Monday, May 14, 2012

Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust Has Much More Interesting Stories Than Characters.

The Good: Artwork, Decent stories, Good sense of continuity and consequences
The Bad: The team is fractured and weaker than in most Birds Of Prey books, Young characters are annoying.
The Basics: In Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust, Misfit defies Oracle which leads to a significant crater in Metropolis!

It actually surprised me to learn that when I finished reading Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust, I was almost entirely through the current library of Birds Of Prey trade paperback anthologies. I would not have guessed that there were so few books with an all-female superheroine team. After all, what’s not to love about Birds Of Prey? It features smart, powerful women, atypical stories and characters who could use more attention. Unfortunately for that ideal, Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust reveals some of the problem with the franchise; with a roster that changes frequently, it has its ups and downs. Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust finds the characters in an awkward transition period.

Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust features Oracle (of course, it is her team!), the Huntress, Lady Blackhawk and Misfit. Manhunter makes a brief appearance and part of Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust is preoccupied with introducing Black Alice to the operation. Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust was initially engaging to me as a story of a very flawed character and how others work to fix her mistake. Unfortunately, the story quickly fractured into something else. Alas, that something else was an annoying bickering match between two teenage metahumans and a remarkably straightforward hero/villain conflict story. While I like learning more about Lady Blackhawk for that b-plot, it is not all that it ought to have been.

The Huntress is trying to stop a young mobster wannabe, who is driving a heavy truck of weapons straight into Metropolis. But when she cannot find a way in, the Huntress and Oracle begin fearing the worst, that the girl is planning to set off a bomb in the heart of the city. The situation goes from bad to worse when it turns out to be some form of magical robot, which Misfit actually manages to teleport near to distract the driver of. Unfortunately, this causes the robot to detonate and Misfit is in shock. When Superman comes down hard on the Oracle, Barbara begins driving herself very hard.

That means that the Oracle, in addition to pushing Misfit hard, turns to another teenage girl, Black Alice, to try to find clues as to what the weapon was that blew up in Metropolis. The Huntress and Zinda (Lady Blackhawk) leave Metropolis suddenly when Killer Shark shows up looking for Lady Blackhawk. But Zinda’s attempt to stop the man who once drugged and raped her puts both her and the Huntress in a fight for their lives, while the Oracle has to tend to the girls.

While Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust is initially engaging, the book quickly turns into an unfortunately whiny tome where a bunch of girls are yelling at one another. Neither Misfit nor Black Alice seem terribly age appropriate. I write that having experienced Club Kids (so I know their character’s relationship, as the title story of that book actually comes after one of the stories in this volume). Black Alice seems like she has the potential to be interesting, despite being a jailbait pin-up for the Goths, but Charlie (Misfit) just seems troublesome in Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust. What could have been an engaging character study following her mistakenly blowing up part of Metropolis quickly degenerates into a very silly, childish arc.

This is starkly contrasted by the Lady Blackhawk portion of the story. In that story – complete with Zinda running around in her underwear – it is revealed that back in World War II, Zinda was repeatedly drugged and used as “Queen Shark.” It does not take any real reading between the lines to get that Zinda was drugged and repeatedly raped by Killer Shark, even if she does not remember the details (though, this would explain her drinking so heavily in all the prior books quite nicely!). The discontinuity between the Huntress trying to rescue a brainwashed Lady Blackhawk and the kids having temper tantrums is unnerving, at the very least.

What works in Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust is the fact that Barbara Gordon stands up (metaphorically, she is still wheelchair bound and I seem to have missed whatever story connected her getting movement in her feet back to her losing that ability) to Superman. In a very cool sequence, the Oracle tells off Superman and that earns her all sort of street cred with her team. Sure, it makes her moody and obsessed with finding the cause of the explosion, but it works.

Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust also features very good artwork. Oddly, when the stories and characters were consistently engaging, DC did not seem to want to spare decent artists, but with much shakier characters, Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust suddenly gets very clear, vibrant artwork all the way through. While this is not usually enough to get me to recommend a book, it is enough to save Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust. Birds Of Prey: Metropolis Or Dust has just enough to it to make it worth reading.

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


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

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