Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#6 BIRDS OF PREY (#1-6) Endrun & Two Nights In Bangkok

Hello again Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the second part of our current bout: X-Factor vs. Birds of Prey. The latest volume of the group of mostly femme fatale will not face off against the collective of socially aware mutant detectives. We saw how X-Factor did (And if not, shame on you and look). Now we are off to deal with those lovely little birds, The Birds of Prey.



    This is what I will be calling background and history behind a comic. Now, Birds of Prey started as a one shot called Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey back in 1996. The two starred in an adventure that began the lost partnership and friendship between the two DC female icons. After that and a few more stories and writers, Gail Simone took over and added Huntress to the mix, to kind of balance out the other two characters, according to Simone. The following is quote from an interview years ago that was posted again in Wikipedia:

Babs and Dinah respect each other tremendously, and each is capable of great things the other is not. Dinah's not just Oracle's legs, sometimes, she's her conscience, or her muse, or just her best friend. And Oracle is far more to Dinah than just the mission controller. They trust each other, and out of that, there's a friendship that they believe in. Huntress... I see Helena as someone who is not a loner completely by choice. Dinah is so accepting, and so open, that Helena sees an opportunity to be part of something without having to force her way in. There's friction, because once Helena puts the mask on, she's really not very good fitting in. But she likes that they're giving her a chance. Whether she blows it or not, you'll have to keep reading."[

For a while, it was those three being the main Birds of Prey, which was basically Charles Angel's but probably hotter and with a female Charlie in a wheelchair who was the best hacker and intel gathering on the planet. Lady Blackhawk joined the group shortly after and the real core was cemented in the Birds of Prey. They had fought alongside each other during the first ongoing books run. Even after Black Canary left the Birds, Huntress, Oracle and Lady Blackhawk stayed on the team. Other former Birds of Prey included the following: Big Barda, Misfit, Vixen, Hawkgirl, Jade Canary (who is actually Lady Shiva, the world's best and deadliest martial arts and she WILL be mentioned later), Manhunter, Gypsy, Power Girl, Vixen, Infinity and Black Alice. Different writers also came and went including Terry Moore, Tony Bedard and Sean McKeever.

Time passed and the Birds disbanded but Oracle was still very much helping heroes throughout the entire superhero community. So much so that she became the chief intel and go to girl in the DC Universe when it came to find out info on any villain or situation. Now fast forward to last year where Gail Simone and Ed Benes are charged with bringing the birds back. Which takes us to the beginning of out story.


