Monday, January 7, 2013

A Distant Tangent To Brightest Day, Birds Of Prey: End Run Fails To Engage.

The Good: Decent “voice,” Good artwork
The Bad: Does not provide the promised sense of closure, No real character development, Rooted in prior stories, Doesn’t “pop.”
The Basics: My interest in Birds Of Prey: End Run as both a fan of the Brightest Day Saga and the Birds Of Prey series left me disappointed and surprised.

This past year, I found quite a bit of time to write at the boring and sometimes loathsome job I held down. While it initially seemed like a good fit for me, that job proved to me that it actually matters to me who I work for. So, I found myself reading a lot at work and one of the series’ I got into was Birds Of Prey, largely because of my affinity for the writing of Gail Simone (at least, what I had read of hers at that point). Between being biased toward the works of Gail Simone and being an enthusiast for the Brightest Day Saga, I had been looking forward to Birds Of Prey: End Run for quite some time.

It is hard to describe my level of disappointment in the book, then, as it is only tangentially related to the Brightest Day Saga (very distant tangent!) and it seems so deeply rooted in some distant past story of Dinah Lance that it robbed me of what enjoyment I ought to have felt at the return of Creote and Savant. Birds Of Prey: End Run promised to be the return and the end of the Birds Of Prey team, but it did not even live up to that. Instead, it is a messy story that focuses on three groups of villains reuniting Barbara Gordon’s team to . . . test it in a very typical way.

Barbara Gordon calls in Black Canary (Dinah Lance), the Huntress (Helena Bertinelli), Lady Blackhawk (Zinda Blake) and the newly resurrected Hawk (Hank Hall) and his partner, Dove (Dawn Granger). She reveals to Black Canary and the Huntress that she is in receipt of exceptionally detailed files that include information on all of Gordon’s friends, family, superhero coworkers, etc. With the threat that one will die each hour until the person making the threats is stopped, a threat they appear to make good on when Creote contacts the Oracle to inform her that Savant has been killed, Black Canary and the Huntress head off to try to stop the would-be killer.

They, along with Hawk, Dove, and Lady Blackhawk, encounter Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin) as he is attacked by a mysterious figure. Rescuing the Penguin, Black Canary and the Huntress engage the villainess in hand to hand combat while Black Canary strains to identify who the amazing combatant is. But the team is forced to withdraw when Dinah Lance is publicly outed on the Gotham City news and the team runs into hiding in Cobblepot’s club. Things quickly go from bad to worse when the Oracle is abducted by the people she tried the hardest to rehabilitate. With the life of the girl who would have been her adopted daughter on the line, Black Canary goes into a fight that may well force her to kill.

The main “End Run” story is four chapters and Birds Of Prey: End Run is capped off by a two chapter follow-up that it is impossible to discuss without ruining most of the middle and end of “End Run.” But, on the analysis side, it further weakens the idea that “End Run” is an earth shattering story for the Birds Of Prey team and is rooted deeply in the main problem that the main story has.

The fundamental problem with Birds Of Prey: End Run is the villains. Like the Birds Of Prey, the villains in Birds Of Prey: End Run are working as a team and from pretty much the moment the Penguin appears in the pages, that seems obvious. It is, as a result, no surprise at all when the Penguin turns on the women who are helping him and tries to hold them hostage. One of my immediate gripes with Birds Of Prey: End Run, though, was solved easily enough by the fact that it is only a delusion of Oswald Cobblepot (that problem being that when one opens the book, there is artwork of the female members of the Birds Of Prey posed in an obviously sexualized, coquettish and kittenish layout that seems more the masturbatory fantasy of teenagers than it would be anything substantive or real in the Birds Of Prey universe – and it is, it’s Cobblepot’s fantasy, so it makes some sense).

But the main villain is the real problem. Much space and time is wasted with Black Canary’s internal monologue of her trying desperately to figure out exactly who this new fighter is. Black Canary, in the DC Universe, is supposed to be second at hand to hand combat only to Lady Shiva and Lance’s bafflement as to who this new player could be and how she might have risen to such proficiency without Black Canary ever hearing of her is ponderous. It seemed strange to me that Dinah Lance would be so convinced that a new fighter could exist without her knowing about her; it’s a big world, why would she know every martial artist in the world?! And ultimately, all the space wasted with Lance wondering who the new threat, dubbed White Canary is, is inconsequential in so many ways. The revelation is unsatisfying and seems deeply tied to a story I have not read. Or, more accurately, the identity of the villain seems exceptionally important to one of Dinah Lance’s past adventures, but only as a very distant tangent to that story. In other words, even if I had read that story, I think I would have been disappointed with how Birds Of Prey: End Run related to it.

And, while I can completely respect a character whose power and determination give them a presence that allows them to defy the conventions of reason and realism, I was unable to buy the final sections of the book. The Huntress holds her own against an adversary that she should have been killed by with a single hit and that wore on me the longer that fight went on.

The artwork in Birds Of Prey: End Run is good, though the coloring is inconsistent (at least with the Huntress’s uniform). Still, Birds Of Prey: End Run mostly looks good, but given that the characters are mostly model-like women wearing skimpy outfits running around kicking ass and shooting guns, it is pretty hard to be surprised by that.

On the character front, the best arc involves Barbara Gordon and I would get excited about the apparent new direction the book leaves the Birds Of Prey headed in, if I did not know that the “New 52” reboot of the DC universe did not follow up on that direction.

Fans of Brightest Day can easily pass Birds Of Prey: End Run by as well; this book is such a distant tangent – with only the presence of Hawk making it even a tangent story to that Saga – that it is not worth picking up.

For other Brightest Day works, please check out my reviews of:
Brightest Day - Volume 1
Brightest Day - Volume 2
Brightest Day - Volume 3
Brightest Day: Green Lantern
Brightest Day: Green Lantern Corps - Revolt Of The Alpha-Lanterns
Green Lantern Corps: The Weaponer
The Black Ring - Volume 1
The Black Ring - Volume 2
Green Arrow: Into The Woods
Justice League: Generation Lost – Volume 1
Justice League: Generation Lost - Volume 2
The Flash: The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the book reviews I have written!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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