graphic thoughts

Birds of Prey #6 (v. 2)

Heart of Pain, Life of War
Part Two of Two: Two Nights in Bangkok

Birds of Prey (v2) #6, December 2010

Written by GAIL SIMONE
Lettering by SWANDS

The resolution of our little first-arc postlude is full of tension and action, kick-ass fighting, heroism, friendship, and awesomesauce.

I mentioned Alvin Lee’s pencils last review, and I repeat that they are gorgeous. His work has a sophisticated-manga-illustration* flavor which I really dig. Alas, alas. DC taunts me with amazing fill-in artists I never get to keep. Bastards.

As much as I disliked Sin’s inclusion in BoP volume 1, I like what Simone does here with reclaiming the character and the storyline from Editorial Fiat. There’s something really revolting about the disposability of child characters in comics (please see the recent stupid death of Lian Harper — BECAUSE OF REASONS!)

[rant commences]

As lazily as women are refrigerated in comics, children are and usually more permanently since they don’t have interesting powers or team affiliations or rabid fan-bases. And while a mere girlfriend death would only have upset Roy, his child’s death has ruined the lives of a BUNCH of characters! Roy who has had his child die; Mia who will now carry the guilt of failing to save Lian + surviving herself forever; Ollie who decided to medicate with murder, thereby destroying his own life and marriage into the bargain; and Dinah whose husband committed murder, ended her marriage, and who lost her step-granddaughter and saw her beloved stepson’s life destroyed.

Whoo-hoo! That there’s some fine drama! No one EVER dies in comics, so the shock was super-shocky! And everyone knows there is just nothing else that ever upsets anyone other than the death of someone else. We couldn’t POSSIBLY move a story forward without murdering someone! IT IS THE ONLY WAY TO STORY-TELL, Y’ALL!

I mean, seriously. F*ck you, Dan Didio, you utter asshole.

[/rant ends]


SO! I’m really happy that Simone has grabbed onto the Sin story with both hands and dragged it back into the BoP wheelhouse where she can protect it. Because. Geez.

The plot moves forward overall with Oracle and the parts of her team that didn’t run off across the International Date Line regrouping after their recent upheavals, but this issue is pretty much all Canary, Huntress, and Lady Blackhawk, and it is beautiful. The deep, honest friendship between these three and especially between Dinah and Helena is genuinely moving, and the lengths they’re all willing to go to in order to protect each other and those they care about are truly heroic.

And guess what? No one had to die for them to go through honest pain and suffering. No one had to die for Helena and Dinah to deal with life-changing emotions. Yes, there was the threat of death, and there is always the fighting and bloodshed (these are all martial artists of some stripe, after all — Dinah, her adversary White Canary, and her ostensible opponent Lady Shiva all being among the best in the world), but they’re all motivated by what is important to them, by love, by honor, by desperation to prevent bad from happening.

Huntress wins the badass award this issue — no contest. Simone has done a lot of amazing character work on the cast of Birds of Prey, but it’s possible that as much as I personally adore the rehab of Black Canary, it’s what she’s done with Huntress that is the most dramatic. She took a character too often lazily written as the comics standard-issue kinda-psycho girl who always went too far and built her a character.

She didn’t dump the character’s continuity; she used it, turned it around and upside-down and inside-out until everyone could see her as a fully-fledged person, someone with depth and motivation and reasons. Granted, Greg Rucka had a hand in this transformation, too, but I think it was Simone’s work that has redefined the character from someone of questionable morals who would run away when things got rough (BoP: Manhunt) to one of the bravest, toughest, most reliable heroes in the DCU.

*For those few still quick to dismiss manga with a hand-wave, ┬áthe art is as varied and breathtaking — or crap — as American comics art is and I don’t want to hear any tired canards or references to “Pokemon.” Thank you.