 The first issue of the latest Birds of Prey series opens with Black Canary going to meet with some kidnappers out in the snow of Iceland. These kidnappers have taken a little girl and Black Canary is not happy about it at all. And while there is a little mention of some of Black Canary (Dinah Lance's) troubles, her inner narrative gives us a view of a woman who is not in the mood for any crap but she will do her best not to endanger the girl. While the henchmen are native Icelanders, the chief terrorist is American named Gregory Chasco and the little girl is a daughter of a diplomat. Chasco's demands were simple: 1. For the little girl's parents to apologize for warmonger in a different country by super-powered soldiers and 2. to kill themselves like political prisoners on live tv around the world. Wow. What happened to money?
    Black Canary notices the girl is having issues as she turns to some of the men, giving a bird signal. Suddenly, Lady Blackhawk flies in with a large helicopter, guns ablazing. Black Canary takes the opportunity to use her hand to hand skills, being considered one of the best martial artists in the world, and takes down Chasco. Yet the noise of their fight causes the glacier that they are on to collapse. Black Canary takes the girl in her arms and jumps into the heliocopter after telling Lady Blackhawk to come back. Chasco tries to shoot the girl only to plunge down to the ground below while Black Canary successfully saves the little girl. Chasco ends up hurt but goes to jail, alive and should recover.
   Black Canary and Lady Blackhawk return the girl to her parents in a US embassy on Iceland when they get a call from Oracle. Oracle tells them it is urgent and to come right away. Oracle, currently working out of the abandoned Batcave, then radios in Huntress while she is beating up on some thugs. Huntress agrees to come once she deals with the thugs. Then we see how the newly resurrected Hawk is doing with Dove, beating up a    gang of thugs who like to dress up as cheerleaders. So that is what happened to the Spirit Squad? Hmm . . . Anyway, Hawk and Dove make quick work of the cheerleaders but not before Hawk holds out one of the gangbanging cheerleaders (seriously, paradox much) over a ledge for a minute.  Hawk throws her back in and then proclaims that he was brought back cause " God Wants a Soldier."
                   Two hours pass and Hawk, aka Hank Hall and Dove, aka Dawn Granger made their way to a bar where Hank is getting drunk while listening to another man talk about people having ethics and the good ole days. Hank decides to be emo, pointing out that he is just there to drink and says while he and the bartender had sex, they don't know shit about him. Dawn sits with her soda at the bar when she is joined by Lady Blackhawk, who orders two shots and asks if Dawn is dating Hank. Dawn answers no but that she is responsible for him. Hank storms out all emo and Lady Blackhawk asks Dawn if he's "fancy." LOL
                  The 3 original members reunite on a rooftop in Gotham as narrative from Black Canary shows a touch warmer side to one of the deadliest women on Earth. Actually with narrative stating that she wants to cry but does not gives in is a good touch as the three take a moment to take in the moment.After a brief exchange, the ladies get down to business. Oracle aka Barbara Gordon (former Batgirl and daughter to Commissoner Jim Gordon) reveals that a blackmailer gave Oracle some files that had nearly anything and everything you wanted to know about super heroes and super villains and threatened to release them unless the Birds of Prey specifically stop them. And while Black Canary and Huntress try to brush it off as a hoax at first, when Oracle shows them how complete the files are, which include the addresses of every student that Huntress has had for the past five years and every single person that Black Canary loves, these women decide to go on the hunt. Yet, before they can leave, they find a signal in the sky. Yet this one is not of a bat but of a head of a bird instead. Black Canary and Huntress give chase as Barbara goes back to the Batcave to give them help. Huntress and Black Canary arrive in an alley to see the Penguin, yes the Penguin, threatening the person responsible for the light. We find that it is a girl and Black Canary and Huntress arrive to face her. Within a few seconds, Huntress shoots and arrow and Black Canary goes in for an attack. The mystery woman then catches the arrow, kicks Black Canary aside, cuts Huntress with a weapon of her own and stabs Penguin with the captured arrow.  The woman stands revealed as it is a new masked villainess calling herself the White Canary.
