Birds of Prey volume 1


By Chuck Dixon, Jordan Gorfinkel, Gary Frank, Jennifer Graves, Matt Haley, Sal Buscema, Stefano Raffaele, Dick Giordano, Greg Land & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-5816-0 (TPB)

Truly groundbreaking at the time, the exploits of the Birds of Prey recount the missions and lives of a rotating team of female crime-fighters led by Barbara Gordon, the computer genius known as Oracle. Daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, her own career as Batgirl was ended when the Joker blew out her spine in a terrifying kidnap attempt. Trapped in a wheelchair, she hungered for justice and sought new ways to make a difference in a very bad world…

Reinventing herself as a covert information gatherer for the Batman’s clique of avengers and defenders, she became an invaluable resource for the entire superhero community, but in the first of these collected tales Babs undertakes a new project that will allow her to become an even more effective crusader against injustice…

This volume contains numerous one-shots, specials and miniseries that successfully introduced a mindblowing blend of no-nonsense bad-girl attitude and spectacular all-out action which finally convinced timid editorial powers-that-be of the commercial viability of a team composed of nothing but female superheroes.

Who could possibly have guessed that some readers would like effective, positive, clever women kicking evil butt, and that boys would follow the adventures of violent, sexy, usually underdressed chicks hitting bad-guys – and occasionally each other …? Or even eventually spawn their own TV series and sub-genre?

The issues gathered here – Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1, Birds of Prey: Revolution, a pertinent section of Showcase ’96 #3, Birds of Prey: Manhunt #1-4, Birds of Prey: Revolution #1, Birds of Prey: Wolves #1 and Birds of Prey: Batgirl #1 (spanning June 1996 – February 1998) – comprise a breathtaking riot of dynamic, glossy crime-busting, heavily highlighting the kind of wickedness costumed crusaders usually ignore: white collar and thoroughly black-hearted…

The first tale ‘One Man’s Hell’, written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Gary Frank & John Dell, is set at a time when veteran martial arts crime-crusher Black Canary was slowly going to hell after the death of her long-time lover Oliver Queen. Of course, he got better a few years later (don’t they all?)…

Broke, uncontrolled and hell-bent on self-destruction, the increasingly violent and adrenaline-addicted heroine is contacted by a mysterious unseen presence and dispatched to a third world country to investigate a series of “terrorist attacks” that always seem to profit one unimpeachably benevolent philanthropist…

With nothing left to lose, Canary undertakes the tragically brutal mission and gains an impossibly valuable prize… purpose.

Peppered with an intriguing array of guest-stars and villains, this socially-conscious high-octane thriller established the Canary as one of the most competent and engaging combatants of the DCU and a roving agent of conscience and retribution more than capable of tackling the villainous scum who were clever enough to stay below the regular superhero radar: a reputation enhanced in the sequel ‘Revolution’.

Here Dixon, Stefano Raffaele & Bob McLeod craft a superbly compelling tale from a time when Oracle was no more than a rumour to everybody but Batman and the Canary, who got “intel” and advice from an anonymous voice that came by phone, text or the radio-jewellery of her new costume. Canary and her silent partner track a human trafficking ring to the rogue state of Santa Prisca and stumble into a dirty campaign by American interests to topple the standing dictator. Not for long…

When the venerable Showcase title was revived in the 1990s it was as a monthly anthology highlighting old unemployed characters and events already originated, rather than wholly new concepts, swiftly becoming a place to test the popularity of the company’s bit players with a huge range of heroes and team-ups passing through its eclectic pages. This made it a perfect place to trot out the new team for a broader audience who might have ignored the one-shots.

Showcase ‘96 #3 cover-starred Black Canary and Lois Lane, featuring a frantic collusion between the reporter, the street fighter and the still “silent partner” Oracle in a tale scripted by series editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel, laid out by Jennifer Graves and finished by Stan Woch. ‘Birds of a Feather’ finds Superman’s then Girlfriend and the Birds taking out a metahuman gangmaster who enslaves migrant workers to work in Metropolis’ secret sweat shops. Punchy and potent, the tales led to a 4-issue miniseries which introduced a new wrinkle in the format… teaming Oracle and Canary with an ever-changing cast of DC’s Fighting Females.

