Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Dark Mission Into Russia Leads To Genuine Intrigue In Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter!

The Good: Wonderful artwork, Good dialogue, Engaging story.
The Bad: A jumble of new characters, Not the greatest character development.
The Basics: Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter finds the team of Barbara Gordon in Russia for a mission that goes horribly wrong, but brings an intriguing character back to the DC Universe!

Every now and then, I find a delightful parallel between something I have enjoyed and something I am just now discovering. So, for example, while I have been fairy neutral to Birds Of Prey from my experiences with Between Darkness And Dawn (reviewed here!) and Perfect Pitch (reviewed here!), I actually enjoyed Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter quite a bit. I was, as with the prior volumes I had read, on the fence about it, until about a quarter of the way through the book when Ice appeared. Tora, a.k.a. Ice, was one of the heroines of Justice League: Generation Lost (volume one is reviewed here!), which I enjoyed immensely. In fact, Justice League: Generation Lost might well have been one of the last true surprises to me in graphic novels that I actually loved.

So, Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter got quite a bit of street cred with me the moment the story started to involve a character I was actually interested in. Ice was a fairly interesting character and I had a passing interest in how she came back from the dead, knowing that her resurrection complicated things for both the Justice League International and Guy Gardner. Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter is, at its heart, the story that gets her back into the DC Universe.

Barbara Gordon’s team has been revamped and turned around. Dinah Lance is gone, leaving the Huntress and Lady Blackhawk joined by Big Barda, Manhunter, and (in the frozen wasteland of Azerbaijan) Hawkgirl. With the organization compromised by Spy Smasher, who has something on the Oracle, Creote joins the Birds of Prey in a former Soviet country. There, the team encounters a disciple of Rasputin who is trying to create a weapon. Spy Smasher appears to want only to acquire advanced weapons technology, in the form of – oddly enough – a Rocket Red armor suit. But when trying to extract the suit, the Birds Of Prey discover that Tora (Ice) is inside it and inexplicably alive. Trying to get her out of Russia may well get her killed, though, as the Secret Six attack Gordon’s team as they try to get Ice out of the country!

The latter part of the book follows Barbara dealing with the fallout of the Russian mission and her confrontation with Spy Smasher.

Right off the bat, it is worth noting that Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter looks phenomenal. I’m not just saying that because it contains ridiculously good looking comic book heroines. Instead, it looks like Birds Of Prey finally got artists who were prioritizing the property. Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter features well-rendered characters on each and every page. Every panel has a decent sense of movement within them and the colors are vibrant and rich. In sharp contrast to every other Birds Of Prey book I have read so far, Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter looks like it was drawn and colored by people who wanted to give the book their full attention. The artwork, as it turns out, services a pretty wonderful story.

Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter is a little muddied by the sheer number of characters that one has to keep track of. There is something irksome about having so many undercover agents in formalwear at one time. Writer Gail Simone makes it relatively easy to keep track of the various individuals who populate Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter, though for most of the book I did not particularly care about any other than the characters I already knew. In fact, when Simone uses the Secret Six as adversaries, despite her wonderful use of banter, I was not sold on them. I won’t be picking up a Secret Six book based on my experience with Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter!

That said, Barbara Gordon, the Huntress and even Lady Blackhawk are all given enough to keep my interest through Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter. While Barbara is plagued by a young new metahuman, she deals with her well-enough. Actually, it speaks to Gordon’s character that she does not sent the minor – who is an incredible teleporter – in to the Russian mess to save her team. Despite the characters being interesting and progressing an intriguing spy story, Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter is not especially rich on the character front.

Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter actually made me care about Zinda, Lady Blackhawk. In prior volumes, Lady Blackhawk is a minor, quirky character who looks good in a short skirt. But in Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter, she becomes a viable character with a strong moral core that makes readers actually care about her. More than any member of the Secret Six, Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter made Zinda interesting and fun to read and that is a feat.

As an, apparent, fan of Ice, Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter is a good reintroduction of her character into the DC Universe. The story is short, fairly direct and engaging enough for any reader to enjoy.

For other works that feature Ice, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Sinestro Corps War, Volume 2
Green Lantern Corps: Ring Quest
Justice League: Generation Lost, Volume 2


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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