Current Reviews


Birds Of Prey #62

Posted: Friday, January 2, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Upon learning that her sensei is dying the Black Canary travels to Hong Kong to say good-bye, but she soon discovers she's not the only former student on the scene, as the Lady Shiva is also paying her respects. However, the two women make a promise to their dying teacher not to fight with each other, and soon the two have cause to work together when their sensei is murdered. Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Barbara finds her information resources have been compromised.

I'm not overly familiar with Batman's corner of the DCU, so there are moments when I find myself at a bit of a loss when writers insert characters like Lady Shiva into a book, as I know little about her beyond the idea that writers seem to believe that her simple appearance is enough to inspire the belief that she can hand our heroes their heads. Now I seem to recall her running around in the first Robin miniseries, and if memory serves she was also in the early issues of Dennis O'Neil's Question monthly, but since both of these appearances played out more than a decade back, one has to imagine the character has been busy enough since to justify her arrival in this book without so much as a quick acknowledgement of her name, and the idea that she is "the most dangerous warrior on the planet". Of course this story isn't really about Lady Shiva, and Gail Simone does a pretty fair job of centering the story around the Black Canary using her internal narration to drive the issue. I also must confess I was quite relieved to learn that the killer that both women will be gunning for in the next issue is a character I'm quite familiar with, and as such knowing two of the three combatants in a fight is enough for me to enjoy the show. As for the secondary plot involving Oracle's problem, it's an interesting idea, though it's pretty obvious that Savant's blackmail files included a back door that allowed him access to any computer that downloaded them.

As for the art, Ed Benes does seem to have gotten his work under control as most of the art does seem geared toward telling the story, rather than giving the readers an eyeful of the character's various assets. In fact the opening page of this issue does a fantastic job capturing the bright vibrant quality of Hong Kong, that I was a bit disappointed when Dinah went inside. The book also gets the opportunity to show us Batman in action as he lays out a gang of thugs, before following this up with a somewhat embarrassing raid on the home of an elderly couple. Now the sequence where Lady Shiva's more brutal nature is revealed is a bit poorly handled, as the man's face after his finger is cut off is almost comical, and the fight sequence that follows lacks any real sense of energy, as the panels deliver a series of shots that are flat and seem visually bored with the action.

Final Word:
The Black Canary travels to Hong Kong to pay a visit to her dying sensei where she discovers another former student of this man was Lady Shiva who has also arrived to pay her respects. Now this sounds like the set up for a fairly exciting fight between two of the more formidable hand-to-hand combatants in the DCU, but aside from a heated opening exchange of dialogue the two women look to be more or less on the same side, and the murder of their sensei by a third female hand-to-hand combat expert looks like next issue is going to be a regular royal rumble. In fact all we need in a crossover with Marvel where Elektra, the Black Widow, and Lady Deathstrike make appearances and we would have the female kung-fu fight to end all female kung-fu fights. As it stands this is a somewhat enjoyable exercise that seems to be heading toward what promises to be a fairly exciting showdown between two of the more serious minded combatants in the DCU, with Dinah caught in the middle. As for Oracle's subplot, it would appear she's in serious trouble as her very effectiveness as a character is being undermined.

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