‘Manhunt’ has Dixon again scripting a breakneck, raucous thriller which begins ‘Where Revenge Delights’ (illustrated by Matt Haley & Wade Von Grawbadger) as the Birds’ pursuit of a philandering embezzler and scam-artist leads them into heated conflict and grudging alliance with The Huntress – a mob-busting vigilante who even Batman thinks plays too rough…

She also wants the revoltingly skeevy Archer Braun (whom she knows and loathes as Tynan Sinclair) but her motives seem a good deal more personal…

The two active agents cautiously agree to cooperate but the mix gets even headier after Selina Kyle invites herself to the lynching party in ‘Girl Crazy’ (with additional inking from John Lowe).

Canary consents – over the strident objections of the never-more-helpless and frustrated Oracle. Braun, it seems, is into bigger, nastier crimes than anyone suspected and has made the terminal error of bilking the notorious Catwoman

Fed up with Babs shouting in her ear, Canary goes off-line subsequently getting captured by Braun, ‘The Man That Got Away’ (inked by Cam Smith) and clearly a major threat. He might even be a covert metahuman…

Shanghaied to a criminal enclave in Kazakhstan for the stunning conclusion ‘Ladies Choice’ (with art from Sal Buscema, Haley & Von Grawbadger) Canary is more-or-less rescued by the unlikely and unhappy pairing of Catwoman and Huntress, but none of them is ready or able to handle Braun’s last surprise – Lady Shiva Woosan, the world’s greatest martial arts assassin…

The eponymously entitled Birds of Prey: Revolution (#1, February 1997, limned by Stefano Raffeale & Bob McLeod) then switches locale to Caribbean rogue state and playground of the evil idle rich Santa Prisca, where the Canary trusts the wrong allies but still manages to shut down a human trafficking ring and drug-peddling general with delusions of grandeur.

Another one-shot came cover-dated October as Birds of Prey: Wolves #1 (illustrated by Dick Giordano & Wayne Faucher) saw long-festering tensions over suitable targets seemingly split the duo. However, after separately stopping Ukrainian mobsters and a gang of high-tech home invaders, the warrior women realize that flying solo is for the birds and that they are better together…

The action and adventure pause for the nonce after Birds of Prey: Batgirl #1 (February 1998, with art by Greg Land & Drew Geraci) offers a baffling mystery, with a somehow fully physically functional Batgirl battling beside Black Canary to end the threat of the mindbending Mad Hatter and a host of Batman’s most vicious foes. All is obviously not as it seems, but the true nature of the spellbinding threat is almost too much for cerebral savant Oracle. Almost…

These rollercoaster rides of thrills, spills and beautifully edgy, sardonic attitude finally won the Birds their own regular series which quickly became one of DC’s best and most consistently engaging superhero adventure series of its era.

This opening salvo is both groundbreaking and fantastically fun, and will delight any comics Fights ‘n’ Tights follower.
© 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2015 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Birds of Prey


By Chuck Dixon, Jordan Gorfinkel, Gary Frank & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-574-8

Birds of Prey recounts the missions and lives of a rotating team of female crime-fighters led by Barbara Gordon, the computer genius known as Oracle. Daughter of the Police Commissioner of Gotham City, her own career as Batgirl was ended when the Joker blew out her spine in a terrifying kidnap attempt. Trapped in a wheelchair she hungered for justice and sought new ways to make a difference in a very bad world…

Reinventing herself as a covert information gatherer for the Batman’s clique of avengers and defenders, she gradually became an invaluable resource for the entire superhero community, but in the first of these collected tales Babs undertakes a new project that will allow her to become an even more effective crusader against injustice…

This volume contains the one-shots, specials and miniseries that successfully introduced a spellbinding blend of sassy bad-girl attitude and spectacular all-out action which finally convinced timid editorial powers-that-be of the commercial viability of a team composed of nothing but female superheroes.

Who could possibly have guessed that some readers would like effective, positive, clever women kicking evil butt, and that boys would follow the adventures of violent, sexy, usually underdressed chicks hitting bad-guys – and occasionally each other …?

