superheroes


Collects Birds of Prey issues 62-68.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ed Benes, Alex Lei, Michael Golden, Joe Bennett, Cliff Richards, Ruy Jose, Mike Manley, Scott Hanna

The Black Canary’s martial arts sensei is dying, and she’s travelled to Hong Kong to meet him. However, at his side she finds another former student: Shiva. Shiva is the best assassin in this world, she’s merciless and competent. Dinah doesn’t like her at all. But they both care for the old sensei and so they agree to get to know each other, at least a little However, going out to eat and having a fight with one of the local gangs comes at a terrible price: Cheshire has poisoned and killed their teacher. So, Dinah and Shiva team up to get Cheshire. However, Cheshire reveals that she was set up, that someone else poisoned their sensei. Reluctantly, Dinah and Shiva agree to take Cheshire to Gotham where she will reveal who the real culprit is.

Meanwhile, Oracle is working with the JLA helping them find out where the criminals are holed up. Or trying to: she’s wrong every time. It turns out that her unhackable computers have been hacked. She turns to a group of mysterious computer wizards for help. However, they only advise her to abandon her place. She’s arrested and taken to a secret government facility.

I again enjoyed this comic: it has a lot of elements I enjoy. Both Dinah and Barbara are taken out of their respective comfort zones and yet, they’re able to rise to the challenge with flying colors. Dinah has to deal with both Shiva and Cheshire while Babs is taken away from her computers. Also, there are moments of humor which makes this comic so great. The last issue deals with the aftermath, when the Huntress joins the team. One issue is a flashback to the original Black Canary, Dinah’s mother, and while I’m a bit dubious about how it really fit in with the rest of the story, I enjoyed it a lot.

The villains return mostly from the previous arch. Again, they’re not my favorites but quite appropriate for BoP team. Both Dinah and Barbara dislike Helena and I really, really wish they wouldn’t constantly shame Helena for being sexually active. Also, the art continues to be rather inappropriate for the story. So many buttshots…
But still a very good read.

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A stand-alone Batman book where he confronts child abuse.

Publication year: 1995
Format: print
Publisher: Warner Books
Page count: 196 + David Hechler’s essay on Child Sex Tourism

Bruce Wayne is in a charity event for the Gotham Museum. An otherwise dull evening becomes more colorful when a child protective services caseworker Debra Kane confronts a rich woman about the way the rich ignore the roots of evil. According to Debra, child abuse is the reason why people become criminals. Bruce is interested and when Debra offers to take him along with her rounds, he agrees. As Bruce learns about the ways that children are abused right in Gotham, Batman confronts an organized crime ring where children are bought, sold, and abused.

I had no idea what the book was about, so I was rather surprised by the way that real world problems are brought together with an iconic superhero. However, I think that using Batman to highlight this problem was appropriate since some Batman comic stories also discuss why criminals are the way they are. Also, it’s more appropriate for Batman than more powerful, cosmic heroes. However, the theme was very obvious, and some characters clearly preached the author’s POV. Of course, it’s a very important matter, but people expecting a few hours of mindless superhero stories could be disappointed.

Debra Kane is a very dedicated social worker whose only role in the story is to introduce Batman to the subject and highlight it. In this story, Batman has been fighting crime for years alone and is wondering if it will ever end. He’s a bit embittered but still just as dedicated to his work as Debra is to hers. I also found it strange that Batman is called the night-rider rather than his more usual titles, like the dark knight or caped crusader.

Overall, this was an ok story with a very important message.

Collects Birds of Prey issues 56-61.

Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Ed Benes, Alex Lei

Oracle and the Black Canary are going after a CEO who is going to embezzle the funds of his own company and flee the country. Dinah does a nice job scaring him out of it but unfortunately, the man isn’t doing this alone: he’s been blackmailed into it. Savant isn’t happy about Oracle meddling into his affairs. He manages to lure Dinah into a trap. He brakes her legs to make sure that she can’t escape. Then he tries to blackmail Oracle. However, Oracle calls for the Huntress to track down Dinah. Babs isn’t happy about working with Helena, but she not about to let down Dinah.

