Birds of Prey 119 review

This issue sees the return of Black Canary to the book, after she was dragged away by the JLA and Green Arrow editorial offices and stripped of the dimensions she’d gained under writers Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone. It’s a temporary, yet triumphant, return, with a nice cover appearance – courtesy of Stephane Roux – and her own logo nearly as large as the BoP masthead.

Inside, it’s a while before we get to her, but there’s plenty of good stuff before that. The issue opens with Huntress, newly arrived in Platinum Flats – DC’s Silicon Valley parallel – meeting a metal man robber glorying in the name of Carface. He may be a throwaway designed for this issue only, but I hope not, as he has a good look and a bit of personality. After that we learn a little bit more about the shadowy cartel, headed by The Visionary, which runs Platinum Flats, and meet their corporate patsy, Ram (that may be a pun) Chaudhry. An example of their offhand evil, aimed at keeping Chaudhry in line, shows how just ruthless they are. The Visionary is the only member whose face we see, though other silhouettes hint at Dr Sivana and (unlikely as it is) The Joker.

Moving on, we hit the Birds’ new HQ, Clocktower Systems, which Babs intends to be as much a moneymaking concern as a base of operations: ‘It’ll generate income so we can fight on without begging Batman for a loan’. At her side are Huntress – less than delighted at her new sunny city – Lady Blackhawk, and Misfit, with Manhunter and Gypsy named as non-regular members of the Birds of Prey. Yup, the book’s title is actually referred to; it seems Lady Blackhawk, Zinda, coined it – which makes sense, given her background as a flyer – and despite Babs’ distaste for it, it’s catching on with the bad guys.

In a bit of subplot we learn that Babs is getting intel from a surprising source, the Calculator, in an ‘the enemy of my enemy’ deal, and then get to the business of the cover. It turns out that Manhunter is less of a reserve than Babs has let on, as she’s sent her on a secret mission to surveil Black Canary, in nearby Star City. Heaven knows why, but this leads to a confrontation between the two, and the promise of a big fight next issue

Tony Bedard continues his run as regular writer and he’s making this book his own, showing a talent for juggling A, B and even the odd C plot (this time, Misfit’s possible sibling relationship with Black Alice). His dialogue perfectly fits the characters – Canary and Manhunter, for example, are both strident types, but I bet you could tell which was speaking by their words alone – and his pacing is spot on.

The soon-to-depart Nicola Scott – she’s reuniting with old BoP writer Gail Simone on Secret Six – continues to show how she’s growing month by month, aided by veteran inker Doug Hazlewood. They produce attractive characters who belong in the now – people wear contemporary clothing and have up-to-the-minute haircuts (the aforementioned Ram looks particularly good, and I notice that a bun/twist is especially popular among the ladies of Platinum Flats – two on the street, one among the shadowy villains). The only person not looking great is Babs herself, saddled with the most unattractive pair of specs she’s had since Luke McDonnell handled her on Suicide Squad. Sort it out, Nic!

The cast works well together, with one exception – Manhunter. Much as I enjoy Kate Spencer in her own book, she doesn’t gel with anyone other than Babs, and brings nothing unique to the table other than a willingness to kill. Now, knowing Babs likes to rehabilitate heroines she sees as damaged, I’d not be surprised were she hoping to keep Manhunter on side long enough to demonstrate that lethal force shouldn’t be an early option for someone on the side of the angels. If that’s something Manhunter’s going to take on board, though, it’ll happen in her own book. I’m happy to follow her there and see BoP concentrate on the heroines who only appear here.

That’s a minor quibble, though, as this is a book everyone’s bringing their A-game to – I’m not usually one for shiny colours, but whoever did the Hi-Fi Designs work this issue did a brilliant job on the scenes with Choudhry and the cartel. And the rest of the issue looked great too, with natural colours on the streets of Platinum Flats, moody hues for the Canary/Manhunter confrontation, bright greens for Oracle’s graphics and so on – it’s a shame proper credit isn’t given here.

And letterer Sal Cipriano did a bang-up job too!

In all, this is a gorgeous looking book with a story that’s going places. If you see Huntress on her bike, jump on and enjoy the ride.

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