The issues gathered here, Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1, Birds of Prey: Revolution, the pertinent section of Showcase ’96 #3 and Birds of Prey: Manhunt #1-4 form a breathtaking riot of dynamic, glossy crime-busting heavily highlighting the kind of wickedness costumes crusaders usually ignore, white collar and black-hearted…

The first tale ‘One Man’s Hell’, written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Gary Frank & John Dell, is set at a time when veteran martial arts crime-crusher Black Canary was slowly going to hell after the death of her long-time lover Green Arrow (of course he got better a few years later – see Green Arrow: Quiver for details).

Broke, uncontrolled and hell-bent on self-destruction, the increasingly violent and adrenaline-addicted heroine was contacted by a mysterious unseen presence and dispatched to an third world country to investigate a series of “terrorist attacks” that always seemed to profit one unimpeachably benevolent philanthropist…

With nothing left to lose Canary undertook the tragically brutal mission and gained an impossibly valuable prize… purpose.

Peppered with an intriguing array of guest-stars and villains this socially-conscious high-octane thriller established the Canary as one of the most competent and engaging combatants of the DCU and a roving agent of conscience and retribution more than capable of tackling the villainous scum who were clever enough to stay below the regular superhero radar: a reputation enhanced in the sequel ‘Revolution’.

Dixon, Stefano Raffaele & Bob McLeod crafted a superbly compelling tale wherein she and her silent partner (at this time Oracle was no more than a rumour to everybody but Batman and the Canary, who got “intel” and advice from an anonymous voice that came by phone, text or the radio-jewellery of her new costume) tracked a human trafficking ring to the rogue state of Santa Prisca and stumbled into a dirty campaign by American interests to topple the standing dictator.

When the venerable Showcase title was revived in the 1990s it was as a monthly anthology that highlighted old unemployed characters and events already originated rather than new wholly new concepts, swiftly becoming a place to test the popularity of the company’s bit players with a huge range of heroes and team-ups passing through its eclectic pages. This made it a perfect place to trot out the new team for a broader audience who might have ignored the one-shots.

Showcase ’96 #3 cover-starred Black Canary and Lois Lane, featuring a frantic collusion between the reporter, the street fighter and the still “silent partner” Oracle in a tale scripted by series editor Jordan B. Gorfinkel, laid out by Jennifer Graves and finished by Stan Woch. ‘Birds of a Feather’ found Superman’s then Girlfriend and the Birds taking out a metahuman gangmaster who had enslaved migrant workers to work in Metropolis’ secret sweat shop. Punchy and potent it led to the four-issue miniseries which ends this volume whilst introducing a new wrinkle in the format… teaming Oracle and Canary with an ever-changing cast of DC’s Fighting Females.

‘Manhunt’ saw Dixon again script a breakneck, raucous thriller which began ‘Where Revenge Delights’ (illustrated by Matt Haley & Wade Von Grawbadger) as the Birds’ pursuit of a philandering embezzler and scam-artist lead them into heated conflict with The Huntress – a mob-busting vigilante who even Batman thinks plays too rough. She also wanted the revoltingly skeevy Archer Braun (whom she knows and loathes as Tynan Sinclair) but her motives seem a good deal more personal…

The two active agents cautiously agree to cooperate but the mix gets even headier when Selina Kyle invites herself to the lynching party in ‘Girl Crazy’ (with additional inking from John Lowe). Canary consents over the strident objections of the never-more helpless and frustrated Oracle. Braun, it seems, is into bigger crimes than anyone suspected and has made the terminal error of bilking the notorious Catwoman…

Fed up with Babs shouting in her ear Canary goes off-line, subsequently getting captured by Braun, ‘The Man That Got Away’ (inked by Cam Smith) and clearly a major threat. He might even be a covert metahuman…

Shanghaied to a criminal enclave in Kazakhstan for the stunning conclusion ‘Ladies Choice’ (art by Sal Buscema, Haley & Von Grawbadger) Canary is more-or-less rescued by the unlikely and unhappy pairing of Catwoman and Huntress, but none of them is ready or able to handle Braun’s last surprise – Lady Shiva Woosan, the world’s greatest martial arts assassin…

