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Birds Of Prey #56

Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ed Benes (p), Alex Lei (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with a man stranded on the side of the road getting a ride from a mysterious woman wearing fishnet stockings. However, during the ensuing drive through the rain soaked night the man discovers this woman knows about his plan to defraud his company of millions, and presumably flee the country while leaving behind hundreds of people bereft of the hard-earned pensions they had planned on using in their retirement. As we see the mystery woman is the Black Canary, and that Oracle is feeding her a steady supply of information that she borrowed from this man's computer. We then watch as Dinah is able to put a good scare into this man, but he claims that he is being blackmailed into his future criminal activities. As Dinah returns to the Clocktower we see the two women plan to settle in for the night, secure in the knowledge that they've prevented a crime before it could even be committed. However, when Barbara gets wind of a suicide note that this man is typing up on his computer, that seems to suggest he also plans on killing his family, we see Dinah races to the man's home in a bid to keep this man from following up on his planned murder/suicide. However, what Dinah finds waiting for her in the apartment is something that neither woman could have foreseen, and Dinah looks to be in a pretty tight spot, while Barbara is backed into a corner she never expected to find herself.

Comments:
Not nearly as funny as I had gone in expecting, but there are some flashes of genuinely amusing humor, and the interaction between Dinah & Barbara holds up exceptionally well. The main plot is also pretty solid as the opening sequence is a wonderful display of how these two women work together. In fact, I don't think I've ever come across a better display of a writer conveying the basic premise of Dinah acting as the muscle, while Barbara acts as the brain, with the little exchange where Dinah labels the villain a "lazarus", and then proceeds to explain what exactly she means by this comment being a particularly fun exchange. There's also some fun little details like Dinah commenting on Barbara's less than impressive driving skills when she handed over the vehicle controls to her during their bid to put a good scare into the villain. The spooky contact lenses were also a cute touch, as was the scene where Dinah is left to come up with her own parting message to the villain, and she resorts to overblown melodramatics that leaves Barbara in stitches. Now, there's also some attempts at humor that fell a bit flat, like Dinah's slapstick style reaction to the shrimp, but then again they can't all be winners, and since there's far more hits than misses, I'll let the weaker moments slide. More than any other part of a writer's work, humor is the most subjective, and for the most part I feel Gail Simone is one of the funniest writers working in comics.

This issue does offer up a rather odd plot device though as we see Barbara became aware of the man's plan to loot his company of its liquid assets before fleeing the country, when she came across his typing up his plan to do so in his computer. I mean this doesn't exactly strike me as the most intelligent thing one could do, and since Barbara was made aware of this potential criminal act one is left to wonder why she simply didn't put a program in place that would let her know when the man had made his move, and as such they would've caught the man with his hand in the cookie jar, instead of tipping him off well in advance that they were on to his game. I mean how exactly was this plan suppose to have gone? He hadn't yet committed the crime, so there's very little he could confess to, and even if he had opened up & confessed, the two would still be left with the simple problem that he hadn't done anything. I also have to wonder why Barbara wasn't a little more dubious about the idea of a man typing up his suicide note on the computer, as if there was one letter a person could write that they would be more inclined to put pen to paper, it would be a suicide note, as if nothing else one would think the police investigating the scene would raise their eyebrows at a suicide note that could've been typed up by anyone with access to a computer.

I was somewhat impressed by their work on the final issues of "Supergirl", so I had a general idea of what to expect from this issue. Now the cover didn't exactly fill me with hope as it's not exactly the most engaging of visuals, and the work's understanding of the human form looks rather questionable. However the interior art holds up quite nicely, as most of my concerns about the work's ability to clearly convey the material have gone right out the window once the book is finished delivering the opening scene in the car. Now the art does deliver a few too many shots where a hard to ignore shot of Dinah rear dominates the frame, and there's a panel on the top of page five that is almost shameful in its presentation of the character, but I'm guessing these cheesecake tendencies will come under control once Ed Benes settles in as the book's regular artist. He's certainly got a good eye for delivering the action as there a wonderful sense of urgency developed when Dinah races to the apartment to rescue the family of the suicidal man, and the panel where Dinah falls victim to a very painful looking attack, most of the impact of this scene is largely driven by the nicely understated visuals. The final page also does some strong work conveying Barbara's look of utter surprise & horror, upon learning the truth about the situation.

Final Word:
Not exactly the runaway success that I had gone in hoping to find, but truth be told I entered this issue with expectations that were probably far too high. As I took a second look at the book during this review, I also have to say the material does hold together quite nicely, and this book is showing more promise than it has since it's earliest issue. The book is funny without going for the obvious laugh, and while there are a couple moments that I found a bit awkward, for the most part that issue is a highly enjoyable romp. Now from a plotting standpoint I found it a bit strange that a villain would write out his evil intentions before they actually committed the crime, and the book could of done a better job of explaining how this confession was brought to Barbara's attention, and why she decided to act upon it before it was really smart to have done so. Still, the issue does raise some interesting questions about the invasion of privacy, and we also get a pretty solid surprise in the final pages, as our Birds of Prey manage to find their actions have not gone unnoticed.



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