Tuesday, March 5, 2013

365 Comics...64: Birds of Prey #39 (2002)

I was a latecomer to Birds of Prey.  Scratch that, I was an early-comer (sigh, yes children make your jokes) to Birds of Prey in its first incarnation as specials and mini-series, but I neglected to hop aboard when it went to ongoing.  I rather ignored it, mostly because about that time I stopped buying comics in favor of trades for a few years.  1999 to about 2002 I didn't abandon comics but I wasn't as into them as I was before (and since...), so by the time I came back to floppies was around the time of the Bruce Wayne: Murderer storyline --within which this issue is part -- which I didn't read and I'm sure I just sighed a big sigh over.

Anyway, it would be three issues later that I would start reading BoP (yes, it was the wicked Power Girl cover from Phil Noto that drew me in, thank you very much) and I only realized that I missed out on something special when I learned that Ted Kord, Blue Beetle: personal hero, was a supporting player in the book.  I love Ted and I was really enjoying the heck out of the series, generally, that is until Chuck Dixon left only a few issues later (or was forced out, I don't recall) and the series kind of tanked it with a rotating cast of writers until Gail Simone came along.  I've always been meaning to go back and pick up the earlier Dixon BoP issues, particularly those with Beetle.

This is a recent acquisition and it opens up beautifully, with Beetle squaring off against Kalibak, of all things.  It's a total fake-out but had me going for a squealing-with-glee second, as it turns out it's all a Danger Room-esque sequence to get Ted back in peak fighting shape.  But something's wrong and Barbara sends him to the doctor.  Ted is one of my favourite heroes because he's always been the most vulnerable.  He's smart, but he's also impulsive and a little selfish.  He's somewhat immature and not always responsible.  He's also not the best at taking care of himself, having put on weight in the Justice League and here having a heart condition.  His death in Countdown to Infinite Crisis was a true heroes death and it doesn't look like his memory is going to be sullied with a rebirth thanks to the New 52.

Anyway, I got off topic.  The remainder of this book has Oracle and Black Canary investigating the whole "Bruce Wayne: Murderer" thing and annoyingly Oracle has to skate around Bruce being Batman with Dinah.  I mean, it's really annoying.  I know at that time in comics Batman's secret identity was not out with the rest of the hero community but it's such a grating plot point in this book.

This was Rick Leonardi's first issue as penciller, and it left much to be desired.  Stiff figure work, inconsistent faces (in one panel Ted looks young, another really old), and awkward angles (one panel makes it look like Barbara's standing over someone she's talking to, and that's not right).  Yet, at the same time there's the odd panel, say, about a dozen of them, that are really fun to look at, dynamic, well structured, interesting.

Anyway, Ted's story has sold me on continuing to find more BoP, which is good because I don't think I'd be keen otherwise.

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