Thursday, July 31, 2014

Society Dame: Justice Society of America #8


Justice Society of America #8 is written by Len Strazewski with pencils by Grant Miehm, inks by Rich Buckler, and a cover by Tom Lyle featuring Black Canary and Solomon Grundy.  The series is edited by Brian Augustyn along with Mike Gold, who edited Black Canary's miniseries, her ongoing series, and her first arc in Action Comics Weekly.  The issue is cover dated August 1991 and hit the shelves in June.

"Vengeance from the Stars Chapter 8: Battle of the Stars" opens with the heroes Green Lantern, The Flash, Hawkman, and Black Canary beset by Vandal Savage dressed as the Egyptian Prince Cheops and a trio of constellation monsters composed of energy.  Except the monsters aren't in their normal mythic form; they look like characters out of television.  And Vandal Savage isn't happy about their new appearance.  Perhaps he doesn't wield as much control over these beings as he made it seem.

Vandal Savage uses the Cosmic Rod he took from Ted Knight to command the energy monster that looks straight out of I Love Lucy to attack Green Lantern.  While Black Canary helps Alan Scott get back to his feet, The Flash speeds around the energy monsters, drawing their attention away from his friends.

The racist caricature of a Native American constellation monster starts a rain dance type of thing before attacking Flash.  Hawkman and his friend, William Wildeagle, scoff at the offensive depiction of one of William's people, and neither of them have the situational awareness to recognize Savage's hired goons creeping up on them with guns.

Eventually, the Joe DiMaggio/Babe Ruth monster nails Green Lantern with his bat, and the "I Love Lucy" monster gets a good shot on The Flash.  It takes the wind and some of his own awareness out of him.

Hawkman barely manages to get an attack on the Indian monster, but it has little effect.  As Savage's goons capture Will Wildeagle, the Justice Society members are surrounded by the constellations which change shape again, this time back to their animal forms.

Before his beasts can finish off the heroes, Savage is confronted by Ted Knight who rises from his wheelchair brandishing a newly created Cosmic Rod of his own.

While Ted fights Savage, Wildeagle disarms his captors and turns the table on the hired goons.

With a lot more practice and expertise with the Cosmic Rod, Starman is able to destroy Vandal Savage's weapon and then the tools he stole from the Gotham Museum, effectively stripping the immortal tyrant from any control over the constellations.

Then Starman turns his attention to the energy beasts and uses the power of his Cosmic Rod to batter at the three otherworldly beasts.

Starman and Green Lantern contain the monsters, the Flash destabilizes the pyramidal structure that Savage erected, and Hawkman flies into the observatory to redirect the telescope.  All of this draws the constellation monsters into the same energy portal that shoots them back up to the stars where they belong.

But what can Black Canary do in this situation?  Defense.

In desperation, Vandal Savage grabs Starman's Cosmic Rod.  Solomon Grundy grabs Vandal Savage. The result is they both end up cast into the heavens with the star monsters, and the heroes rejoice.

Ted Knight confesses that he, too, feared change and ran away from his duty with the Justice Society of America.  He doesn't want to completely forget his normal life at the observatory, but he requests to be reinstated as a member of the JSA if the others consent.  They wholeheartedly do, and the issue ends with them watching television.

That's all for this miniseries, but Len Strazewski and artist Mike Parobeck returned for a second Justice Society series a year later.  Black Canary didn't appear in that series; I think it took place chronologically after she left Earth 2 to join the Justice League of America.

Overall thoughts on this story: It was mostly good.  The different artists were a bit of a hindrance on my enjoyment.  Parobeck was stellar and Miehm was pretty good, so it was fortunate that they drew five of the eight chapters.  More than art inconsistencies, though, I think the big problem with this story is the villains are boring.  I have never cared about Vandal Savage, but this story in particular didn't make him charismatic or even very scary.  And the energy monsters attacking the heroes were both emotionless and flat, as well as repetitive.

What worked was that I like the characters in this book.  Obviously, I love Black Canary, and Hawkman is one of my favorites, although I don't like him in the yellow luchador mask he wears in this series.  I also love Starman and his connection to Dinah, and Green Lantern and Flash both have some nice interactions with her.  This wasn't a great series, but it was fun when the heroes got to play off each other.

