Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birds of Prey #2 (Feb 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey

In the first issue of the Birds' ongoing series, cyberspace info-merchant, Oracle, sent her field agent, Black Canary, to investigate some missing persons in a third-world country called Rheelasia.  Canary checks out the mansion estate of a gangster named Jackie Pajamas and discovers a room full of personal artifacts like watches and necklaces, as well as jars full of ears, eyes, and fingers.  Just as Canary is making her way out, Jackie comes home, acting very chummy with Jason Bard, a former Gotham cop and close friend of Oracle's alias, Barbara Gordon.

Birds of Prey #2: "One of Those Days" is written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Greg Land, with inks by Drew Geraci and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  Land's cover depicts Oracle's sense of frustration and helplessness at her partner being tortured, while the text over the title declares the party's over.  The party's over?  This is just the second issue; that was quick!

The issue opens with Black Canary fighting Jackie Pajamas' security guards while Oracle can do nothing but listen in.  Dixon and Land make the opening fight sequence splashy in that they only have four panels in the first three pages.  Dinah gives a decent account for herself by taking out the first couple armed guards, but when she drops onto the helipad, there isn't much she can do to get away from Jackie and half a dozen men with automatic weapons trained on her.

Jackie wants to know who she is and for whom she's working, so he has the guard drag her inside for interrogation and torture while he chats with Jason Bard, who Jackie believes is a Triad bagman named Reed Montel.  The guards leave Dinah alone, but Oracle still has an audio connection and asks if she's okay and then feeds her a cover story for when Jackie's people question and ransom her.

We learn that Black Canary wasn't just thrown into a cell, but tied down to a chair.  Then Jason/Reed comes in with his threats of torture or worse.  Dinah feeds him the story that she works for TransGlobal Insurance, and Bard reveals that Jackie kidnaps people and sells them back to their families or employers "one piece at a time".  Oracle, to her horror, realizes that's what the jars full of small body parts were.

He continues to threaten her while Barbara gets more and more disgusted that a man she once loved could turn so hideous.  But when Jason gets close to Canary, close enough that the armed guard can't hear what he whispers, he surprises both women.

Jason and Black Canary sneak out of the prison, and he reveals that he's working undercover to learn the whereabouts of a kidnapping victim.  She reveals to him that she knows his real identity, and then shares her own codename.

Before Black Canary and Jason make it to the helicopter, though, they're surrounded by Jackie and his armed guards... landing Dinah right back where she was about eight pages earlier.

Jason survives the gunshot, and Jackie orders his men to take both of their hostages to the compound, whatever that is.  They beat Dinah with the butt of a rifle until she's unconscious, but Oracle can still hear Jackie and the guards talking about what they're going to do.

Barbara collapses in front of her computer, half-certain that Black Canary will be killed or maimed beyond recognition.  She's shaken out of her fear and impotence by a message from Beeb, one of her online friends.  Beeb wants to flirt, but Oracle can only focus on the partner she sent into danger.  Beeb gives her some thoughtful advice and gets Oracle to admit something about her relationship with Black Canary that we might not have known.

Barbara tries to contact Dinah, but all of Canary's communications devices are locked away in Jackie's ransom room.

The next day, Dinah wakes up in dressed in khaki civilian clothes on a bed in what's essentially slave barracks.  The other "workers" on the compound are wealthy kidnapping victims, some of whom have had fingers or other parts surgically removed and sent back to family members for ransom.

Dinah is taken to Jackie who lays out his entire operation for her.  His plantation is full of workers who all come from super-rich families or companies.  Unlike a typical K&R, where the victim is  either released or killed after the ransom is paid, Jackie keeps milking the families for more money by sending bits and pieces of the victims back to them.

After Dinah is sent back to work the fields, Jackie meets with his chief enforcer, Hellhound.  The costumed, dog-themed villain knows exactly who Dinah is and how dangerous she is.  And that only excites him more.

When Dinah and the other slaves lineup for water, she sees Jason Bard.  He tells her to leave him alone, that he can't help her escape anymore.  He's helpless.

I was really worried about the pacing of this issue when Dixon and Land devoted only four panels to the first three pages.  And then Dinah's second capture is in the same place and situation as her first capture, except Jason was with her.  So the whole first half of the book really only accomplished one thing: revealing that Jason was still a good, noble guy working undercover.  That could have been done more efficiently.

The second half, too, feels very repetitive.  We hear Jackie's K&R scheme told from three different people, basically: Oracle figures it out, then Jackie explains it to Dinah and the readers, and then Carlita explains it again.  It feels a little wasted.

I'm also not at all scared of a gangster who's nickname is Pajamas.  And Dixon didn't spend anytime really developing the past history between Barbara and Jason, so his betrayal and then reversal doesn't feel as profound as it could have been.  Really, the only character other than the two stars that I'm interested in is Hellhound, and he's only in half a page.

The issue had some good character moments, but it felt like it took too long to get from Point B to Point C.

Come back next Tuesday for a review of Birds of Prey #3.

1 comment:

  1. David Beckham was becoming a megastar around the time this issue came out, and I always thought Jason Bard - who I remember [old fogey alert] from the old Batgirl strip back in Detective Comics - resembled him, and that he was drawn after him.
    Fight scenes were poor this time - too many large panels. The best panels were Babs at her computer screens, her face so expressive as she felt so helpless.
    Most shocking scene? Jason getting a shot near the face like that, very explicit.