Friday, April 27, 2012

Things Look Bad For Women Around The Time Of Final Crisis: Birds Of Prey: Club Kids Is A Fractured Bunch Of Vignettes From Then.

The Good: Moments of humor, Interesting characters, Generally decent artwork
The Bad: Not a real team book, Not a real “graphic novel,” Sense of direction is flailing.
The Basics: Birds Of Prey: Club Kids leads into the darkness around Final Crisis with a series of one-shot stories that has the team pretty much fractured.

As I eagerly await my next batch of graphic novels for my Flash Year, I picked up another book in the Birds Of Prey line, Birds Of Prey: Club Kids. After finishing this exceptionally quick read while waiting for a co-worker to come let me into work, I was left sitting, feeling remarkably little. This is the first volume of the franchise I had read by Tony Bedard. And, unfortunately, my reaction to it was to feel underwhelmed. Birds Of Prey: Club Kids is a potently average anthology.

Unfortunately, there should be no pretense made in calling Birds Of Prey: Club Kids a “graphic novel.” Alas, Birds Of Prey: Club Kids is a loose collection of only five Birds Of Prey comic books. Birds Of Prey: Club Kids wraps up a few loose ends, teases a tangent story to Final Crisis (reviewed here!) and ultimately is average. This book is not really even a Birds Of Prey book; it features characters from Birds Of Prey, but this is not about Barbara Gordon deploying her team of women around the world. Instead, the women are separated, doing their own things and because most of the books allude to other things, there is an ultimately unsatisfying quality to Birds Of Prey: Club Kids.

Following closely on the heels of Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter, the first story in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids finds Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance having an intimate conversation following the mission to Azerbaijah. Gordon recalls meeting the Green Arrow and getting flirted with and tries to use the experience to convince Dinah not to marry Oliver. While Barda learns how to play Pokemon with Sin (much to Misfit’s chagrin), Knockout and Scandal make love. Contemplating the breakup of the Secret Six, Scandal makes an off-handed remark that leaves Knockout storming from her bed to go kill Barda. But there is someone hunting escapees from Apokalips and en route to Barda, Knockout is attacked!

The idea that the Secret Six broke up did nothing for me; I found them buffoonish in Dead Of Winter, but Killshot and Scandal seemed interesting (not just because of their lesbian relationship, but because they seemed the most professional of the bunch). So, discovering their fate was marginally interesting. I write “marginally” interesting because Killshot is an ancillary character in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids and her tangent seems mostly to be to direct attention toward Big Barda. Barda, still pretty new to my reading experience of Birds Of Prey was just growing on me in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids.

The first chapter, then, is highlighted by both a quick flashback to Barbara Gordon as Batgirl and then the discussion between Barbara and Dinah about Oliver. I like this. It’s an intimate character moment, no real sense of movement (so it does not use the medium especially well), but it reads as very real and very true. In a universe filled with a lot of big action, this conversation is cool to illustrate the humanity of the heroes.

The Huntress is the subject of the second story in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids. A remarkably straightforward story, the Huntress is given a directive from the Oracle to stop some kids who have an old supervillain’s weapon primed to detonate if the villain is not released from prison. Unfortunately for the Oracle and Metropolis, the Huntress is currently engaged with stopping a bus that was hijacked . . . with children still aboard!

This story is exceptionally straightforward. The artwork is fair, but it does have a pretty decent sense of motion, which is important when most of the story involves a speeding bus, Huntress on her motorcycle and limited hand-to-hand combat. Oddly, the story features strange cuts wherein the reader does not see several panels of implied violence. This story seems solely to exist to illustrate how the Huntress has grown and to provide a few moments of amusement over the idea of various would-have-been members of the Birds Of Prey that could never have worked out as well as the current crop!

The slow-building storyline with the Calculator comes to what appears to be a conclusion in the third story in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids. In that, Barbara Gordon visits a software convention occurring at the corporate headquarters of one of the major software companies. Her purpose is to get the last remnant of the Gotham Towers fire that could tie Barbara to the Oracle. Unfortunately, there she runs into the Calculator and his goon, Hellhound. While both Barbara and the Calculator go head to head in the virtual world to acquire the same data, the rest of the team listens in.

The “Nerds Of Prey” story is an enjoyable one, though it is hardly the definitive chapter on the Oracle/Calculator conflict. I actually enjoy Barbara and the Calculator flirting, entirely ignorant of who the other person is. It’s a fun sequence and while it could be executed in an unfortunate or cliché way, it actually works remarkably well in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids. And, despite the digs at what is probably the Birds Of Prey fan base, the story is a good one.

Following the death of Big Barda (not actually shown in Birds Of Prey: Club Kids), Zinda goes on a bender. Paired up with an Indian cab driver, she leaves Metropolis for Edward’s Air Force Base. While the cabbie is unnerved by the distraught woman with the gun, Lady Blackhawk has a good thought in her heart. Unfortunately, she is being hunted by a shapeshifter who needs proximity to take her form. The shapeshifter, working for the Calculator, moves in for the kill in an abandoned area, forcing Zinda and her new friend to flee . . . awkwardly.

Falaseface, the shapeshifter in this story, is an interesting-enough villain. I like villains and heroes who are not invincible, so that she has some limitations is pretty cool. The struggle to get close to Lady Blackhawk makes for a pretty engaging road trip type story. While the artwork is pretty good within panels, the sense of movement between panels is often more irregular than I would like (like when Zinda leaps from the buggy to the horse). It’s basically a buddy comedy interlude and another story that does not add up to anything.

Similarly, the title story for Birds Of Prey: Club Kids is another disconnected solo story. Misfit, having been abducted by Boss Dark Side, fights in gladiator matches while doped up. When Black Alice appears, the drugs and programming from Granny Goodness prevent Misfit from joining Black Alice in an escape attempt. So, Black Alice makes an attempt to flee and in the process, learns something important about her and Misfit.

This final chapter is a crossover with Final Crisis and is appropriately dark as a result. Unfortunately, it is also pretty insular. Misfit has been a background character and I haven’t gotten attached to her at this point in reading Birds Of Prey. So, that she is abducted by a cult that is going to attack everyone eventually did not really do it for me. Moreover, the entire plot is lifted from an episode of Angel.

Ultimately, Birds Of Prey: Club Kids is very average and does not sufficiently advance any of the stories of the Birds Of Prey.

For other Birds Of Prey books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Between Dark And Dawn
Perfect Pitch
Dead Of Winter


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing by clicking here!

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