After a lengthy southern hemisphere winter hiatus, I’m back with the first of a new series of guides for Patrons of CK! This wasn’t the next guide on my list before last week, but thanks to a brilliant new #1 issue from Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, & Clayton Cowles last week I decided it was time for this new guide to fly: Guide to Birds of Prey!
Birds of Prey is a comic with a dedicated fanbase, in large part to Gail Simone’s star-making turn writing it for the better part of seven years prior to DC’s 2011 Flashpoint event. And, it got a raised profile with the Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey flick in 2020.
But, if I had to boil down the title to a single summary or mission statement for my new Birds of Prey Guide, what would that be? [Read more…] about New for Patrons: Guide to Birds of Prey
The Pull List was slightly lighter this week than the past three, partially due to me not managing to pick up any additional ongoings from Marvel or DC. I made a heroic effort to catch all the way up with Doctor Strange, but fell an arc short.
This week’s comics felt a little ho-hum for me, with even typical standouts like Flash and Paradiso falling flat. However, it also brought not one but two near-perfect comics, plus one unexpectedly great debut.
Here’s The Pull List for the 14th of March, 2018. New adds to the pull list are marked with *; dropped titles are marked with #.
- DC Comics
- Action Comics (2016) #999
- Batgirl and The Birds of Prey (2016) #20
- Detective Comics (2016) #976
- *Eternity Girl (2018) #1
- The Flash (2016) #42
- Mister Miracle (2017) #7
- Sideways (2018) #2
- Suicide Squad (2016) #37
- Titans (2016) #21
- Trinity (2016) #19
- Wonder Woman (2016) #42
- Image Comics
- Bonehead (2018) #3
- *#Dry County (2018) #1
- *Infidel (2018) #1
- Paradiso (2017) #4
- #Sleepless (2017) #4
- Slots (2017) #6
- VS (2018) #2
- Marvel Comics
- All-New Wolverine (2016) #32
- Astonishing X-Men (2017) #9
- Avengers (2017) #684
- Marvel Two-in-One (2018) #4
- New Mutants – Dead Souls (2018) #1
- Old Man Logan (2016) #36
- Weapon X (2017) #15
- X-Men: Blue (2017) #23
- Smaller Publishers: Aftershock Comics, Archie Comics, Black Mask Studios, & Boom! Studios
- Judas (2017) #4, Boom! Studios
- *Come Into Me (2018) #1, Black Mask Studios
- *Vampironica (2018) #1, Archie Comics
- *Betrothed (2018) #1, Aftershock Comics
Before we begin, a reminder that 2.5 stars on my rating scale is an average comic book and my bell curve distribution peaks at 3/5 stars! Don’t freak out and assume a comic book is terrible because it has 2 stars. That means it’s just a hair below average (and there are a lot of those this week)
Picks of the Pull
Big Two (Marvel/DC) Pick of the Week:
Action Comics (2016) #999, DC Comics
Dan Jurgens leaves us with a truly perfect, contemplative issue of Superman that puts a wrap on his stellar Rebirth run but also addresses his writing from over 25 years ago, as beautifully rendered by artist Will Conrad and colorist Ivan Nunes.
In Metropolis, Lois is newly reunited with her estranged Army General father after saving him from execution in the last arc. It’s his first time meeting Jon (sort of), but General Lane isn’t in on the Superman secret, so he thinks Jon is a regular kid. That makes it even more tense as Lois and her father square off across the dinner table about the philosophy of Superman. Jon has never been exposed to this kind of hatred and xenophobia about his father before – which is also, by extension, aimed at him.
Meanwhile, Superman is in space dealing with a routine chore of breaking up an asteroid that will stray a bit too close to Earth for STAR Labs liking. Superman is thinking about fathers – General Lane, his own father Jor-El, as well as Zod – all of whom were tangled in the cross-time plot he just wrapped with Booster Gold.
Superman can see the errors in the ways of each of those parents and they in turn reflect his errors back upon him. Clark Kent is good-natured to a fault, but he’s not always right. General Lane isn’t entirely wrong about him – sometimes his absolute power corrupts him, both in how he metes out justice and in how he isn’t accustomed to apologizing for his actions.