This rollercoaster ride of thrills, spills and beautifully edgy, sardonic attitude finally won the Birds their own regular series which quickly became one of DC’s best and most consistently engaging superhero adventure series. This opening salvo is both groundbreaking and fantastically fun, and will delight any comics Fights ‘n’ Tights follower as well as anyone woman who’s ever had a man in her life…
© 1996, 1997, 2002 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding album


By Judd Winick, Cliff Chiang, Amanda Conner & André Coehlo (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1841-6

Green Arrow is Oliver Queen, a cross between Batman and Robin Hood and one of DC’s Golden All-Stars. He’s been a fixture of the company’s landscape – often for no discernable reason – more or less continually since his debut in More Fun Comics # 73 in 1941. During those heady days origins weren’t as important as image and storytelling so creators Mort Weisinger and George Papp never bothered, leaving later workmen France Herron, Jack Kirby and his wife Roz to fill in the blanks with ‘The Green Arrow’s First Case’ at the start of the Silver Age superhero revival (Adventure Comics #256, January 1959).

As a fixture of the DC Universe since the early 1940s GA was one of the few costumed heroes to survive the end of the Golden Age, consistently adventuring in the back of other heroes’ comic books, joining the Justice League during the Silver Age return of costumed crusaders and eventually evolving into a spokes-hero of the anti-establishment during the 1960’s period of “Relevant” comics, courtesy of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams.

Under Mike Grell’s 1980/1990s stewardship he became a gritty and popular A-Lister; an urban hunter who dealt harshly with corporate thugs, government spooks and serial killers rather than costumed goof-balls.

And then he was killed and his son took over the role.

And then the original was brought back…

Black Canary was one of the first of the relatively few female furies in the DC universe, following Wonder Woman, Liberty Belle and Red Tornado (who actually masqueraded as a man) and predating Merry the Gimmick Girl. She was created by Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, debuting in Flash Comics #86, August 1947. She disappeared with most of the other super-doers at the end of the Golden Age, only to be revived with the Justice Society of America in 1963.

Originally an Earth-2 crimefighter transplanted to our world, she has been ruthlessly retconned over and again, and (currently) Dinah Laurel Lance is the daughter of an earlier, war-time heroine. However you feel about the character two consistent facts have remained since her reintroduction and assimilation in Justice League of America #73-75 (see Showcase Presents Justice League of America volume 4): she has vied with Wonder Woman herself for the title of premiere heroine and she has been in a stormy romantic relationship with Green Arrow.

The affair which began during of the Summer of Love finally reached a dramatic culmination a few years ago when the couple at last named the day, and this fearsomely dramatic and cripplingly funny tome gathers those unforgettable moments in a celebratory chronicle that will warm the hearts and chill the souls of sentimental thrill seekers everywhere.

Reprinting Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special and issues #1-5 of the monthly Green Arrow and Black Canary comicbook, the saga begins with a hilariously immature retelling of the path to wedlock from scripter Judd Winick and Amanda Conner: spats, tender moments, hen-nights, stag-parties and a tremendous battle as a huge guard of dishonour comprising most of the villains in the DCU attack the assembled heroes when they’re “off-guard”.

Naturally the bad-guys are defeated, the ceremony concludes and the newlyweds head off to enjoy their wedding night.

And then in circumstances I’m not going to spoil for you Green Arrow dies again…

Obviously it doesn’t end there. For the start of their new series and the story-arc ‘Dead Again’, by Winick and Cliff Chiang, Ollie Queen is only seen in flashbacks as the Black Widow Canary goes on a brutal crime-crushing rampage. ‘Here Comes the Bride’ finds her slowly going off the rails and only Ollie’s son Conner Hawke seems able to get through to her where friends like Green Lantern, Superman, Oracle and even Ollie’s old sidekicks Speedy and Red Arrow tell her to move on.

