Current Reviews


Birds Of Prey #59

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: D.C. Comics

The book opens with Savant basking in the latest defeat that he's handed the Black Canary by foiling her escape attempt, but his longwinded villainous posturing affords Dinah a second opportunity to make good her escape, and she does so by sliding down the stair railing. Meanwhile on the ground floor of Savant's headquarters we find the Huntress' rescue efforts are being hampered by Savant's henchman whose massive size combined with his fairly solid hand to hand combat skills make him a pretty formidable opponent. As Dinah makes her way to the ground floor, we see she manages to hook up with the Huntress and the two women prepare to fight the good fight against the advancing villains, though we see Dinah isn't exactly thrilled by their chances of success. However, we see Barbara has been busy uncovering Savant's true identity, and once she has this information we see she's able to mount a fairly impressive attack of her own, as she infects his computer systems with an information destroying virus. With his years worth of blackmail files being destroyed, we see Savant's focus is enough off its game, that Dinah is able to make pretty quick work of the villain. The issue than ends with Barbara making a rather questionable choice about what to do with Savant's blackmail files, which she views as a viable information resource.

One of the worst tricks a writer can play on a reader is to set up what promises to be a memorable climax to story, and then essentially wimp out by delivering a problem solved in a couple panels style ending. Now I was willing to accept the rather humbling defeat that the Black Canary suffered early on in the book because Savant had the advantage of surprise, knowledge of her powers, as well as a hulking henchman. Plus there's also the storytelling rule that if a hero, heroine, or group of heroes are going to lose a battle to the villains it's going to be early in the story arc, so us readers can thrill to the promise of the inevitable rematch. However, instead of getting the rematch that would redeem the Black Canary in the eyes of the readers, we get a rather hurried climax where she nails him through a hand with a fire place poker, before following it up with a solid right hook. Now I understand having both legs busted does limit the likelihood of an extended fight, and at least we were spared having the Huntress fight Dinah's battle for her, but a two panel take down completely invalidates Savant as a threat, and it's hardly the righteous beat down that I'd been expecting given this entire arc essentially had Dinah playing the role of the lady tied to the train tracks. Now yes I'll admit to be a slugfest happy fanboy, but this story certain did a good job of presenting a primrose path for me to travel down.

I've also never been overly fond of the moment where the defeated villain starts bragging about one of their cunning backup plans, when the only possible reason for them to do so is to make the heroes aware of another step that has to be taken to defeat this villain. Now sure he was telling them to rain on their parade, and it was only through some trickery on Dinah's part using his lack of short term memory that revealed the location of the backups, but it's still one of those moments where it's almost painful to watch a villain that had been presented as a fairly formidable force falling for a ploy so obvious that a six year old could probably spot it coming a mile away. In the end it's one of those endings where the heroes don't have to do anything all that clever, but rather the scene depends on a villain that had been presented as quite intelligent becoming as dumb as a post. Now I don't want to sound completely negative on this issue, as there are some truly funny lines, and the final page offers up an utterly fascinating look at a side of Barbara that really hasn't been explored, and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing it addressed. The way that Barbara contributes to Savant's defeat is also a solid display of the character's ability to do great harm all from the confines of her Clocktower. Still, I have some real problems with how this story brought everything to what I feel was a rushed climax.

The art of Ed Benes does have its moments where I'm quite impressed by the work on the page, as there's a wonderful sense of urgency to the panels where the Huntress is busy tackling the monster of a henchman, and I don't think I've ever seen a more ominous shot of Barbara's Oracle head than the one Savant encounters when he enters his computer room. I'll also credit the art for nicely capturing the sense of inner conflict as we see Barbara debating whether to use Savant's files to further her own agenda, and equally so her stern resolve in the final pages as she makes her decision. However, there's also the various panels that serve little to no purpose other than to deliver a shot of our character's backsides, as there are times when it looks like this issue was shot by a midget with a handheld camera. Now I realize that there's some artist rule that panels that deliver a bird's eye view make your hero more heroic/larger that life, but I seriously doubt this is the case in the panels where Ed Benes continually displays how short their shorts are. I have little problem with cheesecake art, as I realize the target audience of teenage boys eat this stuff up, but Ed Benes strikes me as being a little too obvious in his attempt to appeal to this demographic, as there are numerous shots where I'm rather disappointed by his inability to use another angle.

Final Word:
There are elements to this issue that I found quite enjoyable, and for the most part there's nothing terribly wrong with this final chapter. In fact I'd even say that this issue displays Gail Simone's strong understanding of the roles that each character plays in this series, as Dinah is involved in some fairly exciting physical confrontations, while Barbara makes her contribution in a more cerebral manner, though no less effective. However, I have some serious reservations about the rather hurried climax that is offered up, as most of the issue has Savant chasing after Dinah, and when the time for their big rematch arrives, it's over and done with in a grand total of two panels. Yes the big, bad Savant is reveal to be a paper tiger, and a rather dumb on at that, as he's afflicted with a mental disorder that apparently makes him extremely gullible. Than again I'm more than ready to move on to the next idea so I'm somewhat glad to see this is the final chapter of the Savant arc, and the issue certainly ends on a strong note, as Barbara looks to have made a decision that she is likely to deeply regret.

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