The second half of the collection deals with the aftermath. Dinah’s legs are in cast and she, too, is confined to a wheelchair, for a while. Barbara tries to fire Dinah and take Huntress as her field agent. Fortunately, Barbara and Dinah manage to talk things through. Also, Dinah kicks ass even in a wheelchair! Meanwhile, the Huntress faces a villainous politician and Savant’s having trouble in jail.

This was a nice beginning for Simone’s collected run. Apparently, DC hasn’t (yet?) collected the previous issues of this volume of Birds of Prey. Dinah and Barbara are clearly good friends, good enough that they tolerate each other’s mistakes and can work past them. They’re both smart and awesome. The only thing I didn’t really care for is the art: way too much cheesecake. I dunno: maybe the editors at DC thought that nobody would buy a comic starring women unless they wear skimpy clothing and have a buttshot on every page…

Still, I’m rather enjoining my BoP reread. Savant is far from my favorite enemy but he’s ok and quite appropriate as an antagonist to the BoP. I did love the way that Babs finally handled him.

Collects Birds of Prey issues 12-21 and Nightwing 45-46 (1999-2000).

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Artist: Dick Giordano, Jordi Ensign, Patrick Zircher, Greg Land, Drew Geraci, Butch Guice, Jackson Guice

The collection starts with a bang, when Dinah is sneaking to a train guarded by heavily armored U. S. Marshalls. It turns out that they’re escorting supervillains and Oracle has been tipped off that someone is going to try to stop the train and get the villains. Also, Catwoman is on the train, too, which causes a misunderstanding between the Marshalls and Dinah. However, when a Boomtube brings the whole train to Apokolips, Dinah, the Marshalls, and Catwoman must combine forces to find a way out. Oracle is left behind. She contacts Power Girl but even Karen can’t follow Dinah to another planet. The story runs for three issues and we also find out who was the mysterious being who has manipulated Oracle lately.

In the next issue, a long-running subplot comes to an end when Barbara finally meets the person she’s been “seeing” on-line. The meeting takes place in a sci-fi convention which allows for a few gags. Meanwhile, Dinah finds out that her neighbor is in an abusive relationship and tries to intervene. On the background, news are talking about escalating conflict at the border Quarac and Karrocan emirate and in the final page we see a surprise envoy from that region who turns out to be none other than the Joker!

Perhaps not surprisingly, the next issue deals with the Joker and how he got involved in the foreign conflict. He also reveals to his interrogator that Quarac has armed missiles trained to New York.

In the next issue, Power Girl and the Black Canary try to destroy the missiles. However, some are launched and Oracle has to call in help from the US Government, in fact from the same people who are hunting her on-line. PG also reveals that she’s worked with Oracle before and that didn’t end well. Apparently, she’s still holds a grudge. This is an older version of PG without the infamous boob window and powers which come from Atlantean magic.

Next, Dinah is in Transbelvia, caught in an air raid. She and a group of locals are trapped on an underground station and she’s caught up between the two local groups of people who have different languages and customs, and a long-running and deep-seated hatred towards each other. While this is a serious and deserving issue, the story felt unconnected with the rest of the storyline.

In the next issue, Barbara is hanging out with the men in her life. Robin (Tim Drake although Barbara doesn’t know his identity) is helping her to wire her new VR room where she intends to train herself again for the field. Dick comes calling and soon both Ted Kord and Jason Bard come along, too. Meanwhile, Dinah is working in Hasaragua to stop an arms deal.

Then the longest storyline in the series starts. It’s a cross-over with Nightwing. Oracle has been stealing her funds from a Gotham crime boss Blockbuster and now he’s determined to find out and eliminate Oracle. His cronies Lady Vic and Brutale have ambushed the Black Canary in Hasaragua. He’s also captured Nightwing and his strange sidekick Tad and is torturing Dick for any information about Oracle. Meanwhile, Oracle is on the run. Blockbuster’s hired computer experts Giz and the Mouse are tracking her down.

This collection ends in a huge cliffhanger and it seems that the rest of the issues haven’t been collected (yet?). For the most part these were fun, action-packed issues but the abrupt ending is, of course, a disappointment when there’s no follow-up collection. So next I’m going to move to Gail Simone’s collected run.

Since the Joker is the one who shot Barbara and put her into the wheelchair, some sort of confrontation between them was inevitable. But this didn’t bring any closure. Of course, I didn’t expect Barbara to kill him or anything but… somehow the personal level just didn’t come through. Then again maybe I was expecting too much considering that both characters’ lives must continue the same.

