I really love a good, old-fashioned all-girls kick-butt comic. I was sad to see that Gail Simone didn’t write the issues collected in this trade, but it turns out Tony Bedard did the characters proud, continuing their stories in a believable and fairly awesome light.
There aren’t really any central storylines that tie these issues together, per se. One could argue the whole “death of the new gods” storyline is the most common thread here, but even that isn’t really alluded to in every issue. Instead, what we have here are solid, albeit slightly self-contained, Birds of Brey arcs.
The first that grabbed my attention was issue # 111 titled “Nerds of Prey”, in which we see Oracle squaring off against the Calculator. Both attend an event where they’re hoping to hack into a company’s database to retrieve sensitive information about the identity of Oracle. Calculator is preoccupied with learning who she is, while Oracle, for obvious reasons, wants to destroy that record. It was fun seeing Oracle out in the field, as we tend to see her plopped behind a computer, doing research and issuing commands. She even comes face to face with Calculator and his henchman Hellhound, yet neither believes that the woman in front of them might be Oracle herself.
I enjoyed Calculator’s offhand comment here, because it shows an inherent prejudice that is likely held by many: a strong, physically domineering person couldn’t possibly be the brains behind Oracle; that role would no doubt be filled by someone who has never engaged in a fight in their lives. I love that Oracle has the combat background, making her dangerous both with a computer and without. Calculator and Hellhound toss aside the idea that Barbara might be Oracle, and that single misstep costs them their answers.
The comic progresses, referencing events that take place outside of the Birds of Prey comic. They mention Death of the New Gods, primarily the death of Barda, as she was a Bird of Prey. The team deals with their grief in their own way, but none with as much panache as Lady Blackhawk, who drives cross-country to honor her fallen friend and pin a photo of them up on the wall of a bar, in memory of her service in battle.
Birds of Prey gave a better send-off to Barda than the comic in which she actually died, and I was happy to see that at least somebody seemed upset by Barda’s passing. While The Death of the New Gods practically glossed over this event, Birds of Prey gives it the time it deserves while still allowing an exciting action story to unfold on the page.
One aspect of the comic I didn’t enjoy was the deeper evolution of the Dark Side Club, along with all of its inhabitants.
Mistah J assures me that this is merely a stepping stone towards a different explanation in the overall story, but having only read this trade I can safely say I’m not a fan of the “reimagined” new gods right now. It feels like they’ve simply been updated to be more edgy and “hip”, but it just makes me long for the old new gods. (Also, given that the only new gods we’ve seen so far have been the bad guys, and given that each and every one is black, it just feels like this is a step in the wrong direction towards bringing racial diversity into the comics. But, that’s a whole separate discussion for another post).
I thought this was a pretty strong trade overall, with plenty of butt-kicking action to hold my interest. I really want to track down copies of the previous trades in the series, because an all-girl superhero team is definitely right up my alley, and everything I’ve read of Birds of Prey so far has been really good. I’m hoping this quality continues as I move along “the shelf”; I need more women superhero badasses in my life. But then, don’t we all?