As usual it takes the ultra-rational Batman to divine what really happened on the wedding night…

In ‘The Naked and the Not-Quite-So-Dead’ Dinah and Mia Dearden – the new Speedy -infiltrate the island home of the miscreants who have abducted and imprisoned Green Arrow (notice how vague I’m being; all for your benefit?) where Ollie is already proving to be more trouble than he can possibly be worth. Conner is also on hand and whilst attempting to spring his wayward dad also falls captive to overwhelming forces…

‘Hit and Run, Run, Run!’ ramps up the tension as the heroes all escape but not before one of their number is gravely wounded by a new mystery assailant, and in ‘Dead Again: Please Play Where Daddy Can See You’ it’s Ollie’s turn to fall apart as his wounded young protégé fights for life.

The book concludes in the heart-warming ‘Child Support’ with another series of poignant flashbacks describing Green Arrow’s history and his extended family of sidekicks before Dinah leads Ollie back from the brink of utter despair…

Green Arrow and Black Canary are characters that epitomise the modern adventure hero’s best qualities, even if in many ways they are also the most traditional of “Old School” champions. This is a cracking example of Fights ‘n’ Tights done right and is well worth an investment of your money and time.

© 2007, 2008 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter

Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter

By Gail Simone, Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-773-0

Gail Simone ended her spectacular and compelling run as writer on this wonderful series with this volume, which collects Birds of Prey #104-108. In it her new team of rotating women adventurers must travel to post-Soviet Azerbaijan at the behest of Uber-Spook Spy Smasher who has wrested control of the team from Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker who used to be Batgirl. By blackmail and Federal intimidation (see Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits, ISBN: 1-84576-564-8) an old College rival now controls the most effective, pro-active superhuman task force on Earth.

Thinking they’re intercepting a clandestine super-weapon, the Birds team, consisting here of Big Barda, Hawkgirl, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, the new Manhunter and an eccentric and troubled teen teleporter named Misfit, run afoul of the newly named criminal mercenaries Secret Six (best known to regular readers as the ambiguous super-criminals of Villains United (ISBN 1-84576-232-0). Hip-deep in snow and psychopaths, it’s only then that the ladies realise there’s a deeper, more dangerous scheme in play.

As usual the best laid plans go awry, resulting in deliciously gratuitous combat action, before the volume concludes satisfactorily, if a little precipitously, in a guest-star packed final showdown with the obnoxious Spy-Smasher. Gail Simone moved on to tackle the troubled Wonder Woman series, but the body of work she’s produced on Birds of Prey ranks as some of the best and certainly most accessible superhero comics of the past thirty years. If you crave sassy, clever, glamorous action-adventure grab this book – and all the others too.

© 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved

Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits

Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits

By Gail Simone, & various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-564-8

The team of crime-fighting super-women regroup only to go their separate ways in this volume (collecting issues #96-103) of adventures from the monthly DC comic-book. Black Canary has returned from her sabbatical bringing with her a young girl named Sin who was being trained as the next Shiva (a martial arts super assassin) and for whom she intends a “normal” life. However she and the rest of the team are soon drawn into a battle with troubled teen Lori Zechlin (whose alter-ego Black Alice has the ability to steal the power of any magic user on Earth) when the criminal alliance known as The Society attempts to recruit her.

Team-leader Oracle has her own problems as a new Batgirl (Oracle’s previous heroic persona, before she lost the use of her legs) is interfering in her operations, but the real threat is the vengeance-crazed gun-freak Yasemin who wants the team dead.

Eventually the pace forces the Canary to resign in order to raise Sin, so after a highly entertaining retelling of her career she leaves and Oracle redefines the team and the methodology for the anniversary 100th issue. Henceforth she will call on a broader range of female agents, defined by the missions themselves.

The first of these is to rescue seventeen year old Tabitha Brennan from a Mexican prison, where she’s being held to exert influence on her mobster turned supergrass father. This time the “Mission Impossible” team comprises Big Barda, Judomaster, Manhunter, Lady Blackhawk and Huntress but even as the plan goes typically awry a new more dangerous adversary is preparing to act against the Birds, in the form of US Government spook Katerina Armstrong – Spy Smasher, who wants the team to work for her, and who always gets what she wants…

Consistently superb, Gail Simone’s scripting (assisted here by Tony Bedard) has made this title one of the best superhero series on the market and when coupled with the wonderful artwork of such talents as Nichols Scott, Paulo Siqueira, James Raiz, Doug Hazlewood and Robin Riggs, these funny, sassy, sharp thrillers never ever disappoint.