Collects Birds of Prey issues 1-11 and Birds of Prey: Ravens 1 (from 1998).

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Greg Land, Drew Geraci, Nelson DeCastro, Peter Krause,

The first Birds of Prey run collected! The teamwork of Oracle and the Black Canary strengthens and so does their friendship, even though Dinah still doesn’t know who Oracle is.

In the first three issues Oracle sends Dinah to the small, tropical island of Rheelasia. The local warlord was deposed, and other men are trying to usurp his former position. Oracle has noticed that the place is attracting the scum of the world and sends Dinah there to sort things out. However, Dinah stumbles upon a very nasty man and his slave ring. She also stumbles upon Jason Bard, Oracle’s former fiancé. They’re captured together, and Dinah has to use all of her skills and ingenuity to get them free.

Next, we’re introduced to the Ravens, a group of bloodthirsty female mercenaries lead by Cheshire who is planning to betray her group right from the start. The four women are going after a huge bomb and not to disarm it, but to use it for themselves. At first, this seemed rather strange, and quite bloody, interlude but the Ravens are in the next storyline, too.

Then we return to the regular Birds of Prey. Dinah is taking a vacation at Lake Mackachithoo. Unfortunately for her, international crime syndicate Kobra has employed the three remaining Ravens to retrieve something for them at the same place. Also, the locals think that there’s a monster in the lake. This was good fun with time-travel to boot!

Then we have a couple of one-shot issues. First, Oracle sends Dinah to free a general from lynching. He’s a war criminal. Oracle wants him to get a fair trial which he isn’t likely to get without Dinah’s help. Dinah is, understandably, less than thrilled about her mission and the general. But she does her best.

Next one-shot guest-stars Nightwing when Dick and Barbara have a night out and go to a circus. They discuss their various lives and possibly maybe getting together again, but Babs doesn’t want that. (Too bad. While I’m always team Dick and Kory, Dick and Babs are very cute together, too.)

In the final storyline, Oracle sends Dinah to Koroscova to free a man who has been imprisoned unjustly. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a ruse by the Kobra Prime. Guest-starring Joe Gardner, Guy Gardner’s alien clone!

While all this is happening, Oracle is texting with someone on the internet and some (else?) is watching her through cameras. The latter was rather creepy but ended well. Also, she’s hacking a lot into the US government computers and using their satellites. This doesn’t go unnoticed and a team of US hackers assemble to take her down.

This was a fun read even though it touches on more somber stuff, like slavers and international human rights violations. Dinah and Oracle have their own battles. Oracle supports Dinah as much as she can but when the jewelry through which Oracle communicates is removed, Dinah is on her own. Of course, since Barbara refused to tell Dinah who she is, she’s also on her own.

Even though Greg Land is these days doing rather pornographic and/or blandly generic art, here he’s still better, rougher and more individual. Still, there’s a lot of cheesecake especially in the first storyline where we have Dinah running around in just a couple of skimpy, tattered rags. Then again, in the Ravens storyline, most of them have costumes that cover them completely! However, the way that the Ravens ended up stranded in time was really strange. Maybe they got their own comic with time travel adventures? I don’t know.

The sixth collection of Busiek’s superhero comics, issues 1-4 of Book one and 1-4 of Book two. It doesn’t require reading the previous collections.

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Eric Anderson

This is the tale of two brothers who were both greatly influenced by the superheroes and villains around them as well as the social upheaval in 1970s. They’re black and seeing a black superhero had profound impact. Also, an incident which killed their parents when they were young, was also very influential, of course. But that is shown to us slower over the first issues

The comic is divided into two books and both have several storylines. One follows the brothers’ lives and the other shows us the various heroes and what little we see of their adventures.

When they grow up, Charles becomes a police officer who tries to save and help people, especially in the devastating wake of the battles between super groups. But Royal becomes a petty criminal, taking advantage of people in any way he can. Neither of them likes superheroes much; they both cope in their own way with the disasters the heroes (inadvertently) bring to the human bystanders.

In the first book, the other storyline tells us the tale of Silver Agent who appears to have been one of the first superheroes. He’s caught on camera killing a foreign head of state as well as a few US soldiers. The book is set in 1972, so this incident throws the Vietnam peace talks into chaos and the US government arrests the Silver agent. Watergate and the peace talks color people’s perception of super heroes who make ordinary people, as especially their leaders, feel powerless and therefore resentful.

