and then he looks to have not only forgotten which one is the deadly surprise, but he actually didn't even remember to put the snake under one of the covers in the first place. The rather amusing nature of the villain does take some of the edge off the idea that this part of the story has Dinah playing the damsel in distress, but then so do the final pages where we see Dinah is taking steps to free herself. I do have to openly wonder about the claim that Houdini used to break the bones in his hands to escape from handcuffs, as I had always been under the impression that he flexed his wrist muscles before the cuffs were slipped on, and then dislocated his thumbs to slip his hands free. Given most of his escapes were multistaged, and the stages after he removed the cuffs required great dexterity of his hands (e.g. moving the tumblers from inside a locked safe), I find it difficult to believe he physically broke any bones in his hands escaping handcuffs, at least not intentionally.

I can't say I've ever been a big fan of the Huntress, but then again I have nothing against the character either. Now I do like her take no prisoners style approach to fighting crime, and to a certain extent the various debates that I read between her & Batman about her willingness to walk along the thin line between saving lives & outright brutality that is largely driven by her inner rage has provided a couple engaging exchanges. On the other hand being a devoted fan of the Black Canary ever since her time in the Justice League of America, I am a bit concerned that the arrival of the Huntress will take some of the spotlight away from Dinah. Now I'm not all that worried that Dinah going to end up on the sidelines now that the Huntress has arrived in these pages, but I was always rather fond of the brains & brawn aspect that made up the Dinah/Barbara partnership, and every other time a guest-heroine has arrived in these pages this dynamic has been shifted so that Dinah is regulated to almost a bystander role while Power Girl and Catwoman got to show off their wares. Now the Huntress makes for an interesting new character dynamic, as her interaction with Barbara is quite entertaining, and it should be interesting to see how Dinah & the Huntress get along, as I can't see the easygoing Dinah being overly fond of the Huntress' rather brusque method of dealing with others.

The art of Ed Benes is fairly solid, and this issue holds up a little better in terms of the cheesecake posing of the book's female cast, as we only get one of his looking up at the action with the heroine's behind featured prominently in the frame, and the shots of Dinah tied down to the bed have more going on in them that simply to linger on the seemingly helpless Dinah. The art does deserve full marks for it's fairly solid work when it comes to conveying the madness of the main villain, as his sudden mood shifts are nicely captured by the art, with the opening page of his imaginary encounter with Batman being a strong visual presentation of his underlying mental condition. The Huntress in action is also quite strong, as the character gets a rather amusing perspective shot when we're first introduced to the character, as one has to love any character who decides to best way to spy on someone unnoticed is hanging upside down outside of an apartment window in which the occupant looks to be home. The is a nice fish-eyed perspective shot on page ten that was nicely done, and I also rather enjoyed the panel layout design that was used on page twelve as the Huntress battles a goon on the fire escape. I'll also give the art credit for a pretty solid cover visual, as that's a great action shot of the Huntress busting through a window at the reader.

Final Word:
As a fan of the Black Canary I can't say that I've overly fond of the idea that she spend the entire issue tied to a bed, being tormented by her captors. However, depending of how much excitement is derived from her big escape next issue, I'd be willing to look upon this issue as simply a way for Gail Simone to introduce the reader to Savant, as villains are always at their most engaging when they look to have the upper hand over the heroes. Plus it doesn't hurt that Savant actually is a highly engaging villain, as he's a bit like a sadistic version of Jimmy Stewart, as he fumbles his way through his villainous activities, and almost seems to be just on the verge of losing complete control over his criminal plotting. As for the Huntress, frankly I could take her or leave her, as I've never really found the character to be all that compelling, but then her willingness to venture down paths that most squared jawed, highly moralistic heroes never even venture close to could make her an interesting sources of tension in these pages.

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