The best friendships are the ones where, even after long stretches of little communication, everyone picks up right where they left off. There are no awkward pauses or, worse, internal monologues about how it’s just not the same.
For fans of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey run, reading issue #1 of the revived series is like that great reunion with an old friend. Simone stepped away from the book three years ago, and it was canceled in 2009. However, she and original collaborator Ed Benes have wasted no time in returning the Birds to classic, crime-busting form — and we missed them terribly. (Spoilers await.)
The four-part “Endgame” story opens in Iceland, where Black Canary has arrived to rescue a diplomat’s 5-year-old daughter from a terrorist/kidnapper. The beauty of this sequence is that it firmly re-establishes Dinah Lance as one of the world’s most skilled combatants, obliterating the sad-sack wife nonsense other writers saddled her with. Let’s just say there’s a lot of blood on the snow in Reykjavik, and it’s not Dinah’s. Or the 5-year-old’s.
Shortly, Oracle begins reassembling the team to deal with an anonymous mofo who has a frightening amount of information about the Birds and all their friends/associates. Zinda is dispatched to recruit Hawk and Dove, one of whom has some serious anger management issues. (I wouldn’t have held it against Hawk if he’d tossed that silly, bank-robbing cheerleader off the roof, but that’s just me.) The addition of these newbies to a well-established group is potentially rich with drama, and I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone adjusts, or doesn’t.
Simone’s affection for these characters comes through on every page, especially in the funny, familiar banter that flies between Canary, Zinda, Huntress and Oracle. The Birds also look fabulous, thanks to Benes’ gourmet cheesecake illustrations and colorist Nei Ruffino’s glowing, moody palette, which really suits poured-on leather under moonlight. Those panels of Huntress cracking skulls while talking to Oracle via cell phone could launch 1,000 gym memberships alone.
As if that weren’t enough, the Big Villain Reveal on the final page is a total surprise, and still a bit of a mystery. I figured it would be Lady Shiva, or even a tween Sin, but the ending suggests that our heroines are in for even bigger trouble. It is totally on — and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve enjoyed comic books and the characters since I was young, but for a long time, it was more from a distance. I’d admire them in a bookstore, peruse a boyfriend’s long box or, on occasion, borrow a trade. But I didn’t collect and follow comics myself — that is, until I met the Birds: Babs, Dinah, Helena and Zinda, as written by Gail Simone and drawn by Ed Benes, hold a sacred place in my heart.
I had just started a new job a few years ago when the topic of comic books somehow came up with the IT guy who was setting up my computer. He asked if I was into them, and I was all, “Sure. Kinda.” I told him I was really into Wonder Woman and chicks who kick ass. He said he had something for me, and the next day, there was a stack of Birds of Prey trade paperbacks on my desk.
I opened the first one that following Saturday morning, and I couldn’t put them down. I was so enthralled that I read until my eyes couldn’t focus, and I developed a monumental headache. I kept on reading.
It is because of those very books that I go to my LCS every Wednesday; spend countless hours reading comics; search the Internet for comic book news and art; display a Black Canary Ame Comi figurine on my office shelf; spend lunches with other comic book fiends, talking for hours on our favorite stories; and now have a blog to talk about it all. Birds of Prey was the catalyst.
Honestly, no other book or set of characters has done for me what BoP did. I’d liken it to the first hit from a crack pipe. Gail’s writing and Ed’s art made me itch. From then on, I was hooked, searching desperately for that same high that I got from the Birds. Some series have come close: Identity Crisis, Secret Six, Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, Fables, and Detective Comics with my darling Kate. While they all gave me a great fangirl buzz, they didn’t satisfy me quite as much as Dinah kicking ass in her fishnets, Babs taking down a group of men from her wheelchair, Lady Shiva struggling with morality as Jade Canary, and Lady Blackhawk punctuating the action with her hilarious one-liners.
When Gail moved on to other projects, I was terribly disappointed. Especially when DC married off Dinah to Ollie, and essentially ruined what Gail had done with her character. (And can someone please tell me what happened to Sin? Anyone?) In new hands, the book floundered, then got canned. Many, many times I’ve wished for DC to bring the Birds back, with Gail driving. It seems my wish has been granted: The dream team of Simone/Benes is back! And I am so fucking happy I want to cry.