Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Birds of Prey #4 (Apr 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey...

Oracle sent Black Canary to investigate a kidnapping and ransom cartel in the nation of Rheelasia.  Black Canary was captured, but eventually escaped and helped bring down the kidnappers with the help of Jason Bard, a former boyfriend of Oracle's.  Meanwhile, the beautiful and deadly assassin called Cheshire has put together a team of female mercenaries and killers called The Ravens.

Birds of Prey #4: "The Ravens Strike" is written by Chuck Dixon with pencils by Greg Land, inks by Drew Geraci, and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  Land's cover looks fittingly like a poster for a James Bond movie, but it leaves me with a few questions.  Is that supposed to be Black Canary in the scuba gear?  If so, why does she look like a red head?  If not, who is she?  And why is the series title "Birds of Prey" printed twice on the cover along different edges?

The issue begins with some animal-on-animal action as the Ravens--the team comprised of Cheshire, Vicious, and Pistolera--launch a merciless attack against the forces of Kobra.  Vicious and Pistolera are catty and joke about killing each other off to collect the other's share of the score, which happens to be half a billion dollars for killing Kobra Prime.  Cheshire reprimands her partners for their unprofessional conduct while leading them on a killer rampage.

Kobra Prime doesn't seem too worried about the attack, though.  More intrigued than anything.  Is that because he's not their true target, but their employer?

Yes, the entire attack was merely a test of the Ravens' abilities and Kobra Prime approves of their talents, so he hires them to retrieve something for him.  The what is unknown for now.  The why is that whatever it is is valuable as a weapon of terror.  And the where is Lake Mackichitahoo, Minnesota.

And would you believe it, that's exactly where Dinah Laurel Lance is heading to recuperate after her captivity in Rheelasia.

Every week I'm reminded that for the first couple years of their operation, Black Canary didn't know with whom she was working or from whom she was taking orders.  Their "partnership" was one-side blind; so despite the friendliness of of their chats, it's hard to see them as true friends when Oracle doesn't trust Dinah enough to reveal her secret identity.

Dinah arrives at the Lutefisk Lounge at Lake Mackichitahoo, drawing lots of attention from the men at the resort.  Almost as much attention as the Ravens attract when they arrive.

Meanwhile, Barbara rolls around her apartment, chewing on the anger over Black Canary asking for a date with Nightwing.  Of course, that wouldn't happen if Babs told Dinah who she is and what her real connection to Nightwing is.  But that's not the important part of this scene; what's of greater concern are the people spying on Oracle.

At the same time Oracle is continuing her anonymous internet flirtation with someone named Beeb, Dinah flirts with the concierge of her resort, a nerd named Gary.  Gary shows Dinah to her cabin and tells her about the local tourism boom that has accompanied sightings of the "Lake Mackichitahoo Monster".

At the Pentagon, the Air Force division assigned to electronics security may have finally traced the hacker who has been piggybacking on the military's memory and data.  Is it Oracle they're tracing, or someone/something else?  We ought to find out soon because the Air Force is getting closer to their target.

Back at the lake, the Ravens wait until nightfall and don scuba gear before diving into the water and finding their own target.

On the surface, Dinah walks the dock taking in the night air and enjoying the peace and tranquility of Lake Mackichitahoo when something stirs beneath the wooden planks.  She glances down, catching the faint outline of something monstrous... Then she gets a closer look.

I could give this issue the benefit of the doubt and call it a transitional issue that's used to set up a new story arc, but that would feel too generous.  The fact is, this hardly seems like a Birds of Prey comic at all.  Dixon devotes twelve out of twenty-two pages to the Ravens, who I don't care about.  He spends another page on the Pentagon, and a page on whoever is spying on Oracle.  That leaves only a third of the book for Black Canary and Oracle, and all they really do is flirt with boys and gab about dating Batman and Robin.  It's hardly stimulating stuff.

Land's art is inoffensive but unremarkable.  He likes big, splashy panels, but the characters always seem so posed and lifeless, like they're not really part of their environment.  All told, this was mostly a boring issue.  I liked Dinah and Barbara's early conversation, but that was all I enjoyed in the whole chapter.

Come back next Tuesday for a review of Birds of Prey #5.

1 comment:

  1. I must agree with you re this transitional issue - theyr always difficult, as we end one story and begin another. This issue felt to me like Strangers in Paradise, with everyone skirting around their 'issues' and not saying what they really mean. The whole Ravens bit was rather limp too, with me not caring especially about these characters anyway. Greg Land's art is , as you say, pretty inoffensive. I did like how he drew that lodge Dinah was staying at though!