Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits Finds The Team Breaking Apart And Getting Taken Over!

The Good: Dialogue, Moments of character, Moments of plot
The Bad: Very inconsistent artwork, Plot is erratic (transition volume), Much more plot-focused than character-based.
The Basics: When Dinah Lance leaves Metropolis and the Oracle’s team, the Oracle falls prey to an old adversary in Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits!

There is some irony to me in the idea that during my Flash Year, I have made my way through almost the entire library of Birds Of Prey graphic novels. Truth be told, I am discovering that I am glad that I have; they have generally engaging characters and interesting stories, even if the artwork seldom seems to be consistent or at the top of the DC Comics food chain. The latest book in the series that I have gotten ahold of is Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits. Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits fills in some significant gaps I had in the stories I had read, including the arrival of Charlie and the usurping of the Oracle’s team. Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits is also the volume where Dinah Lance leaves the Oracle’s super cool team of women.

Unfortunately, that makes Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits something of a transition book and it is an awkward time for Barbara Gordon’s team. Instead of being a solid story with a clear mission, Barbara Gordon flounders as Dinah Lance finds her own way with her new adopted sister-daughter. As the Oracle works to assemble a new team, the process is troublesome and Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits feels entirely uncertain as a result.

Following the events of Infinite Crisis (reviewed here!) and 52, Barbara Gordon’s team is reassembling. They visit Ted Kord’s grave where Barbara reveals a previously unmentioned relationship between herself and Kord. While Dinah acclimates Sin to life with things like pancakes, the Oracle learns that several members of the Injustice League are converging on Dayton, Ohio and the home of Black Alice. While Dinah, Zinda and the Huntress descend upon Black Alice, to prevent her from falling in league with the society of villains, in Gotham Batgirl is spotted saving the life of a couple.

With the Dayton mission a loss for both the heroes and villains, the Oracle’s team returns to Metropolis where Dinah makes the choice to care for Sin and leave the team. This leaves Barbara, Zinda and Helena somewhat adrift, with an important mission to accomplish. After Barbara sends virtually every known adult super heroine an invitation to join the team (getting quiet rejections from the likes of Wonder Woman, Power Girl and several I did not even recognize), the Oracle’s new team – with Gypsy, Manhunter and Judomaster added – go to Mexico to a corrupt prison. There, they liberate a mobster’s daughter and jailbreak an unlikely prisoner whose presence might well get the team killed by an old adversary of the Oracle!

Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits is essentially a downward spiral that helps Birds Of Prey find its footing in a post-52 DC Universe. As Final Crisis (reviewed here!) slowly looms, the Justice League is getting an overhaul that required Dinah Lance. So, Gail Simone and fans of Birds Of Prey lost Black Canary and the pretense is a decent one. It seems like Black Canary wants out of the superhero game and after the Black Alice mission to Dayton, there is a decent interlude story that has Dinah Lance packing everything up while talking with Sin.

As a result, what character development there is in Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits focuses on Barbara Gordon, the Oracle. The Oracle is frustrated through much of the book, first by the appearance of Charlie whom she has to break of the desire to take up the mantle of Batgirl and then by the loss of Dinah Lance. As the Mexican prison mission takes a horrible turn, it is Barbara who faces the worst repercussions. After an uncomfortable dance with Lois Lane, the Oracle confronts Spy Smasher, a ruthless personal and professional adversary. Having read some of the Birds Of Prey books out of order, I know that what is set up here in Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits gets a surprisingly quick resolution.

Unfortunately, the conflict between Oracle and Spy Smasher is revealed exceptionally late in the book, making it inappropriate to spoil in the review. Needless to say, Spy Smasher is a hefty foil for the Oracle and she works well, at least for the purposes of this story. Oddly, though, the Charlie (Misfit) seems hardly as annoying in Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits as she does in some of the subsequent volumes. In Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits, she is introduced well and Barbara is able to put her in her place, which helps to illustrate Barbara’s strength and authority. Considering that by the end of Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits, Gordon is essentially powerless and before that she is rejected by every major superheroine in the DC Universe, the victory with Charlie is one of the Oracle’s few victories in the book.

Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits, then meanders through and what saves it from the low ratings, as opposed to an average rating is the dialogue. Writer Gail Simone has a great sense of humor and the exchange between Huntress and Judomaster about Barda’s Mega-Rod is laugh-out-loud funny. Simone has a sense of humor, which makes some of the most perilous moments in the book a bit more palatable than had they been done deadpan with an overwhelming sense of seriousness.

Unfortunately, once again, Simone’s writing prowess is not matched in the artwork. Several panels throughout Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits are overly simplified with characters looking very simple or cartoonish, as opposed to well-defined or well-shaded. Birds Of Prey is not one of the top-priority books in the DC Universe and the artwork in Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits occasionally reflects that (especially during the jailbreak scene as Barda is being liberated). Similarly, some of the panels have a real lack of movement within and between panels.

In the end, Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits is an average transition book that sets up better works without ever rising to notable on its own.

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


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the graphic novels I have reviewed!

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