Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

11 January 2013

Birds of Prey, v. 8: Club Kids

Collects: Birds of Prey #109-12, 118 (2007-8)

Released: January 2009 (DC)

Format: 128 pages / color / $17.99 / ISBN: 9781401221751

What is this?: The Birds of Prey adapt to a new writer and developments in the DC universe.

The culprits: Writer Tony Bedard and artists Nicola Scott, Jason Orfalas, and David Cole

I had avoided Birds of Prey, v. 8: Club Kids for quite a while, afraid new writer Tony Bedard would turn the title and its characters into a flavorless waste of time. Happily, I found that was not the case.

Club Kids has little overall plot, as Bedard eschews an overarching story for the beginning of his run. Instead, he favors character pieces that deal with developments outside the title. Bedard deals with Black Canary choosing to marry Green Arrow and an assassin attacking the New Gods in #109 and #112. He also uses past continuity to his advantage in two other stories: the aftermath of Oracle destroying her clocktower base in 2004-5’s War Games crossover facilitates a face-to-face confrontation between Calculator and Oracle in #111, and Misfit’s origins are looked at in #118.

Birds of Prey: Club Kids coverNone of these stories are award winners. On the other hand, most of them are solid comics in the old-school mold. Huntress foils mad bombers, who turn out to be less “mad” and more naïve. Black Alice and Misfit are put into a superhero gladiatorial ring, a plot straight out of New Mutants. Lady Blackhawk honors a fallen comrade. Oracle and Calculator scrap over data. Simple stories, and all the characters are true to the personalities previous writer Gail Simone gave them. I would not say Bedard is as good with the characters as Simone was — although they easily coexist with Simone’s conceptions, they lack a certain je ne sais quoi. But Simone had several years to mold the characters; Club Kids contains Bedard’s first five issues on the title.

However, letting other titles dictate stories occasionally robs Birds of Prey‘s stories of their impact. All of #109 is dedicated to either reacting to a development outside the title or adding heat to a subplot running through the DCU. Although Oracle arguing with Black Canary over her boyfriend’s fidelity issues is long overdue, the discussion was engendered by Green Arrow’s marriage proposal in another title (Green Arrow). Developing another title’s dangling plots does no favors to Birds of Prey‘s narrative flow, especially since Black Canary wasn’t a character at this point — she left the title in #100. The issue still might have worked, however, if the assassination of the New Gods story hadn’t been shoehorned into the same issue. Bedard tries to give Knockout a fitting last moment, but her part of the story feels rushed. And the death Lady Blackhawk memorializes in #112, that of a prominent supporting character, seemingly comes from nowhere (the Death of the New Gods miniseries); #112 starts with a half page of her memorial service before getting on with the action. Brevity is laudable, but it feels as if the dead character is being cheated of the respect she is due.

(Although not as cheated as Manhunter is; I know she barely appears in Club Kids, but her head shot in the intro / recap section of the book is actually a picture of Scandal Savage, a villain, from #109.)

Why couldn’t Simone have worked with artists like Bedard gets? Nicola Scott draws #109, 110, and 118 and does an excellent job — action-packed, expressive, exceedingly pretty, with a tight line I admire. She even puts Huntress in a more modest costume than the Jim Lee monstrosity (thank God), although Big Barda’s red bikini costume is awful. (I don’t think Scott designed it, but it’s still awful.) Jason Orfalas does a good job on the quieter #111, and David Cole‘s slightly cartoony, looser style is perfect for the free-spirited Lady Blackhawk’s story.

Club Kids is the perfect book for a title that is coming off a big storyline and a change of writers; Bedard uses the characters respectfully, putting them in appropriate situations, and reacts to what DC editorial sends him. But that’s Club Kids’s shortcoming, as well: it’s reactive, and Birds of Prey loses all its momentum from Simone’s run without establishing any clear new direction. Over the long run, that’s death for a title, but for one collection, it can be enjoyable — and in this case, it is.

Rating: DC logo DC logo DC logo DC logo (4 of 5)

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