As a result, Superman decides to put right two wrongs. One is with Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman, who he currently has imprisoned in the Phantom Zone. The other, eventually is General Lane. [Read more…] about The Pull List: Action Comics, Avengers, Eternity Girl, Infidel, Judas, Marvel Two-in-One, Vampironica, & more!
Birds of Prey is a team that’s crossed over to many other forms of Bat media. It’s a largely all-female team of costumed crime-fighters centered in DC’s major urban meccas.
It’s not so hard to grasp, and generally one of my favorite types of comic to read. Yet, I managed to be completely ignorant of the team aside from one key facet – that Barbara Gordon acted as team captain from her wheelchair as Oracle.
With the reboot sweeping Gordon’s Oracle off the playing field, I wasn’t so sure of what to expect from Birds of Prey. Add to that writer Duane Swierczynski, who I think of as the kind of guy who writes stoic male characters, and an DC-exclusive artist I’ve never heard of.
The result? Not a clue of what to expect from the cast or script of this book.
Birds of Prey #1
Written by Duane Swierczynski, art by Jesus Saiz
Rating: 4.5 of 5 – Remarkable
In a Line: “Can’t help but like her. She’s a natural born hellraiser.”
#140char Review: Birds of Prey #1 is a pitch-perfect debut for the lady mercs. Duane scripts each well & crafts puzzles within puzzles. Want the next ish now
CK Says: Buy it!
Birds of Prey #1 is one of the best first issues out from DC this month, and that’s coming from a reader who has never heard of or seen these characters ever before reading. Afterwards? Totally hooked.
I was concerned that Duane Swierczynski, who I think of as a hard-bitten guy-with-gun writer, wouldn’t have the hang of a slightly funnier female-driven book. I was entirely incorrect. He keeps the dialog brisk and to-the-point but still gets the tone of his pair of deadly heroines just right.
He also makes perfect use of intercut flashbacks, which artist Jesus Saiz’s cannily matches frame for frame to their lead-in from the present day. In an action-filled issue that’s decidedly NOT an origin story he still managed to clue me in as a totally clueless new reader.
As for Saiz, his pencils are ace. From the first panel of a dilapidated church seen through driving rain I knew we were in for something special. I’m simply in love with his art. Backgrounds are detailed with sharp details and textures, but characters don’t try too hard to be photo-real. Nei Ruffino’s colors help each character pop off of the background of the page. There are only a couple of instances where I couldn’t quite follow action from one panel to the next, and a few panels where Starling looks rushed.
Black Canary seems like the coolest gal friend to have as well as the most efficient non-lethal merc you can hire. Maybe that makes her a bit of a Mary Sue, but I didn’t get the sense she’s infallible. In fact, though she’s capable throughout, a mid-issue cliffhanger as well as the issue’s climax hinge pretty exclusively on her lack of foresight.
Meanwhile, Starling comes off as a deadpan suicide girl, tatted up and quick to act in a crisis. A Batgirl cameo was a thrill for me as a new reader, and seemed like a knowing reference to some post incarnation of the title.
It only took one issue for Swierczynski and Saiz to find the right formula for this action-packed, adventurous book. If they keep it up Birds of Prey will be one of the premiere titles of DC’s relaunch.
I mentioned in my DC preview for the week that Batgirl was my most-anticipated book. I’m sure it was for a lot of fans familiar with Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, which is a book that brought many readers into comics in the first place.
To give away a long-since known spoiler, Joke culminates partially in Joker shooting Batgirl Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her from the waist down. Rather than becoming a disabled background character, she rose to even greater prominence as Oracle – a master of information, frequently a team leader, and truly beloved by fans.
Batgirl #1 reverses all of that, with Barbara back in the bat costume – presumably for good. How would consistently strong scripter Gail Ann Simone explain this continuity-shattering change? Could the book sustain the weight of expectations to be DC’s premiere new female superhero, especially with the sumptuously illustrated Batwoman on the schedule just a week later?
I saved the issue until I was through reading half this week’s haul, nervous it would be bad – or, even worse, just okay.
Was that the case? And, is there anything to this rumor that Batgirl #1 is selling-out around the country, and might wind up as one of the top-selling comic books of the year?
Written by Gail Ann Simone, art by Ardian Syaf & Vincente Cifuentes
Rating: 5 of 5 – Outstanding
In a Line: “…I’ve got upper arm strength like a mother at this point.”