          White Canary fights both Black Canary and Huntress, holding her own through several blows only to look pissed off, which Black Canary notes. Suddenly, the calvary arrives in the form of Lady Blackhawk, Dove and Hawk. Hawk goes in, saying he wants to take the White Canary on his own while Dove helps the injured Penguin. White Canary, who is NOT super human, is able to cut the super human Hawk in his chest then side step him so he can hit a wall. WOW. THIS CHICK IS BADASS! During the fight, Oracle monitors it and several other reports as she suddenly is frightened to hear that Chasco had suddenly died and that his family wanted to sue Black Canary, stating that she did some kind of special delayed death touch thing on him. Wait. WHAT?! The same report says that they are looking for the Birds now in the streets of Gotham.  Oracle tells the girls to fall back as suddenly, police helicopters shine lights on the Birds and the White Canary. Oracle then reveals that it is a set up as more police are headed this way. Black Canary accuses White Canary of the set up and the new villainess merely states that one of them will die every hour for the next six hours and they can choose or she will then retreats. The cops pull out guns to arrest the Birds and the Birds fight their way out; technically becoming criminals.
      Black Canary calls for a retreat as Oracle watches another report stating Black Canary's connection to Green Arrow, who recently was acquitted of murder and former Mayor of Star City. Before Oracle can say more, a former enemy turned ally, Creote had contacted her, beaten. After he tells her that Savant, another enemy turned friend, had died, Creote proceeds to shoot himself. Oracle takes a moment to get over what she just seen, the Birds follow Penguin's suggestion to hide in his club. As they run, Black Canary's secret identity is announced on the Nightly News, distressing out heroine. White Canary watches while Oracle decides that her grid and info was used against her for the last time and that this means war. FOR SPARTA!!! Oh wait. Wrong book.
        During a fever dream, Penguin imagines the Birds, except for Hawk, slowly undress themselves. Dove kindly attends to him while the other Birds are grossed out as Penguin is verbalizing his fantasy. Hawk keeps guard. As they keep watch, the Birds try to figure out who is working along with White Canary to pull all this off. And then things get burry for me . . . for a bit. You see, my copy of Birds of Prey has pages of a Batgirl issue in the middle of it that don't concide with the story. Come to find out, White Canary is back to keep her promise and slices up Hawk, who is seemingly dead after the attack. Meanwhile, Oracle was knocked out then woke up in the arms of the man who just shot himself . . . in the head. Yes, Creote and Savant are both alive and are behind the files that White Canary forced them to issue to start this game alongside a third party. So yes! Two guys just infiltrated the Bat Cave. And honestly, I actually believe it.
     We come to find out that Savant was captured and tortured for two days straight. Problem is, Savant, who is almost as smart as Oracle and just as good as a hacker, has a rare mental disorder which has the person have no real concept of time. So Savant is basically relieving the torture again, day after day, year after year. Meanwhile, Black Canary and Huntress have a heart to heart as Dinah decides to take on White Canary on her own. Huntress says to kill her so that this all ends. Huntress, Dove and Lady Blackhawk run off to get Hawk and Penguin to a hospital while Black Canary goes to face off  During the beginning of their battle, White Canary hints that the others are in danger by her other partner . . .The Penguin.
    Savant and Creote take Oracle, wheelchair and all, to the edge of a cliff. Savant screams that she abandoned him. That the Birds abandoned him. That he was tortured for knowing Oracle. Oracle tries to apologize as Savant reveals that he does not want to kill her and he walks off the cliff. Oracle launches herself from her wheelchair with her upper body strength and catches an arm of Savant. She screams Creote to help her. Creote relents and helps Oracle to bring up Savant. Savant asks why he would help Oracle and not let him die. Creote answers that he loves Savant. AWWWWWW . . .
    Meanwhile, Penguin attacks, striking Lady Blackhawk with a serious wound. Penguin reveals himself to be the mastermind, stating he will soon have the files and become the King of the World. Huntress threatens him but Penguin stands tall till she states that why doesn't he have the files yet. As Penguin has a battle with doubt and scared of the White Canary, Dove, after a heartfelt talk with Hank that made her promise to make sure if he died again to not get resurrected, punches Penguin dead in the nose, breaking some teeth as she did.
    Finally, Black Canary and White Canary duke it out as Black Canary realizes where she is from and some of who she is. Years ago, there was a group of martial artist known as the Brothers in Silk. The master of the Brothers of Silk had given birth to making children, making 12 of his sons the Brothers and killed any female children; which according to the master, he was not allowed to have girl. After the master orders the death of the baby girl who would be White Canary, she is struck dead by Lightning.  Hmm . . . I didn't know Thor did drive bys. The master decided that something wanted the baby to live. The Brothers in Silk were ruthless assassins that were never defeated . . . till they met the Black Canary. Once they were defeated, they returned home. White Canary, finding this unacceptable, decided that she could not live with their shame. So she killed them. Yep. All 12 brothers. Killed by their baby sister. DAMN. Black Canary and White Canary battle in haste as the villainess brakes Dinah's wrist. Black Canary then takes the gloves off, using her Sonic Scream against White Canary and defeats the assassin. White Canary awakens as Black Canary has her cuffed and asks her if she killed Chasco, framing Black Canary. White Canary answers no and that it was Lady Shiva who killed him. And that if she wanted to see her adopted daughter, Sin, again, she would help her kill her. Thus ending Endrun. Onto Two Nights In Bangkok.
