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Birds Of Prey #63

Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: DC

The Plot:
As Dinah and Lady Shiva close in on the hired assassin Cheshire whom they believe responsible for their sensei's murder, we see after a brief battle, the two are able to get Cheshire under control, and they soon learn that this battle was a set up. Meanwhile, Barbara finds her computers the victim of a malicious virus, and when she leaves the Clocktower believing it's no longer safe, we see she is taken into custody by a group of thugs that claim to be working for the US government.

The Good:
The battle between Cheshire and the Black Canary is a bit of a write off as it's clearly more interested in offering up sexy poses and a funny punchline at the end of the fight than in delivering an exciting contest between two skilled combatants. However, the issue does redeem itself in the final pages as we see Barbara is taken into custody by a group that claims it works for the US government, and this exchange is a highly exciting sequence, that puts on a pretty solid showing of Barbara's ability to hold her own in a fight, and end with a fairly intense cliffhanger in which Barbara looks to be out of opinions. There's a fairly solid exchange between Dinah and Cheshire in which Dinah tries to make out that she's a tough-as-nails interrogator, but Cheshire is able to shatter this illusion with a crude suggestion that cuts right to the heart of the matter. The answer that Cheshire eventually offers up is also rather interesting, as I suspect the person responsible for this setup is also behind the attack on Barbara, and this in turn will neatly tie the two plots together. Also while the issue doesn't really do much with it after this information is offered up, the opening exchange between Dinah and Barbara does a pretty fair job of introducing readers to Cheshire and detailing the threat potential of the character.

The Bad:
I realize that most comics are guilty of this as Avengers just offered up an arc where She-Hulk fought an entire battle in her underwear, and over in Incredible Hulk Bruce Jones seems be of the mind that no issue is complete without a scene where one of his female characters sheds her clothing. However, it's a bit difficult to draw much excitement from a battle, when its sole purpose seems to be to show off how many cleavage shots the artist can fit into a single comic. Now Gail Simone pokes some fun at this scene with a mildly amusing exchange between Dinah and a guy who happened to be on hand to watch the fight, but this doesn't cover over the fact that the issue went out of its way to deliver an exchange where its sole intent was to appeal to the raging hormones of young teenage boys. I wouldn't mind it so much if the battle had managed to at least maintain the pretense that is was trying to accomplish something else, but the battle was an incredibly one-sided affair in which Cheshire delivers a total of one blocked punch. I also have to raise issue with the idea that Barbara has herself a collection of computer hackers that she communicates with, as frankly it chips away at the illusion that she's so good it's scary when it comes to computers. Plus, it's also a rather silly scene that doesn't work nearly as well as I suspect Gail Simone wants it to.

I'm not sure if Gail Simone's writing is calling upon the art to treat every panel that features the book's female characters like a photo shoot for a skin magazine, but frankly it's reached the point where I'm starting to question Ed Benes’ priorities as an artist, as he seems to be of the mind that telling the story in a visually engaging manner is secondary to delivering yet another shot of a character cleavage, or one of his ever famous shots where the reader is positioned right behind the characters so he can fill half the panel with a shot of a character's backside. I also have to take issue with his work on the backgrounds as he doesn't seem to be all that comfortable placing the characters in environments that don't feature rigid lines, and it doesn't help matters much that these lines seems to be a bit off when it comes to their perspective, as Batgirl is shown moving about in a warehouse where the boxes that line the background just don't look right. I will give the art credit for a fairly exciting final sequence though as Barbara's attacks do look rather painful.

And In This Corner, Wearing The Revealing Nightie:
What could've been a fairly exciting encounter between Dinah and Titans villain Cheshire is cast aside so that Ed Benes can offer up cheesecake art at its worst, and then Gail Simone can offer up a cute little observation at the end of the encounter in what I'm guessing was an attempt to acknowledge the rather obvious bid by this book to appeal to horny teenagers. Now I get the idea that having this book populated by largely female characters is going to result in cheesecake art, and a concentrated effort to display the character's assets, but when the book casts aside what could've been a highly entertaining battle so that it can engaging in an exhibition of T & A that makes the 1990s looked restrained I get a bit annoyed. Now Barbara’s situation is far more entertaining, as while I'm not sold on the idea of Barbara being part of a circle of super-hackers, I did enjoy the sense of urgency in the final pages of this issue as Barbara battles a group of thugs claiming to be government agents. There's also a fairly nice little moment where we see Cheshire is able to throw Dinah off her game with a single comment.



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