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Birds Of Prey #58

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with the Black Canary thinking back on her training, in a bid to prepare herself for the considerable effort she believes it's going to take to pull off her escape. However, constant interruptions by her captors hold off Dinah's efforts to free herself, and with two busted legs her mobility is drastically decreased. We then look in on Savant, as we see he's busy obsessing about his one encounter with Batman, as we see his early bid at being a crime-fighter was brought to a halt when Batman arrived and basically told him to bugger off. We also learn this encounter opened Savant's eyes to the fact that he didn't really care about saving the lives of others, and that there was far greater opportunity for personal gratification & excitement being a villain. To this end we see he spent the next four years obsessing over Batman, and looking to learn his secret identity, which in turn explains the demands that he's making of Barbara. After Dinah manages to get her communicator/tracking device active, we see the Huntress is soon speeding her way to Dinah's rescue. However, Dinah isn't big on waiting to be rescued, and after freeing herself from her handcuffs, she takes on Savant, though with her injuries she's not exactly looking to win this fight, but rather slow him up for long enough to make good her escape.

Comments:
In the opening chapters of this story the idea that Savant was a highly intelligent, but mentally unstable personality was enough to make me overlook the underlying simplicity of his plan, and how easily it could be overcome. However this issue has me strongly questioning the idea that Savant is even all that intelligent, as much like people who make use vocabulary that rarely appears outside a dictionary, or the online group that can't resist the urge to play grammar police, this issue feels a little too desperate to show us that Savant is one smart fella, with his constant prompting for answers from Barbara to his various questions. Even the madness element of the character feels a bit artificial at times, with his recollection of his meeting with Batman feeling like it had simply been inserted in the story to provide us with the motivation for his current activity. Now the simplest way of showing a character's intelligence in comics is to display their ability to stay one step ahead of the person they are up against, so this book really needed to show us one of Barbara's plans foiled because Savant had already thought of this way she could attack him and had prepared for it. Instead the constant reassurances that he's equal parts intelligence & madness feel a bit strained, like Gail Simone isn't sure what to do with the character beyond reinforcing these two personality traits.

On the other side of the equation though I did enjoy how this issue made use of the Black Canary, as while she does spend most of the issue chained to a bed, her internal monologues make it clear that her mind is actively accessing the situation, and figuring out her chances of success in her impending escape attempt. There's also a fairly solid bit of character information on the opening page, as we see her exposure to two different methods of training have left her with a fairly simple yet revealing conclusion. There's also a rather cute moment where Dinah manages to make her captors leave the room by making a request for some "feminine products" and while the embarrassed reaction of the men did serve to undermine their villainous temperament, I will give this scene credit for being a novel method for her the clear the room. When she does make good her escape the issue is also quite strong at playing up her ability to hold her own in spite of her injuries, as the book has saddled her with two busted legs, and at least one broken thumb, which does limit her ability to fight the good fight. Now one would thing a flight of stairs that lead down wouldn't be much of a problem even with her busted legs, as all she has to do is twist around to a sitting position and simply bump her way down the stairs on her behind. However, if she had done this we would've been cheated out of our cliffhanger.

Three issues in and I'm still not warming to the art. In fact my belief that the art is unsuited to the writing style of this book seems to be increasing by the issue, which is a bit worrisome. Now the art isn't all that bad, as it tells the story is a clear, fairly easy to understand manner, and the action has a nice sense of energy to it. However, the figure work is so clearly focused on delivering panels where the only possible reason that angle was chosen is to deliver a gratuitous shot of Dinah behind, or the Huntress' chest and/or behind, that it's becomes difficult to praise this book's sense of visual style, when it's constantly going for the most simple, and unimaginative visuals in a bid to pander to it's audience. The art is also a bit awkward when it comes to the more humorous sections of the issue, as Dinah's smile to the readers after she makes the men leave the room was far too self aware that the book had just delivered a funny moment, and the art also didn't really captured the men's discomfort all that well to begin with. I'm also a bit curious about the cover, as it suggests that Barbara is fighting off a villain who has invaded her Clocktower, and while it's a fairly exciting visual, and I rather enjoyed the way her batarang jumps off the page by using the cover logo, the image is also quite misleading when it comes to the story we get inside.

Final Word:
This issue left me somewhat unconvinced that Savant is as impressive a threat as the previous issues made him out to be, as the writing comes across as trying too hard to show us how cunning he is, by having him constantly challenging Barbara like she's a contestant on the "Win Ben Stein's Money" game show. Now I like his hair trigger temper, and his ability to suddenly shift from a somewhat charming villain, into a raving mad man, but frankly I found the character came across as more of a parody version of a mastermind villain, than a genuine threat. However, I did enjoy Dinah efforts in this issue, as it's nice to see that her past experience as a hostage has her unwilling to sit back and wait for help to arrive, and her efforts in the final pages are quite exciting. The Huntress is also quite enjoyable, though I do have to wonder why she didn't take a moment to feed that parking attendant his teeth after he gave her the info she was looking for.



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