     Two Nights in Bangkok opens with Oracle getting helped back to her wheelchair by Savant and Creote. She feels happy for them, according to narrative and promises to help Savant through his mental issues. Oracle checks in on the Birds, starting with Black Canary, who says she is beaten up and ends up leaving with White Canary. Black Canary apologies, saying she quits the Birds and good bye. Huntress talks with Oracle, who wants to kill Penguin but releases him at Oracle's request after she promises that the Birds will get Penguin back big time for this. Huntress then offers over communicator to go with Black Canary but Dinah says no, she loves her and then good bye. White Canary and Black Canary head to the airport where a jet is waiting for them. They fly to Bangkok. Meanwhile, Oracle, Savant and Creote go to a new site for Oracle's new base where they can stay on as staff. Back in the Hospital, Hank Hall dreams of the original Dove, his brother Donald Hall. Don says that it is not Hank's time yet. Hank says he's failed in his mission but Donald says no it is not. Hank says he only feels alive as Hawk; after that he wakes up in the hospital room. Hank asks what happened to his wounds but Dawn explains that they have already healed. Hank sees his room surrounded by flowers, which all but one are for Dawn. The one bouquet that is for him had a card that says "You Have a Purpose."   . . .DEEP.
     Huntress visits Lady Blackhawk(Zinda) and fills her in about Black Canary. Huntress explains that Penguin didn't hurt her as badly as he thought he did.  Zinda gets to her feet, stating that Dinah didn't get permission from her to quit. The two arrive in Bangkok in post haste, Zinda raving about the food. As they enter a cab, they get attacked from behind by a woman one side and a guy on the other. Huntress and Lady Blackhawk fend off them and another group of attackers, students of the White Canary away but are starting to get overwhelmed when the fight is stopped by the appearance of Dinah . . . where a White Canary outfit and arm in a sling. She states that they are not welcomed here yet takes them back to White Canary's lair, which is a large temple that had been modernized.
   Dinah explains that White Canary orchestrated most of what happened and forced her into challenging Lady Shiva in a death match or she'd kill Sin and Sin's foster parents. The woman that attacked Huntress offered to free them but Dinah rejects the offer, knowing that it would be the woman's death, as well as Sin's. Hank recovers and is ordered by Oracle to stand by and leave the others be. Hank agrees to it but Oracle tells Savant and Creote that she does not trust him. Huntress, Lady Blackhawk and Black Canary eat a meal which is to be Dinah's last meal then she is to challenge Shiva. Black Canary, still hurt, asks Huntress to do it on her behalf. Now, Simone gives us some great inner monologuing as readers are treated a little to Huntress's background growing up in a mob family. She knows about honor codes. Huntress goes over to Shiva, who is sitting with White Canary, talking for a moment. Shiva states she takes no joy in "her duty" and asks Huntress to do what honor demands. Huntress then decides to take a drink and splash it into Shiva's face, spitting the face of this match. She makes the challenge . . . only for it to be her in Dinah's stead. White Canary agrees to it and the deathmatch becomes Huntress vs. Shiva. Dinah is furious and Zinda is worried, stating that Helena (Huntress) has lost her mind. Helena merely tells them that no one really cares about her and for Zinda to get her outfit. After a quit prayer,  it is Shiva vs. Huntress. As the death match goes on, the woman (Terry) and Dinah go to where Sin has been held captive and frees her. Dinah then has Terry take Sin. Dinah orders her to find the foster parents and hide them with Sin. Huntress and Shiva go at it as it looks at first that Huntress is clearly out much, letting blood fly. Huntress though proves to be stubborn and determined as  she takes a moment to use her own blood to blind Shiva. Huntress gets Shiva off her feet, even after Shiva beats the hell out of her. Huntress promises that even if she goes down, Shiva will be heading to the hospital herself. Yet, before the match can continue, Dinah stops it. Dinah proclaims that she's freed White Canary's prisoners and that this match does not have to end here . . . as the death match never specifies when a person is gonna die. Shiva agrees and sides with the Birds, suggesting that White Canary to give up or face all of them. White Canary gives in but states that death will eventually come. Huntress falls down only to get helped up by Zinda and Lady Shiva; who is actually impressed by Huntress. Dinah hugs Helena and Helena goes on to say it is nice to have people who care, ending the 2 part Two Nights in Bangkok.


