Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Birds of Prey #5 (May 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey...

The Ravens, a trio of female mercenaries led by Cheshire, accepted a job from Kobra to retrieve a cryptic piece of technology sunken in Lake Mackichitahoo in Minnesota.  Dinah Lance just happens to be vacationing in the same place, where she learns about the Lake Mackichitahoo Monster, a local legend designed to both scare and entice tourists.

Birds of Prey #5: "Monster" is written by Chuck Dixon with pencils by Greg Land, inks by Drew Geraci, and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  This issue's cover is much simpler, with Black Canary lounging on a beach in the footprint of a massive, prehistoric creature.

Picking up right where last issue ended, Dinah Lance is attacked by the Lake Mackichitahoo Monster,  which looks a lot like a prehistoric plesiosaurus.  The giant creature smashes the wooden pier, forcing Dinah to dive into the water.  As she swims back to the surface, the monster comes around, opening its fearsome jaws and preparing to eat her.  Then suddenly, the lake water is pierced by gunfire from the surface, turning the monster away.

Dinah gives Gary a kiss on the cheek for his timely save and tells him she needs to make a call.  He mentions his concern about the "other three ladies" who went into the lake that night.  Dinah wants to know about these ladies.

Elsewhere, underwater, the Ravens--Cheshire, Pistolera, and Vicious--swim away from their target, a hunk of metal that looks like a crashed satellite.  The ladies believe it's a former Russian satellite, and Cheshire notes the massive radiation amounts surrounding the target.  But that's not all they notice.

At the Pentagon, Major Van Lewton has unleashed his internet security team on tracking down the phantom hacker that's been poaching the U.S. government's memory banks for bandwidth and power.  One his techie's confirms that that phantom hacker is operating from somewhere around Gotham.  Van Lewton tells his aide, Lieutenant Providence, that he has appropriated funds to assemble a covert strike team and he wants them in the air and ready to engage as soon as they have the target located.

Back in her cabin, Black Canary has changed into her work clothes while briefing Oracle on the situation.  Oracle is naturally skeptical about the monster's existence, but entertain's Dinah's story.  At that moment, two gunmen kick in Dinah's door.  They recognize her as Black Canary and open fire, but she leaps behind the bed.  They don't know if they killed her and agree to make certain.

Then Chuck Dixon and Greg Land show us something ridiculous... and that's acknowledging the dinosaur in the first three pages of the issue.

Oh.  Oh, gentlemen, no.  You can't grab someone's legs and fling yourself out from under a bed at the speed to pass them before they can shoot.  First of all, Black Canary would have no momentum behind this move, so she's relying entirely on her upper body strength.  Okay, she might be really strong, but given the resistance, if she was strong enough to do this, she would have pulled the gunmen to the ground or literally snapped their legs in half.  There's also matters like friction.  She's sliding across a hard wood floor in what's effectively a bathing suit bottom and bare legs.  She would never, ever stop pulling splinters out of her legs and ass if she did a move like this.

Superhero comics demand a suspension of disbelief, and we can accept a rampaging dinosaur in Minnesota because there is a science fiction/fantasy explanation in the works.  But Black Canary's fighting ability is grounded in real training and athleticism.  This little action beat was ridiculous and took me out of the suspense of the story.

But anyway, Black Canary takes out the gunmen and tells Oracle that Kobra has a presence here and that it must be connected to the monster that tried to eat her.

Then Greg Land pisses me off again.  Here below we have one of the earliest examples of Land's tracing instead of really drawing characters.  Greg Land was obviously photo-referencing the below picture of Black Canary because her pose, her face, the whole direction of her body are disassociated from her surroundings.  She's not looking at the bodies on the floor or Gary coming in through the door.  She's looking forward at the Sports Illustrated photographer or whoever took the original pic that Greg Land stole for this image.

Meanwhile, the Ravens swim back to land and Pistolera and Vicious are a little unnerved by the presence of a volcano.  Cheshire berates them for not being professional and not handling the situation like the badass ladies she thought they were.  Then some woolly mammoths come out of the trees.

Someone unseen is still spying on Oracle even as she tells Black Canary to be careful.  If Kobra is operating at Lake Mackichitahoo, they think Black Canary is there to bust them and they're going to respond.

In the sky above Gotham, Major Van Lewton awaits the location of his phantom hacker from a Blackhawk helicopter loaded with the strike team.  Providence tries to talk him out of this decision, but he refuses to listen.  They get the coordinates for the hacker and move in for the attack.

After seeing the woolly mammoths, Cheshire deduces that the satellite they found in the lake was surrounded by neutrinos, and that they caused some kind of temporal rift.  The Ravens have traveled back to prehistoric Minnesota.  That's when they get attacked by sabertooth tigers.  Killing the ancient animals, however, is kind of a thrill for Vicious and Pistolera.

Black Canary gets the scuba gear and a raft from Gary and patrols the lake until she finds the Ravens' rented boat.

Black Canary dives down and finds the object.  She tells Oracle she thinks it's a Russian satellite, but Oracle hasn't heard anything about a satellite going down in the midwest.

The issue ends with Cheshire trying to figure out how the ladies can get back to their real time; Oracle hears a helicopter over her apartment building; and Black Canary seems to be in trouble, but it's an extreme close up of her breathing out a lot of bubbles and there's no real context for what her problem is.

I guess this issue is better than the last one.  Black Canary has more to do and more action, but I still don't care about the Pentagon guys tracking the phantom hacker.  And I don't care about the Ravens going back in time.  This feels way, waaay too sci-fi/fantasy for the kind of espionage thriller that Birds of Prey has been so far.  And Dixon's scripts take about two minutes to read; the action scenes are more spread out and decompressed than they need to be.  The first three pages could have been one page.

Greg Land's art is usually nice to look at, but I can already see his devolution from someone who draws characters to someone who holds a pencil over a lightbox.

Come back next Tuesday for a review of Birds of Prey #6.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this issue, despite the absurdities [the fight you so cleverly described] of the artwork. I do find it funny how you find the fight scene hard to take when a pleiosuros is swimming around in ol' Crystal Lake[!].
    Rollicking good fun all the way, tho the Ravens were badly underused imo and I agree wioleheartedly about Land's use of swimsuit models posing as superheroines.