© 2007 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch

Birds of Prey: Perfect Pitch

By Gail Simone, & various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-423-4

One of DC’s best and most consistent action adventure series, Birds of Prey recounts the missions and lives of a rotating team of female crime-fighters led by Barbara Gordon, the computer genius known as Oracle. Daughter of the Police Commissioner of Gotham City, her own career as Batgirl was ended when the Joker destroyed her spine in a terrifying kidnap attempt. This volume comprises stories that neatly straddle either side of the Infinite Crisis/One Year Later publishing events.

The Crisis was a massive re-setting of the DC universe involving cosmic upheaval, space war, the unleashing of wild magic, a anti-metahuman conspiracy and a global uniting of the world’s super-villains as well as the assault on reality by the sole survivors of the 1980s blockbuster Crisis on Infinite Earths, whilst One Year Later restarted the continuity of the DC Universe for all characters 365 days after the conclusion of said Crisis. This narrative ploy allowed the adventures to unfold with an aura of solidity and veracity whilst creating ready-made mysteries to intrigue the readers.

This volume (collecting issues #86-90 and #92-95 of the monthly comic book) starts with a delightful triptych of vignettes from guest illustrators Adriana Melo & Will Conrad (Lady Blackhawk), Bruce Timm (Black Canary) and David Lopez & Fernando Blanco (The Huntress), which serves as a deceptive set-up for the next story-arc.

The confederation of villains called the Society has a counterpart to Oracle. The Calculator, an obsessive knowledge-broker, is going crazy trying to discover his electronic rival’s identity and so instigates a deadly Machiavellian plot to solve his problem. Squandering Society resources he kidnaps one of her operatives to force a revelation from the team, whilst simultaneously employing super-assassin Deathstroke to kill everybody before his own bosses discover his mistakes. This superb and hyper-tense thriller has guest-shots from Batman and Green Arrow but the real pay-off (as always) comes from the grit and resilience of the core team. Gail Simone continues to show why she’s one of the most popular action writers in the business and the enthralling art is divided between Joe Bennett & Jack Jadson, Eddy Barrows & Robin Riggs, Paulo Siqueira, Adam Dekraker & Riggs again.

Issue #92 was the Infinite Crisis tie-in, so this volume excludes it and resumes One Year Later with a new team cleaning up Gotham’s super-villains since Batman and Robin have been missing since the Crisis ended. Replacing Black Canary is Lady Shiva, the world’s deadliest woman, and a ruthless killer. The Canary is deep in the jungles of Indo-China, being subjected to a brutalizing retraining at a sinister Martial Arts training Camp. As she hones her skill her old team-mates are trying to save a little girl from being killed because her father betrayed The Society.

The narrative device of resuming storytelling in the middle works well in this case. Not knowing how we got here enhances the tension of this two-track drama, the art and action (from Siqueira & Riggs, and Joe Prado & Dick Giordano) are utterly engrossing and Simone’s deftness with dialogue and character, not to mention the skilful way she drops clues and references to the unseen recent past teases without confusing.

Despite all the potential bewilderment that the continuity shuffling might have caused, this is still a superb superhero thriller with as much to offer the newcomer as the dedicated fan. All action comics should be this good.

© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Birds of Prey: Between Dark and Dawn

Birds of Prey: Between Dark and Dawn 

By Gail Simone & various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-240-1

Dyed-in-the-wool super-hero fans and neophytes alike would be well advised to follow this series, featuring a more-or-less rotating team of DC’s female crime-busters, led and co-ordinated by the mysterious ‘Oracle’ (wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, daughter of Batman’s buddy Commissioner Gordon and an ex-super-hero herself) as they target the less flashy and more insidious threats to the DC universe.

