Return of the Fishnets and Fun

Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds TPB
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Ed Benes
Inker: Alex Lei

July 19, 2005

By Avi Green

When Chuck Dixon left Birds of Prey in 2002, after three years of scripting the ongoing series, nobody knew at first where it was destined to go next. But, not to worry, soon enough, a most interesting choice for writer, Gail Simone, was chosen to take over, and her being a humorist, this helped a lot in adding to the suspense story she’d write here for starters. And if that’s not enough, guess who’s been brought into the central cast here, but Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress.

The Birds are working on a case involving a small-time businessman who’s been blackmailed by his boss, and Canary is tricked into heading over to the man’s apartment, where she’s ambushed by the crooked crime boss and his henchman. The head honcho is Savant, a Gothamite who’d once tried to be a costumed vigilante, but dropped out of it in part because Batman had once scolded him due to his being more concerned about catching the arsonists who’d set an apartment on fire than rescuing the tenants inside, and for the Masked Manhunter, this is a priority. The flashback scene depicting this is also a good presentation of what Batman is really like, certainly when written well, and is but one of the many qualities to be found in a lot of Simone’s work: she does a very good job of humanizing the characters.

Not only has Savant now turned to crime, but he’s also become a master computer researcher, and is almost as good as Babs is in the field of computer software.

Savant and his henchman, Creote, are holding Canary hostage in hopes of finding out Batman’s real identity, and is trying to blackmail Oracle, whom he knows is Dinah’s partner, into being the one who’ll give him what he wants. But Dinah’s not going to let herself be taken down so easily as a pawn in a game of wits, and neither is Oracle.

While Dinah is planning how she’ll escape, even with her legs broken, Oracle calls the Huntress to help in finding and rescuing Black Canary. Since Huntress is already working on a case of some crazy kidnappers, so they deal with Helena Bertinelli’s own case first, with Oracle helping to track down the exact location of the criminals, and when ambushed by one of them, Huntress succeeds in showing the creep what she’s made of, before taking down the two other kidnappers and saving the child they were holding. Then, she’s off to find Savant and his bodyguard and save Black Canary, who’s already managed to escape her bonds and is now trying to defy the thin-skinned Savant, who’s determined to stop her from getting away.

This is probably my very first exposure to Simone’s writing, and it really made me feel charmed. She really knows how to make Black Canary and Oracle and even Huntress, whom Dinah persuades Babs to make part of their operating team – human.

And the artwork by Benes and Lei is a real guilty pleasure to behold. Under them, all three ladies look positively stunning and sexy. Huntress’ S&M outfit, which first was shown in Batman: Gotham Knights #40 in 2003 (reviewed here along with the other two parts of the story arc it's part of), has admittedly drawn a mixed response, but, that’s all part of the idea here: she’s meant to be as funny as she is a tough chick in that particular sense with it. And new outfit or not, Paul Levitz’s Bronze Age creation is quite an effective fighter here, as fierce and unafraid as she usually is ever since Joey Cavalieri reintroduced her in 1989, along with original penciler Joe Staton, in her very own series, which was sadly short-lived at the time. The part where a car lot attendant asks her out on a blind date was one of the most amusing parts of the book. The ponytail hairdo that Dinah's got here is wild.

And Simone’s working in a female perspective for the book works very well in its favor too. I can tell that this is why some very PC-lunatics in the mainstream media, or in similar outfits, seem to be bothered by it: The approach simply does not suit their very ultra-PC viewpoints. Nor in fact does the fact that the story is meant to be FUN suit their double-talking/thinking viewpoints either.

Simone also does very well in focusing on Dinah's personality and background, on her flashing back to when she took up lessons with a prominent Kung Fu master in Hong Kong, to whom she was like a daughter at times, to the point where he didn't want to hurt her any more than he might. It's a very touching part.

The ending, in which the Birds bring down Savant, is simply hilarious, including how he reveals himself to be quite a chauvinist in vain. And Simone has very easily put herself right next to Dixon, Denny O’Neil, and even Elliot Maggin as one of the best writers who’s made me appreciate the Black Canary for who she is.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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