The Good: Good artwork, Decent stories, Decent characters
The Bad: Nothing is at all superlative.
The Basics: In perhaps an archetypal average graphic novel, Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn presents some average superhero adventures with strong, female protagonists.
Even though this is my Flash Year, I have limited resources from my local library (which became annoyingly stingy a year and a half ago when I would literally get in new books, movies or music each day!) so there might be a slowdown in the Flash graphic novels I get in to read. So, looking through the online card catalog for other graphic novels that are actually in stock, I thought it might be fun to check out some other works by Gail Simone. Simone had a pretty awesome run on Wonder Woman, so I thought I would check out the work that got her that gig. Simone came to Wonder Woman after working on the book Birds Of Prey. So, for my first experience with the super hero group known as the Birds Of Prey, I picked up Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn.
The Birds Of Prey, in this incarnation, appear to be Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Barbara Gordon (Oracle) and the Huntress. Outside fleeting references to Oracle and a supporting role by Black Canary in other books, this team and this section of the DC Universe was unknown to me before now. From what I gather from Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn, the trio of crime fighters works out of a clocktower in Gotham City and is a vigilante group that relies upon martial arts and weapons – as well as extensive computer knowledge, as Oracle is wheelchair -bound – more than any actual super powers. So, eager to see what this team does, I opened up Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn . . .
. . . and I was unimpressed. Don’t get me wrong, the artwork is fine, the story was fine and Gail Simone did a decent job of presenting the characters in such a way that I did not feel like I was truly missing anything by coming in at this volume. But Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn just did not pop. The book lacked spark or intrigue and there was nothing overly distinctive about the final work. Instead, this is a very typical, cripplingly average, graphic novel.
The Huntress is fairly new to the Birds Of Prey, so Dinah has a special mission for her. Three suicides occur where teenagers kill themselves while dressed up as already-dead superheroes. Oracle and Dinah trace the online activity of the youth to a “church” in Oregon. The Huntress is sent to infiltrate the Second Heaven compound. When she does, she discovers a strangely benevolent cult leader. But, when she digs deeper and takes on the hillbillies who enforce the leader’s will, she discovers the horrifying truth. Unfortunately for her, Dinah and Oracle, when Dinah’s backup in the compound is revealed, she has been turned by the cult, leaving Huntress on her own!
As the Huntress and Vixen work to free themselves from the Second Heaven compound, Dinah finds herself unfortunately cut off from Barbara. When Babs has a seizure, Dinah is clued in to the fact that something is not quite right. That something is soon revealed to be Brainiac, who has managed to use cyberspace to start reprogramming Oracle. Fighting for her life, Barbara Gordon must take on Brainiac in the real and virtual worlds!
And then Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn with the introduction of Blackhawk, but it is such an afterthought one has to wonder why that little story was even put in this book!
I like to think that Gail Simone is trying to build something with Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn and things like the tangent story about Savant seem to indicate that that is true. And yet, in Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn, the story is not quite there yet and the book is not so engaging that I felt like I had to know what happened next. That is a pretty big strike against a book that has a radical relocation of the protagonists in the last act! As it stands, Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn was superlative only in how perfectly average it was.
On the character front, Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn features marginally interesting vigilante characters. Huntress is dark and brooding, Dinah and Barbara both seem more white bread and traditionally heroic. Despite that, Simone infuses a little bit of her wit and humor – like Dinah noting her crush-like thoughts for Superman or how both Ollie and Dr. Phil get under her skin. But those are exceptions to the rule and some of the elements that are included seem like dramatically forced exposition. When the Second Heaven’s agenda is revealed, the question keeps coming up why Vixen was being used as opposed to assimilated into that program. While it seems like an answer of “my power is based in magic, not science” would work, a strange convoluted explanation of Marni being related to chaos is instead delivered.
As for the artwork in Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn, it is all right. One of the first covers in the book is actually one of the best DC Comics covers I have ever seen (Huntress in the rain, hands up with two police officers shooting at her), but the inside-the-book artwork is more mediocre. Dinah Lance, especially, seems to be drawn frequently shy on details, as if the pencillers just wanted to draw a cartoon version of her and hope it slid by the readers. I was thoroughly unimpressed, though the additional story that had Huntress and Black Canary infiltrating a crime union was fun for the artwork, if not the most compelling story.
In the end, though, Birds Of Prey: Between Dark And Dawn is decidedly average and it is not Gail Simone’s strongest or most interesting graphic novel.
For other works by Gail Simone, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Wonder Woman: The Circle
Wonder Woman: Ends Of The Earth
Wonder Woman: Rise Of The Olympian
Wonder Woman: Warkiller
Wonder Woman: Contagion
For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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