This volume (collecting issues #69-75 of the monthly comic series) features a turning point in the fortunes of this idiosyncratic team, as, following the infiltration and eventual destruction of a religious cult that seems to be inducing teenagers to worship costumed heroes and commit suicide, they have to save their own leader from an insidious and overwhelming form of technological possession. Also included are a edgily hilarious change of pace as the girls invade a secret meeting where all the super-criminals’ hench-persons get together to form a union, plus an epilogue to the Batman publishing event War-Games where, following the loss of their secret headquarters in Gotham City, the Birds transfer their base of operations to a airliner and take their mission ‘on the road’, looking for evil pro-actively.

Gail Simone has cornered the market on smart, savvy and capable women who can square off with the best that the testosterone-charged heroes and villains of comics can produce, and yet still keep all the protagonists recognisably female – in word and action instead of merely in shape – although if you do like to look at pretty girls drawn well, a selection of more than capable artists have that well in hand. Indisputably, this is one of the top super-hero series being published today.

© 2004, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved

Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student

Birds of Prey: Sensei & Student

By Gail Simone & various (DC Comics)
ISBN 1-84576-027-1

The Birds of Prey concept has always been hugely enjoyable. Whether it’s the kick-ass hotties or the strong ties to the Batman universe, or perhaps simply the higher than average standard of the writing, these tales never fail to entertain. After being crippled by the Joker, the wheelchair-bound Batgirl recreated herself to fight evil as a knowledge resource for super-heroes before eventually forming her own strike force comprised of a fluctuating roster of women crime-fighters. An apparent similarity to Charlie’s Angels doesn’t seem to hurt either.

This volume (reprinting issues 62-68 of the regular monthly comic book) focuses on the early days of Black Canary, who is summoned to Hong Kong and the bedside of her dying kung fu teacher. There she meets fellow student and rival Shiva, universally acclaimed as the deadliest woman alive. Never friends, they find themselves thrown together to foil a murder-revenge scheme. As if all the martial arts brouhaha were not enough, the rest of her fellow crime fighters are embroiled in thwarting a contiguous plot to steal the near omniscient database of team leader Oracle (nee Batgirl).

This is a good old-fashioned rollercoaster that’s not afraid to be fun as well as a clear rival to the best of blockbuster action movies, and well worth your attention.

© 2004 DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Birds of Prey: The Battle Within

Birds of Prey: The Battle Within 

By Simone, & various

(DC Comics) ISBN 1-84576-352-1

Dyed-in-the-wool superhero fans and neophytes alike would be well advised to follow this series. It features a more-or-less rotating team of DC’s female crime-busters, led and co-ordinated by the mysterious ‘Oracle’ (wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, formerly known as Batgirl), as they target the less flashy and more insidious threats to the DC universe.

This volume (collecting issues #76-85 of the monthly comic series) begins with the Birds living in a hi-tech jetliner, proactively seeking out villains and vigilantes across America. First call is Dayton, Ohio, where a traumatised high school girl discovers she can pay everyone back using her ability to steal the powers of any magical force in the DC universe. Then they hit Peo Ridge, Kansas to stop a ghostly serial killer called Harvest who can literally suck the life out of her victims, usually men who abuse women. Metropolis gets a visit next, and a guest shot from the Thorn, whose one woman war on crime brings her to the attention of Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and Co. A major sub-plot throughout these tales is Oracle’s increasing fascination with the virtual technology of the Brainiac computer that previously took her over.

The remainder of the volume is taken up with an extended storyline featuring Wildcat, a World War II hero who latterly trained most of the female fighters in the DCU. In a sting operation lead by Black Canary, the team tries to dry up the drug trade in Gotham by “buying” all the merchandise from the big boss supplier in Singapore. Naturally things don’t go quite according to plan, with spectacular results for not just crime buffs but any fan of martial arts mayhem.

Gail Simone once shows her mastery of action adventure and capable women, aided and abetted by a fine selection of very talented artists such as Joe Bennett, Ed Benes, Tom Derenick, Joe Prado, Eddy Barrows, Jack Jackson, Bob Petrecca and Robin Riggs. These romps are hard to beat and impossible to put down.

© 2004, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved