Graphic Novel/Comics Review

Birds of Prey: The Battle Within

(2006) Gail Simone, Titan Books, 10.99, trdpbk, 240pp, ISBN 1-84576-352-1

This is the fourth collection of Birds of Prey and gathers issues 76-85 of that title - note that this means that not all issues of the book are available in trade paperback. This has become a very popular title for a number of reasons: one, given that it features mainly super-heroines (Oracle, Huntress, Black Canary and Lady Blackhawk forming the current complement) and is written by a woman it is one of the few DC titles to appeal directly to a female audience; two, because these super-babes are well-drawn the title also appeals to adolescent males for the obvious reasons; and three, it may well have benefitted from the US tv series, of which there were at least 13 episodes. In this book the women first are dealing with super-powered vigilantes who go 'too far', including Black Alice (featured heavily in the Infinite Crisis) who can 'borrow' the magical powers of other characters, Harvest (a kinda spirit of vengeance) and, for the nostalgic (or just those of us with long memories) Rose/Thorn (who, if your memory needs jogging, used to and apparently still does fight against a criminal organisation known as the 100). All of this occurs after the Birds' Gotham headquarters were destroyed, so they're mainly aboard a stealth jet piloted by Lady Blackhawk (who has been tranferred to the future by some time-warp or other). These issues are, relatively speaking, quite old in that they occur near the beginning of the Infinite Crisis (as evidenced by the fact that, during this run, Booster Gold calls up Oracle for help in finding Blue Beetle who, as we all now know, had his brains blown out by Maxwell Lord). Meanwhile Oracle is fighting a virus left in her by Brainiac, which initially seemed useful, but which has since become cancerous. Huntress briefly leaves the group, so Black Canary recruits Wildcat to help in a 'sting' operation involving drug traffiking from Singapore, only to have it transpire that Huntress is doing the same at the Metropolis end of the supply chain. There are loads of guest stars. And, though there are also many artists, the work is consistently good (I particularly like Ed Benes' work). This has been a very good title for some time now and is well worth a look.

Tony Chester

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