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Birds Of Prey #54

Posted: Friday, May 2, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Gillbert Hernandez
Artists: Casey Jones, John Beatty & Jose Marzan, Jr.

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Plot:
The book opens with the Black Canary looking in on Nightwing as he deals with a group of thugs, and she steps in to lend a hand when one of them attempts to run for it. However, during the ensuing conversation Dick is quick to pick up that Dinah grew uncomfortable when he asked about Barbara, and the prompts him to pay her a visit in the Clocktower. After he's freed from the newly improve security systems, Dick begins to notice Barbara is acting oddly, and in a rather impressive display of his intuitive skills, he asks her if there is another man in her life. After Barbara denies that she's seeing someone else, we join her later that night as she's out enjoying dinner with the ever charming Tom, and when the book shifts outside the restaurant we see Dick has followed Barbara so he knows she lied to him. We then look in on the oddly behaving man that we saw with Tom last issue, as we learn the man is linked to a villain who has plagued the JLA, numerous times, and we also see this man is completely obsessed with Barbara Gordon. The book then looks in on Dinah, as Metamorpho pops in to pay her a visit, as he wanted to thank her for her help, and he makes it known that if she ever needs help he's at her beck and call. The book then ends with Dinah returning to the Clocktower, where she makes a rather unpleasant discovery.

Comments:
I'm not really sure what to make of this issue, as it's a hodgepodge of scenes, some of which are rather entertaining, while some are just there, doing little more than take up space. There's no real structure to this issue, and I'd even go as far to say that there's not even that much of a plot, as about the only part of the book that even qualifies as a plot, is Barbara's little romance with a character who is later revealed to be the "brother" of another nut-case who is obsessed with Barbara Gordon. Then again maybe this is the same crazed loon who was claiming he was Killer Moth, as the teleportation spell would explain how he survived his seeming death. Plus, except for his sporting brown instead of black hair the two characters might as well be twins, so chances are the two are one and the same. If this is the case than having the new man in Barbara's life be this lunatic's "brother" is a little too convenient, and I suspect that the perfect boyfriend is really the villain who our obsessed Barbara Gordon fan decides to pose as on the final page. Still, as you can see from my attempt to explain the plot, it's a bit difficult to really describe, as the book doesn't really focus on this plot, but rather it delivers a series of little scenes that act to offer up a little more insight, without fully confirming anything.

This issue is the very definition of the gratuitous cameo, but it does manage to come up with reasons why Nightwing & Metamorpho would be putting in guest-appearances. I mean Nightwing's relationship with Barbara pretty much gives him free reign to pop in and out of these pages at will, and given Barbara has become involved with another man I can see why he would be inclined to make an appearance. In fact the scene where we learn Dick is hovering outside the restaurant where Barbara is having dinner with her new boyfriend is one of the more interesting moments in the issue, as there is now a sense of distrust between these two, as Dick now knows Barbara was lying to him, and Barbara felt the need to lie. As for Metamorpho's little appearance, little is a very apt description of this encounter, as he's in the book for a page and a half, with his only real purpose for making his appearance being to say thank you, before he bounces off into the night. Dinah's interaction with Dick earlier in the issue is also a rather abrupt encounter, but at least it acted to give Dick a heads up that there was tension between Dinah & Barbara, which in turn had him paying a visit to Barbara where he learned his relationship with Barbara might also be on rather shaky ground.

Considering how simple & uncluttered the art is, and the rather low panel count employed, I must confess I was a little surprised to see Casey Jones needed two inkers to help him meet the deadline. Still the art holds up pretty well, as the action is visually engaging, and the material clearly details the action, Now there are moments when the art's rather limited range of facial expressions is a bit disappointing, as when Dick asks Barbara if there's another man, the art doesn't really convey the sense of hurt & betrayal that he must be feeling, nor does it really convey the relief on his face when she tells him there isn't, but this could be explained by the idea that he simply doesn't believe her. The book does manage to capture the insanity of Barbara's stalker, as the one-page shot where he flips out is a very powerful visual. I also have to make mention of Metamorpho's guest-appearance, as while the art doesn't really capture his elemental powers, I have to say that I've always been rather fond of his hammer hand attacks & when he converts the lower half of his body into a giant spring. The art delivers a fairly impressive final page as we see Dinah has herself a rather harrowing encounter with Barbara's ever persistent stalker. I do have to take issue with the cover though, as it suggests a team-up that doesn't really occur inside the book.

Final Word:
A rather scattered issue that never really grabbed me, and while part of this is me getting looking ahead, eagerly anticipating Gail Simone's impending arrival, the simple fact of the matter is that Gillbert Hernendez is offering up an unfocused story that jumps around a little too much for its own good, and far too much time is spent developing ideas that are a little too simplistic. I mean we know the primary villain of this story is a complete nut case, and that he's obsessing on Barbara, but given we've already tasted this dish in the previous arc, I'm finding it a bit difficult to work up much excitement for a second helping. There's also the whole Barbara falling for the super smooth Tom, as one knows that Gillbert Hernandez isn't going to rock the boat too much, so even when we see Dick catches Barbara in her lie, we know nothing overly serious is going to result. I guess it's just the general sense that we're killing time between creative teams that is leaving me cold.



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