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Birds Of Prey #53

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Gilbert Hernandez
Artists: Casey Jones (p), John Beatty (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with Barbara & Dinah enjoying a bit of downtime, as they're on vacation in the sunny tropics, but we soon see both women are troubled by recent events. With Dinah questioning her ability to hold her own in a world where the villains seem to be growing more & more powerful, we see Barbara's thoughts are centered around the idea that the Clocktower's security was so easily breached. We then see both women make an effort to enjoy their vacation, and to this end we see Dinah manages to hook up with a man named Tom. However, we see when the relationship begins to extend beyond simple friendship, we see Dinah backs off, as her renewed relationship with Oliver Queen has her hesitant to let this fling progress any further. We then join the two women back in Gotham City where we see Barbara is a bit concerned as Tom has recently phoned Dinah to let her know he's in town, and in order to keep herself from falling for Tom's charms, we see Dinah agrees to a date, but Barbara has to come along to act as a chaperone. We then see that during the ensuing date it is Barbara who begins to fall for the ever smooth Tom, but she to is forced to back off, due to her relationship with Dick. However, unlike Dinah we see Barbara has some real reservations about whether she wants to let Tom go.

Comments:
It's always a bit strange when the plot elements that I make a fuss about in a review of a previous issue are addressed in a follow-up issue, as it makes it clear the writer had already recognized where the weak elements of their story were, and in this case we see Gilbert Hernandez almost looks to have included these problem areas so he could examine them in this issue. I mean I make a fuss about Black Canary being given very little to do during last issue's climax, and this issue has Dinah troubled by her lack of activity during last issue's climax. I make a fuss about Barbara's attacker being able to so easily evade the Clocktower's security systems, and this issue has Barbara troubled by the exact same thing. Heck, the book even opens with Dinah pointing out the rather goofy nature of the back-story we received in the previous arc. Now given it takes roughly three months to complete an issue, and the writer is at the very beginning of this process, my review of last month's issue was released long after this issue had already been written, so I have credit Gilbert Hernandez for having the uncanny ability to recognize what I'm going to write even before I write it. He even knew that I wanted to see a Metamorpho & Nightwing team-up next issue, so now I'm officially creeped out.

This book also does a pretty nice job of taking a look at the two relationships that Barbara & Dinah are currently involved in, and we see that both women are not 100% sure about these current relationships. Dinah's involvement with Oliver Queen has always bothered me a bit because frankly Oliver has cheated on her numerous times, and I've always felt she could do better. As for Barbara's relationship with Nightwing, this pairing has always struck me as one that was developed more as one of convenience and frankly the writers that have handled this relationship have never really delivered any moments where I was convinced there was genuine attraction between these two. I mean Barbara is Dick's ever handle encyclopedia of information, while Dick is the man she can spend her time fretting over. This issue offers up the ever mysterious Tom, who looks to be the ideal partner for both these women, and while the last page makes it clear he has a deep, dark secret that will likely keep him from becoming the new beau in either of these women's lives. If nothing else Tom has acted to reinforce Dinah's continues loyalty toward Oliver, while on the other side of the equation it leaves one questioning Barbara's commitment to Dick.

Casey Jones is a good artist, with a high energy style, and he does some strong work keeping this issue visually engaging, as there's not much action for the art to deliver, while the talking heads sequences pretty much dominated the issue. The art offers up a pretty solid collection of facial expressions, as Dinah's party girl attitude is nicely contrasted by Barbara's almost bored expression as the two women arrive at the dance club. The art also does some nice work on the scene where Dinah backs away from getting too serious about Tom, though I do have to say that this scene also managed to make me a bit dubious about Tom, as he comes across as almost too perfect. There's also some cute little visuals such as the cloud of dust that Barbara's chair kicks up as she speeds away from the lecherous jerk that was vying for her affections, and the shot of Dinah caught up in the Clocktower's new security systems made me smile. The book also does some nice work on the little bit of action is does deliver, as Dinah has to take out a trio of thugs without Tom noticing. The scene where the two women lose their cool is also quite impressive, and one has to love the timing of Dick's e-mail.

Final Word:
Not the most exciting of issues, but it is a pretty solid character study that manages to nicely incorporate some continuity from other titles into the fold. The character of Tom provides the classic other man scenario, and the last page makes it clear that he does have a secret that should raise some red flags. The book also does some nice work when it comes to addressing elements from the previous story that I had problems with, and I must admit I was rather impressed by how nicely this issue took these seeming weak points, and managed to spin some solid character introspection out of them. Now the book does tend to play it a little too safe when it comes to the idea that Tom might actually succeed winning the hand of Barbara and/or Dinah, and the argument that erupts between the two felt a bit manufactured, but I will admit that with current events playing out in Nightwing, we may just see a fairly big shakeup playing out in these pages.



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