140char Review: Batgirl #1 was okay on 1st read but on reread I realized there is nary a misstep or snag. An excellent, affecting, genuinely funny comic. A+
Plot & Script
Simone does a knockout job on this debut, juggling the re-introduction of a hero with a glimpse into her personal life as she contends with two villains. We even get a prologue! The structure of the plot tells an engaging single story that is clearly part of a larger arc.
The home invasion villains are distinctly unsettling, with their press clippings and dire threats to the captive couple, but also human with their objection to their press-provided moniker. I found myself surprised at how far Simone pushed the envelope with them given what I assumed would be a relatively cheery vibe in Batgirl.
The book may not be all cheery, but Batgirl is. Clearly still new to being a hero again, her interactions while in costume are priceless (“Sorry! Batgirl emergency!”). Her glib narration of the issue is why I think it’s still cool to use thought bubbles and narration boxes – because it lets us inside the head of a character in a way no other medium can do. She doubts her actions as she takes them, needs to go to the bathroom mid-adventure, and freezes in a moment of post-traumatic stress. These are elements of a character we cannot learn purely from art. It means something to hear it in their own words, and Simone is beautifully effective with the device.
She’s also beautifully effective with dialog from just about anyone, including Commissioner Gordon as a doting dad and a new roommate’s Hitchhiker’s joke. The only line that was a little sour was the final one, but I can forgive histrionics if it’s meant to drum up a bit of a cliffhanger.
Simone introduces an intriguing villain in The Mirror – but if all he does is deliver warranted retribution, is he much of a villain? Clearly, if Barbara is on his list there’s something more to it than that. Why does she deserve to die? Or, is it merely her escape from death that has earned her a spot?
I want to find out.
The artwork here is fantastic – beautiful characters, finely detailed backgrounds, and easy-to-follow action. The art could have come off more grim, but a vivid color palette helps strike a comic book balance throughout. In fact, the coloring job is absolutely exemplary throughout the book, from the metallic gold of Batgirl’s boots to the warm pinks and reds of the Gordon home to Gotham’s oil slick of evening rain.
Syaf uses a few awesome irregular page layouts, in on instance treating panels like shards of broken glass, in another silhouetting Batgirl out of the open side of a panel. Aside from one strange perspective error on a mid-leap thigh, only once or twice does Barbara pull a slightly gawky pose. Given her self-doubt it doesn’t seem all that outlandish to think Syaf did it on purpose. Also? Her hair is utterly transfixing.
I was honestly concerned that the interiors wouldn’t stand up to close examination, as there’s no way they could have the same pulp-pinup quality as the immediately classic cover from the incomparable Adam Hughes.
As with many Bat books, the narration boxes are horrid Bright italic yellow on black with purple borders? All of that is lowering the reading comprehension of those words – and this is not just your reviewer talking, this is valid, scientific study of communications theory. There’s no reason it couldn’t be something more legible.
CK Says: Buy it!
When I first read this issue, I thought it was just “okay.”
Why? Because it is total smooth sailing. Unlike similarly outstanding Action Comics #1, this is not rife with panels you need to read and re-read, squinting for new details or oblique hints in the dialog. It’s easy-going – almost simple – with a dynamic, flawed, and sympathetic hero who is all too human.
Sometimes “easy” and “simple” are hard to identify as “amazing.” It was only on second, third, and fourth read that I realized this is the real deal. It is a pitch-perfect debut that doesn’t rely on any big shocks or gimmicks. Simone, Syaf, and Cifuentes deliver a strong issue that stands well on its own and makes owning the next one a necessity. The plot, script, and artwork are perfection.
Particularly, the narration and dialog are outstanding. When it comes to putting words in heroes mouths, few writers today do it better than Gail Ann Simone.
For readers wondering how the previously wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon is retconned back to her feet, Simone handles it efficiently without completely sacrificing longtime fans’ attachment to Barbara as Oracle. If anything, she leverages the twenty years we’ve spent reading Barbara as disabled to make her more compellingly human.
This issue went far beyond fulfilling my hopes for the most-anticipated comic of the week. If you like the idea of a Batgirl – or, really, any young hero – who is still very much a rookie, a young woman, and a human being then buy this comic. (In fact, buy it as soon as you can – because it’s already going into a second printing, and the word of mouth will only get stronger as more people read and review it.)