Sunday, June 23, 2013

Birds of Prey: Manhunt #3 (Nov 1996)

What Happened Before…

  • Black Canary and Huntress are separately but simultaneously looking for a criminal named Archer Braun.  They tracked him to his hotel in Gotham City.
  • Braun fled, but the timely intervention of Catwoman helped the ladies track their quarry to an airfield.
  • Black Canary was captured by Braun and taken away on his plane.
  • Huntress and Catwoman go to the estate of a criminal fence named Cadiz to find out where Braun was going, but they're each cornered by Cadiz' bodyguards…

Birds of Prey: Manhunt #3 - "The Man That Got Away" was written by Chuck Dixon, drawn by Matt Haley, and inked by Cam Smith, the series' third inker in as many issues.  At the start of the issue, Black Canary is being taken to an undisclosed location by her captor, Archer Braun.  Oracle is able to listen in on their conversation, but it's only a one-way transmission; Dinah can't hear Oracle because she took off her earring transceivers, and Oracle has no way of knowing if Dinah is even aware she's still broadcasting.

In Cadiz' mansion, Catwoman is fighting the old man's nurse bodyguard, while Huntress eludes the armed security forces by sicking their own attack dogs on them.  Catwoman fights off the nurse and gets the location of Braun's secret rendezvous from Cadiz.  Then she bails out Huntress, in the process revealing that she's still a thief and can only be trusted so far.

With assistance from Batman and Robin, Oracle is tracking Braun's plane when it conspicuously drops off radar for half a minute.  Braun has used a decoy plane to take his place mid-flight and carry on with the original flight plan while he sneaks off for parts unknown.  Batman asks if Oracle can handle this on her own.  She says yes, and Batman…backs off, trusting her to complete the job and save her field operative without him.  Both Oracle and Robin are impressed by this show of faith.

In Huntress' Lamborghini, Catwoman reveals what she learned from Cadiz--that Braun is running to a hideout somewhere in the former Soviet Union.  Huntress points out that the region isn't exactly small, but before she drops too many hints about her academic day job, the women are alerted to an annoying set of beeps coming from somewhere in the car.  Catwoman digs out Black Canary's earrings, given to her in the moments before her capture, and hears Oracle's voice trying to make contact.

Half a world away, Braun's plane lands in Kazakstan, where he is greeted by this guy:

No, Braun and Dinah are greeted by a team of mercenaries on horseback.  Braun tells her the horses are necessary for their final destination, a hidden city called Katchik 9-9.

Braun explains to Dinah that the city was the site of numerous genetic weapons tests the Soviets used during the Cold War.  One of the weapons was a virus that devours plastics and synthetic fibers; it got loose in the city, stripping the physical infrastructure.  Katchik 9-9 was abruptly abandoned, making it an ideal base for terrorists, mobsters on the lamb, and supercriminals.

Oracle calls Catwoman and Huntress to tell them where Black Canary is being held, leading to some "catty" remarks by both Catwoman and Oracle.  Catwoman is resolute about chasing Braun to the ends of the Earth, not for Dinah, but to get her money.  Huntress wants to rescue Dinah and take Braun down for generally being a womanizing scumbag.  Catwoman makes their travel arrangements while Huntress calls the school where she works to get a few days off.

Back in Katchik, Braun shows Dinah the local entertainment--a pit fight between a large bruiser of a man and mysterious hooded woman.  The fight ends quickly as the woman delivers a dreaded strike called the Leopard Blow.  Dinah recognizes the style and knows only one warrior who uses it.

This series didn't have enough formidable women headlining yet, so Dixon added Lady Shiva!

The third issue of Manhunt is a slight step up from the earlier installments, I think.  The focus of the heroes is now "rescue Dinah" instead of "make that man pay for cheating on us".  It makes Braun a more worthwhile adversary and gives the plot some actual legs to stand on.  Black Canary's role is severely diminished for this chapter, but Oracle takes a much more active role, which is a nice consolation.

The new setting of Katchik 9-9 is terrific and full of possibility.  (Will it be fulfilled?  Find out next week… but probably not.)  And the introduction of Lady Shiva in the final page filled me with all kinds of joy, knowing how her character will develop over the years, and how her relationship with Black Canary specifically will change both their lives much later in the ongoing series.

My favorite part of the issue, though, is when Dinah is feeding intel to Oracle about the layout and local flavor of Katchik, having no clue if it's being picked up or not.

"I miss you," she whispers, so softly Barbara almost doesn't catch it.

They're just coworkers at this point in their history: field operator and tech support.  Dinah doesn't even know who she's talking to, but it's one of--if not the--most important relationship she has right now.  And this is only the beginning…

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