On the Trail of Cool Adventure

Birds of Prey: Old Friends, New Enemies TPB
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artists: Dick Giordano, Greg Land

June 23, 2005

By Avi Green

Back in the mid-90s, Chuck Dixon first turned to Marvel with the idea of a female buddy series, and guess what? He was turned down.

Since then, that honor of having a femme buddy series has been bestowed upon two of DC’s leading ladies for starters, those being Black Canary and Oracle. In 1996, Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl, who’d been crippled by the Joker back in the late-80s, and since then took up a new role for herself as a “telephone operator” working under the code-name Oracle as a computer researcher, not just for Gotham’s resident crimefighters such as Batman, but also for many of the DCU’s other superheroes, sometimes offering them jobs in searching for various criminals and stopping various criminal operations going on around the world. And the main crimefighting partner she teamed up with was Dinah Lance, a short time after the [temporary] death of Green Arrow, during which time she’d decided to shed her secret identity, and since then, instead of wearing a blonde wig, she’s dyed her own dark hair blonde instead, and even thought to take up a new costume as well.

Since then, Oracle decided to hire BC to be her field operator, to whom she’s give the assignments via special earrings and a necklace she’d designed for her containing radio transmitters, and, later on, she let Dinah in on who she really was.

This trade collection is of two specials and 6 issues that began the ongoing series for both Black Canary and Oracle, and it’s certainly groovy fun. First of the specials compiled here is one which makes a point that was established post-Crisis, about Dinah Lance having been a teen bride before becoming taking up the mantle her mother held until retirement, and in this story, her ex-husband pays her a visit, because, as it turns out, or appears, he’s being chased by the mafia, for not paying up his debts to them, but, in truth, what he’s done is to steal a sophisticated credit card that can enable him to withdraw cash from their reserves almost anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, at the same time, Babs has been befriended by a seemingly charming businessman, who almost ran her over by accident when she was knocked into the street by some thugs who tried to steal her mini-van. In truth however, he’s really a gangster who specializes in hiring street thugs to help enforce his own attempts at robbery, and here, he’s hoping to rob Babs’ apartment after they head on back after lunch at a resturant. But, both girls prove quite effective in bringing down the baddies, who’re no match for their speed and their smarts, and afterwards, during a conversation on the subject, find that they may indeed have much more in common than they think.

The second special here is one wherein Babs has been taken prisoner by the new Spellbinder, who’s been putting her in a trance and pretending to be Black Canary, all in hopes of finding out where the Batcave is located, and Babs luckily figures it all out while still entranced, and manages to turn the tables on her.

Then, the ongoing series begins, with Dinah getting both a new research computer and her first assignment from Oracle, which is to try and bring down a South American drug and crime baron named Jackie Pamarjanian. And guess who turns up to help her as best as he can, but an old supporting character from the Bronze Age, Jason Bard, a detective who’d been an occasional boyfriend for Babs when he appeared in the mid-70s, and still turns up once in a while even today. He’s been going undercover for the same reasons that Dinah’s been going up against Pamarjanian, and together they’re able to help each other in order to escape from Pamarjanian’s clutches.

The next story arc here has Dinah tripping up to the midwest in Minnesota for a vacation at a lakeside resort on Lake Macachitahoo, but of course, evil forces will transpire to ensure that she’s got to remain on her toes, as the forces of the evil Kobra terrorist organization are attempting to recover a sunken sattelite that contains time travel technology, using the Ravens, a trio of female mercenaries, those being Cheshire, and also Vicious and Pistolera (who first called herself Gunbunny!). Cheshire, as some may know, is the mother of former Green Arrow sidekick Speedy/Arsenal’s child, Lian, and she first appeared in the 1983 New Teen Titans Annual. Here, she was at the helm of a trio, and the purpose of their being hired by Kobra Prime was in order to simply turn on a beacon signal so that they could track the machine and get ready to dredge it out. But as luck would have it, this apparently has the effect of turning on the machine’s time-warping effects as well, and causes the Ravens to travel back in time to the jurassic period, unknowingly until they get there and see for themselves. Which pretty much angers them so, that they decide upon returning through the time-warp to the present, to bash Kobra’s skull in, but which gives Black Canary, having already been alerted to the presence of Kobra in the area, an advantage in stopping them.

Another of the best parts here that I enjoyed was the subplot involving Babs' raiding of Blockbuster's funds for her own operations, while at the same time, her infiltrations into the Pentagon Air Force division's investigative files draws the ire of an annoyed USAF officer who's been running some shady dealings of his own, and as a result, when looking to bring down the hacker who's rummaging through his files, he feels it must be done in secret lest the whistle be blown upon him. This leads to his descending upon the presumed quarry's headquarters with a whole Air Force team in tow to capture the interloper, but not only do they end up finding Roland Desmond's computer technician instead, they get the stuffing beaten out of them by the big boss himself, who's not happy at their breaking in without a search warrant. What I found impressive about this is how it fairly resembles the way that the first administrator of the Captain Comics message board, whose screen name was "Cavalier" took to handling things when dealing with a pair of obnoxious journalists whose own screen names were "Sciurus Rex" and "Rose of Jericho": apparently, because they were of media backgrounds, he, and it is to be presumed, his boss as well, saw them as legitimate no matter what offenses they themselves committed, and despite the fact that quite a few people posting there would've been glad to see them go, did nothing to discipline them. Both Sciurus Rex and Rose of Jericho were eventually banished by a suceeding administrator, and nobody was sorry that they left. But what's impressive about the story subplot involving Blockbuster is that, while the USAF official from the Pentagon here is no more innocent than Blockbuster's own gang, the way that Roland Desmond approaches the whole situation is very similar in some ways to the very negligent, one-sided, to say nothing of discriminatory way in which Cavalier dealt with these two [married] journo-talking moonbats, both extremely uppity and vulgar they both were (which may have been one of the reasons why the former got fired from one of his newspapers later on, as I once discovered) a personality trait that seems to have become commonplace among a lot of moonbat-minded extremists in the US today. Simply put, just like Cavalier, Roland's not interested in if a person whom he considers a close associate has done anything wrong, even if he did something foul; only the actions of the "provokers" have any meaning to him, and only they are to blame.

For coming up with such a very good analogy of a real life occurance like the one I described above, what can I say? Dixon, you da man!

Dixon’s beginning on the adventures of Black Canary and Oracle as a team together, initially via radio communications, is a lot of fun, and features plenty of funny moments, and the banter between the two ladies is greatly entertaining. His characterization of both leading ladies is also very strong, and it was here that Dinah Lance really began to come into her own as a character. The book also gave Greg Land his first start on being an artist, and as such, he does a great job in drawing beautiful women, and in drawing Dinah looking cool and confident.

Dixon’s take on the Birds of Prey is certainly a great place to start in reading about the adventures of Black Canary and Oracle, who’re both cool chicks and cool kittens, and is a great start to one of the best female buddy series of the 21st century.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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