"The Battle Within: Part One, Undefended Border"
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Joe Bennett (p), Jack Jadson (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot: The Black Canary and Wildcat travel undercover to the nation of Singapore, trying to pass themselves off as ambitious drug-dealers looking to strike a deal with a powerful drug warlord who wants to expand into the North American market. Needless to say, their efforts are centered on taking down this villain, but our two heroes find their undercover identities compromised when they are called upon to prove how evil they really are.
Comments: While Blue Beetle was an occasional guest during Chuck Dixon's run on this title, Wildcat's presence on this adventure is a little unusual as this has been largely a showcase for the female heroes of the DCU. There are a number of female characters who are sitting unused in comic book limbo that I would've preferred to fill the vacancy that the Huntress left when she stormed off at the end of the previous arc. I realize that Gail Simone explains why this second spot had to be filled by a male character, as the drug warlord is clinging to the notion that only men can hold a position of authority, but this feels like an artificially created hurdle that could've very easily have been dropped. Don't get me wrong; I like Wildcat, and the history between him and Black Canary makes him the ideal guest-star, but it does seem like a missed opportunity, as well as a betrayal of one of the central themes of this series. Still, there's little use making a fuss, as clearly Gail Simone wanted to play with the character Wildcat, and she earns marks for making him an equal part in the action, as if there's one thing this series has been guilty of in the past, it's that Barbara and Dinah get the lion's share of the attention, while the guest hero is left with the table scraps. This issue also benefits from an interesting locale as our heroes venture to the nation of Singapore. Needless to say, the issue gives the readers a good look at that nation's extremely rigid justice system. Now the cliff-hanger moment felt a little familiar, as our heroes are called upon to kill someone to prove they are evil, but this still made for an interesting dilemma to carry us into the next issue.
I welcome Joe Bennett's arrival as this book's new regular artist because he brings a highly polished style with a solid grasp on the human form and strong ability to deliver a visually exciting action sequences. In one sequence in this issue, Dinah finds herself locked in an elevator with five thugs who are looking to kill her, and not only is her escape well done, but I loved Wildcat's entrance, as he unloads on these hapless goons. The final moments of this issue also build up the big surprise and when that final page hits, that last panel leaves me with a real sense of doubt about whether this is an act, or whether a character is seriously pursuing this troublesome path. I was also quite impressed by Adriana Melo's cover image, though I do have to say that Wildcat looked a little odd without his customary five-o'clock shadow. Still, it's an exciting visual, and the cityscape in the background was rather impressive.
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