Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Birds of Prey #3 (Mar 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey...

Black Canary has been captured by forced to work in a slave labor camp in Rheelasia.  While Oracle looks for a way to free her partner, Canary is looking for her own means of escape... with an old boyfriend of Oracle's named Jason Bard.

Birds of Prey #3: "Hounded" is written by Chuck Dixon with pencils by Greg Land, inks by Drew Geraci, and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  The cover by Land is doubly strange, not for Black Canary's contorted pose, allowing the viewer to see both her front and back parts, but also because it appears that Dinah and Hellhound are locked at the crotch.  I'm not sure if they're supposed to be fighting, dancing, or something untoward, but I've never seen two figures positioned in such a way.  Also, Black Canary never appears in that costume within the issue.

This issue opens with a splash page of Hellhound and his savage-looking pack of killer dogs.  Hellhound is practically salivating with anticipation over Black Canary's inclusion at the slave camp. He can't wait to test his fighting skills against hers.

After Hellhound walks off, Dinah is left alone with Jason Bard, who was blinded by muzzle fire from a gunshot by one of Jackie Pajamas' guards.  Dinah returns to the subject of escaping the compound, noticing that the area isn't secured by a fence; all they'd need to is slip by the armed sentries.  But Jason tells her they would never get through the jungle with Hellhound's dogs chasing them.

Jason maintains that he's too helpless, too much of a liability to help Dinah escape, but she swears she won't leave without him.  He was blinded, after all, saving her life.

Meanwhile, Oracle has called the second most computer savvy hero in Gotham City: current Robin, Tim Drake.  They meet in Barbara Gordon's apartment, where they huddle over satellite maps of Rheelasia, looking for the slave compound.  Barbara reveals that she's already paid the ransom for proof that Jackie has Black Canary.

Who's bank account is paying Black Canary's ransom?  Is it billionaire Bruce Wayne, perhaps...?

Nope.  It's Roland Desmond, better known as the villainous Blockbuster!  And he's none too happy about a cyber-hacker transferring illicit funds from his accounts and using it to pay another criminal.  No, he's mad enough to crush a computer with his bare hands.

That night in Rheelasia, Dinah goes to Jason Bard's barracks and wakes him so they can make their escape.  As she ties a rope around his waist so she can guide him, he once more pleads for her to leave him behind.  Dinah refuses.  Jackie will have Bard killed once he figures out that no one will pay him a fortune for Jason's release.  On top of that, Jason saved Dinah's life, and he was once Oracle's lover.  No way is she going to leave him behind.

As they're slipping out of the barracks, they run into a random sentry.  Dinah knocks the guard unconscious before he can sound an alarm, but her escape does not go unnoticed.  Hellhound watches her and Jason run into the jungle.

The next morning, after Dinah and Jason been running for a couple hours, Hellhound tells Jackie Pajamas about the escape.

In the jungle, Dinah does her best Lara Croft, Tomb Raider impression, by traipsing through dense foliage in sweaty, clingy, khaki shorts and shirt.  She asks Jason who he came to Rheelasia looking for, and he tells her about Brendan and Daria, the couple that Hellhound tracked down and killed in the first issue.

Jason asks Dinah about their "mutual friend" and she characterizes Oracle as her best friend in the world, even though she doesn't know the identity of the woman behind the computer.  Before she can explain any more, they hear Hellhound's dogs catching up to them.

Over the course of two days, Oracle and Robin have narrowed their search to half a dozen locations on Rheelasia that might house the slave labor compound.  Now all they can do is scan more recent satellite pictures in the hopes of spotting a familiar face.

Back in Rheelasia, Dinah gets herself and Jason out of the rushing river and back on the land.  Their clothing is basically tatters now covering about as much as a bathing suit.  For the time being, they've escaped from the hunting dogs.  But there are crocodiles on the river bank, so they have to head back into the deep jungle to stay ahead of their captors.

In Gotham, Oracle shows Robin a sat-pick of Dinah and Jason making their way to the coast.  Robin, though, shows Barbara a picture of armed goons less than a mile behind Dinah and Jason.

Dinah and Jason make it to the coast, coming out of the jungle near a Rheelasian Coast Guard base.  But just as they're breaking cover, the armed goons open fire on them.  Dinah and Jason duck down, avoiding the bullets.  The goons have orders to kill Jason, but spare Dinah.

Dinah takes out most of the goons, and Jason manages to club the last one before he gets the drop on Dinah.

Then Hellhound appears, cutting them off from the beach.  His dogs come racing out of the tree-line. Jason tells Dinah to take care of Hellhound while he fends off the dogs.  Jason picks up one of the assault rifles and blindly sprays the ground in front of the dogs.  Mercifully, he doesn't hit either of them, but it's enough to scare them away.

That leaves the two warriors to test their skills, just as Hellhound hoped they would.

It looks and sounds as if Hellhound messes up his knee when he falls back with his foot pinned down by the sai.  (I have some experience with this type of injury, minus the sai, of course.)  By the time Hellhounds slumps over in agony, the Rheelasian army has been alerted to their presence and drives up the beach to save Dinah and Jason.

Later, Dinah calls Oracle to debrief the mission: the Army moved in on the camp, liberating all of the hostages, but Jackie Pajamas escaped.  She says Jason will likely need surgery, and Oracle insists that he'll get the best.  In her apartment, Barbara looks at a picture on her computer desktop of her and Jason together, thinking about what could have been.

This was a very fast-paced issue, but that's okay, because it was the climax and it had some good action beats.  For pure adventure genre fun and cheesecake, I enjoy seeing Dinah marching through the jungle in wet, ripped-up khakis.

Canary's battle with Hellhound could have been better.  It wasn't bad, but it seemed to lack some intensity.  For that, I blame Greg Land.  His art is more picturesque, his figures more posed.  Fluidity and motion are not his strong suits.

Still, though, I really like Hellhound as a villain for Black Canary.  Yeah, his costume is a little ridiculous, but is it really any worse than most Silver Age super villains?  I wish he could have been established as a major, recurring foe for the Birds and Black Canary.

Maybe the most interesting part of this story is that Oracle's part was superfluous; she effectively did nothing to help Black Canary in this chapter.  Dinah and Jason escaped on their own, unless somehow Oracle got the Rheelasian Army to show up at the end, but that's not made clear.

Come back next Tuesday for a review of Birds of Prey #4.

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