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Birds Of Prey #55

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Gilbert Hernandez
Artists: Casey Jones (p), John Beatty/Jose Marzan Jr. (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with the Black Canary fending off the attacks of the crazed Danko Twag, who we learn was once a underling of the villain Killer Moth, and his defeat at the hands of Barbara Gordon & his subsequent incarceration has left him with a serious vendetta against Barbara. We also see that Danko is not altogether in the head, as he even mistakes Dinah for Barbara because she happened to be in the clock-tower when he made his return visit. However, when Dinah manages to get him caught up in the security system, we see Danko uses the single magic trick he's perfected to teleport away. However, when his brother Tom happens to mention Barbara Gordon's name Danko rushes back to the clock-tower, and since he made an attempt at stopping him, Tom inadvertently gets caught up in the spell, and arrives in the clock-tower as well. As Barbara manages to knock Tom out before he can figure out where he is, we see Dinah joins Danko as the guy decides to teleport away once again. We then see Dinah proceeds to pummel Danko into submission, and when he realizes he's losing the battle, Danko makes one final jump, but the multiple jumps have effectively drained Danko completely, and he promptly dies in his brother's arms. We then join Barbara & Dinah later that week as they discuss the idea that Tom vanished without a trace in the wake of his brother's death.

Comments:
This issue offers up a punching bag baddie, in that Danko is never really developed into anything more than an annoyance. Now he's persistent, and one does get the sense that his madness does extend to such a degree that he could be a threat to others. However, in this issue all he does is act as someone that Dinah can pummel into submission, and since it's clear to the readers, and presumably to Dinah, that Danko is not right in the head, one has to wonder why Dinah didn't end the battle quicker than she did. Oh I understand why from a storytelling sense as it wouldn't make for much of an issue if Dinah had knocked this poor guy out two seconds into the fight, but by offering up a battle where the villain is clearly no match for Dinah, the question then becomes why were we supposed to find what we were given entertaining. Basically we have an issue where Dinah beats upon an insane man, and there's very little heroics to be found in such a feat. I mean yes he can be dangerous, and yes he threatened the life of Barbara in a previous arc, but it's clear this man is mentally disturbed, so surely a skilled hand-to-hand combatant like Dinah knows how to end a battle against a novice with very little fuss. In fact the book almost reached a point where it felt like Dinah was letting the battle drag on so she could have someone to vent her frustrations upon.

The other element I found a bit unsettling about this issue is the almost flippant way that the women deal with Danko's death. I realize that it's tough to work up much remorse for an insane nut-case who spent his time trying to kill you, but presumably Barbara came to care about Danko's brother, and by extension she should realize that Danko was a mentally disturbed individual who deserved treatment, not a death sentence. Now I guess they could plead ignorance as how were they to know that his teleportation was drawing upon his life force, and that performing so many in such a brief period of time would kill him. However, most people would feel some twinge of guilt at having driven a man into killing himself, and as such it would've been nice to see Barbara & Dinah display some sense of regret, as the jovial way they're acting in the final pages makes it seem like Danko's death didn't make the slightest impact. So after spending the entire issue watching Dinah beat the living crud out of a disturbed man, this issue then offers up the idea that not only does she not feel some guilt, but her main concern is that their secret might have been compromised, which paints the two women as incredibly self-absorbed. It's not often that I walk away from an issue disliking characters who I'm a big fan of, but this issue makes it rather difficult to like them.

Casey Jones knows how to deliver exciting, visually impressive action, and since this issue devotes well over half of its page count to Dinah's struggle against the insane Danko, the art is allowed ample opportunity to do what it does best. The work certainly knows how to open strong, as the shot of the two busting their way out of the clock-face is a wonderful way to kick things off. The teleporting ability of Danko is also nicely captured by the art, as I loved the heavily shadowed arrival scene on page seven, as it projected a nice sense of danger. There's also some nice work on the final battle as Danko's madness is nicely contrasted by Dinah's almost casual acceptance that she's going to have to draw his insanity in her direction. Now speaking as a reader who found his madness to be more pitiful than dangerous, I must confess I found her actions a bit off-putting, as surely she could've found a way to take him down that was a little less dependent on pummeling him into submission, but I'll also concede that the art delivers a nice sense of excitement during this sequence. The art does have some problems on the talking heads scenes, as the range of expressions the characters are sporting is rather limited. It's good to see Phil Noto back on the covers though, as his work does lend a certain degree of sophistication to the book.

Final Word:
I realize that I'm belaboring the same point over and over, but I found it really difficult to enjoy this issue, thanks largely to its attitude that it's okay to lay into a person who is clearly mentally disturbed. I mean I realize he's a villain, who came after Barbara, but the issue also takes great pains to show us that Danko Twag is clearly mentally disturbed, and as such I found myself rather unsettled that the best solution this book could come up with is to have Dinah spend the entire issue pounding on this poor man, until eventually the man managed to kill himself. Plus after the man's death the book takes an even more jaded stance in that neither Barbara or Dinah seem the slightest bit troubled by the idea that Danko Twag's was killed. It also didn't help that the book seemed to almost grow bored of it's idea, as we don't really get a resolution so mach as the book simply has Danko drop dead, while Tom promptly vanishes into comic limbo. I do like the idea of Metamorpho becoming a semi-regular presence in these pages though.



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