The second book is set in 1977 during a war between various mobster gang in Astro City. Royal gets a chance to climb the mobster ranks and Charles’ integrity gets a mighty blow when he finds out about police corruption.

The superheroes are also grittier. Some of the new heroes kill ordinary criminals, something that the previous wave of heroes didn’t do. The super hero storyline follows Street Angel and his new partner Black Velvet. Street Angel transforms into far more violent hero and Black Velvet can actually rip out people’s souls, so she’s violent to start with. Also, a new superpowered being hunts and kills ordinary criminals. People start to wonder just what is the difference between heroes and villains.

This isn’t a self-contained album, though. The brothers’ tale will continue in the next collection: book 7, Brothers in Arms.
Astro City showcases superheroes in a more ordinary setting than usual. They’re seen through the eyes of normal people who often don’t know what’s going on and are still victims of various large-scale attacks. Their attitude also changes with times and events. Nixon turns attention from Watergate to Silver Agent’s trial and the racial tensions are seen also among the heroes because there are very few non-white heroes and also very few female heroes, usually just one in a team. (yes, I know this book’s style deliberately first shows us the heroes of 60s and then 70s. But we did get Storm and Ms. Marvel in the seventies and I miss heroines like them. Maybe in the next book… Then again, we do get glimpses of several white female heroines while there seems to be only two black heroes in the whole story.) It was fun to compare the idealistic 60s heroes with the “tougher” (seeming) revenge based 70s heroes, though.

Personally, I tend to enjoy the four-color comics more, especially when they have more female and non-white characters. But this is very ambitious and well-told tale of grittier superheroing than usual.

Definitely recommended for people who want more realism in superhero stories.

Collects issues 1-18 of the digital comics.

Writer: Marguerite Bennett
Artists: Marguerite Sauvage, Laura Braga, Stephen Mooney, Ted Naifeh, Garry Brown, Bilquis Evely, Mirka Andolfo, Ming Doyle, Sandy Jarrell, M. L. Sanapo, Marc Deering

This is an alternate history story where the world is still embroiled in WW II. Many men are off in the war and so women have taken up their roles. The majority of heroes (and villains) in this story are women, reimagined into 1940.

Gotham is defended from muggers by Batwoman who is billionaire Kate Kane who lives with her lover detective Maggie Sawyer. Then commander Amanda Waller recruits her for the war effort. The Batwoman goes undercover in Berlin.

Meanwhile, near Greek coast Steve Trevor is fighting Nazi warplanes. He sees a group of women attacking all planes and his fighter goes down. The Amazons take him prisoner but their Princess Diana is interested in the news Steve brings from the outside world: of a great war where millions of people are being killed. The Amazons aren’t interested in the war and indeed their queen is going to execute Steve. But Diana together with her friend Princess Meru from Atlantis free Steve. They want to help fight the Nazis.

In Russia, Kara Starikov and Kortni Duginovna are part of the Russian female elite pilots, the Night Witches. However, on their first mission, Kara’s plane is destroyed and she’s forced to show her great powers. The Russians take her prisoner. In exchange for the lives of their parents, the girls agree to become figureheads for the Motherland: Supergirl and Stargirl.

In Berlin, Joker’s Daughter and Zatanna are preparing to bring about something monstrous to help the Nazis.

This is a very interesting reimagining, with many, many female characters. Big Barda is part of Waller’s organization. However, the story has lots of storylines, which makes it a bit fragmented. However, I’m sure all the storylines will join near the end. Personally, I would have liked to know the characters more and more about the world. Now we get quite short scenes with each character focusing heavily on the plot.

Zatanna is an interesting, conflicted character. She’s the daughter of a Jew and a Romani. So, Joker’s Daughter is essentially blackmailing her into working at the club and with the magic. Meanwhile, Diana, Mera, Kara, and the rest are very straightforward heroic people.
Despite having lots of artists, their styles actually seem pretty similar, so I didn’t have a problem with the art.

This is loads of fun! The only section that didn’t work for me was the Harley Quinn one, others I quite enjoyed, even if the art is rather cheesecakey.

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