     I am gonna do this like X-Factor. With that said, I will say artistically, this book suffers from the same issue X-Factor did; multiple artist working on the book. Yet, except for issue 1, there were at least 2 artists for each issue.  And while artistically, that may be a hiccup for some people, this did NOT hurt the book at all. Seriously, the styles were noticeably different but not in the same terms as X-Factor.
        Adriana Melo's style seemed the cartoonist of the three artist that worked on the issues. Yet, it conveyed emotion well, great job with proportions and really kept the Birds looking feminine yet powerful. Mariah Benes & J.P. Mayer's ink gave Melo's art that edge that seemed to help it blend it with the other two artists. And while I liked the art the least, it was still vibrate and enjoyable, not affecting the flow of the story at all.
       Alvin Lee is up next, as he did pencils for issues #5 & 6 alongside Melo. His style was crisp and sharp. The women were stunning. The guys were very individualized and clearly seen. Kept with the grit and grimy street style that the Birds is known for. Jack Purcell did a great job inking his work. The action sequences were well illustrated and did a great job conveying whatever story or emotion that Simone wanted the readers to feel at the time. Mixed with Melo, it is different but still does not interrupt the flow of the story.
      Finally, for Ed Benes. His work is as stunning as always. He inked his own work and did a wonderful job conveying emotions. His pictures were stunning. His inked this differently to make sure you had the mood of the street level that Birds of Prey is known for and he achieved this in spades. I think back to when he was pencilling Justice League of America where the scene where Roy Harper first becomes Red Arrow and shows Dinah the outfit. Benes work looked great then. Now, it is absolutely electrifying. His panels are a marvel and even with the other 2 artists, Benes shines enough to get noticed but still makes sure the issue flows well. Great storytelling Ed Benes.
      Gail Simone comes back to one of the books that put her on the map with a vengeance. And while I know people who do not enjoy her martial arts style, the lack of named styles actually is a great idea on Simone's part. Why? This gives the reader the chance to really decide for themselves what kind of style does Black Canary, Huntress and other characters have. Getting readers more personally involved. Bravo, Gail Simone.
       Bringing back the core that Simone built was great. And I love the fact that Gail does put the emotional spin on the resurrection of the Birds of Prey. Barbara's, Dinah's and Helena's reunion was one of the best scenes in the first issue. Not only did it set up the storyline, it really established the personal relationships these women have with each other, even with the changes their characters have endured since their separation. I personally applaud the fact that these women know each other well but still are very much in touch with who they are. Simone uses inner monologues very well to help move the story along and give us feelings that may not have been conveyed by the panels. She does not use the monologues to tell the story but to show feels, much like David did.
     The additions of Hawk and Dove to the Birds of Prey are great choices. For Dove's innocence and calm demeanor will definitely work for and against her as we have already seen during the Birds altercation with Gotham's finest. Hawk is pretty much the alpha male who wants to show off but there is much more to it. Hawk knows that he is there for a mission. Hawk wants to help. Simone lets reader in on that through his scenes during the book. Zinda is still the spicy little woman from the past who seems to have adjusted to the present but still tough when she needs to be. Huntress started as this woman who cared about this group but still felt detached like no one should care about her. By the end of #6, she knows she has something to fight for and she will fight for the death for it. Black Canary had the most to deal with during the storyline yet still pushed herself to overcome. Although, kudos to Simone for Dinah to giving in a bit at the beginning of Two Nights in Bangkok.  Oracle was truly smart yet open enough to feel and take responsibilty when the need arose. Simone only hinted at the changes this woman is gonna undertake and I am definitely looking forward to more.
     Overall, the art was pleasant and really gave life and emotion to Gail Simone's story without any kind of disorientation. Simone proved a great starting point with wonderfully deep and intense characters that resonate with readers. She also allows readers into the heads of the characters but still allows for the reader to add a little something extra to it.Simone giving readers a more personal stake in the story will allow them to care about the characters and the overall story. A spendid job Simone as you got me hooked on the Birds of Prey.

For the first time in CBC history, the clash is a tie as I award Birds of Prey: Endrun and Two Nights in Bangkok the rating of World Heavyweight Contender.

Well everyone, Team Book Month Continues Next week as out next battle begins. Till then, if you are on the side of evil, say goodbye. Everyone else, good journey.

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