The End

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Black Canary by Cliff Chiang 3

Cliff Chiang is in the process of concluding his run on Wonder Woman.  I don't know what's next for the artist, but I certainly wouldn't mind him returning to Black Canary.  He drew the first story arc of her post-wedding Green Arrow/Black Canary title and continued to do covers for that book for the first year.  He also drew one of my favorite issues of The Brave and the Bold (2007), the "Ladies Night" team-up of Wonder Woman, Zatanna and Batgirl in issue #33.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Birds of Prey #12 (Dec 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey...

Birds of Prey #12: "Hellbound Train" is written by Chuck Dixon with pencils by Dick Giordano, inks by Jordi Ensign, and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  The cover was done by Greg Land and Brian Stelfreeze.

We open with Black Canary dropping on top of a military train, guarded by U.S. Marshals in high tech armor, transporting a group of meta-human super-criminals.  As soon as Dinah lands on the roof of the train, the Marshals are hip to her presence and hold her at gunpoint.  Black Canary tries to warn them that the train is under threat of a jailbreak and she's there to defend it, but the guards aren't buying her story.  Oracle pleads with Black Canary through her transceiver to go easy on the marshals; they're not bad guys.

Unfortunately, Catwoman doesn't really care who or what they are, and she dives onto the train and knocks out two of the marshals before Black Canary can stop her.

Neither Canary or Catwoman are aware that their train ride is being observed by the mysterious, inhuman-looking stranger who set up Oracle and Black Canary to free Joe Gardner in the previous issues.  But Oracle already suspects a similar sinister presence behind this snafu.

While Black Canary and Catwoman argue about how they should proceed, more Marshals arrive, and open fire on the ladies.  The women drop down between two train cars.

The sonic bomb disrupts the marshals on the train roof while Catwoman gets herself and Canary inside the train's armory.  Catwoman says she was hired by some strange-o with a scary voice to knock out the train's communications network.  That's enough for Oracle to connect this operation with the Koroscovan op that went so terribly.

Then Black Canary shows Catwoman how little she wants to team-up again.

At that moment, a squad of marshals kicks in the door and demands Black Canary's surrender.  At the same time, more than a little conspicuously, Oracle gets a chat message from her online boyfriend, Bumblebeeb.  He still wants to meet her in person and asks her out on a date.  She reveals that she has tried to uncover his real identity and has failed, which means he could be more than just a really good hacker; he could be extremely dangerous to her.

But Bumblebeeb presses on with his flirtations and reveals something else that--if true--could be very interesting for Oracle.

Back in the train, Black Canary has been captured by the marshals who threaten to lock her up with the other super villains they have caught.  She continues to warn them about the pending breakout, but they don't want to listen.  We learn that the train is transporting five meta-humans: Shrapnel, Mammoth, Sudden Death, Spellbinder, and Joe Gardner, the last two of which the Birds of Prey have had some recent encounters with.  The military is shipping the villains to S.T.A.R. Labs so scientists can operate and see if they can cure them.

Black Canary keeps arguing that the marshals are in danger and someone or something is coming to steal these five super-villains.  Inexplicably, the head of the marshals listens to her.  Maybe because her name is Dina and that's sort of like Dinah?  I don't know.  Anyway, Dinah and Dina rush to the front of the train where the engineer tells them all of the reasons why nobody could penetrate or derail the train.

Then the mysterious stranger shows up standing on the tracks and summons a gigantic teleportation tunnel with a massive BOOM!  (Almost a boom-tube, if you will.)  The train passes through the tunnel and vanishes while also generating enough feedback to fry Oracle's entire system.

Oracle scrambles to get a backup computer online, but when she checks, the train and Black Canary have no signal.  They're gone.  So Oracle calls someone else she thinks might be able to help her.

I've said it before: at this point in his career, Dick Giordano's art was inoffensive, but hardly as stylish and great as it was in the '70s and '80s.  Still, I prefer this to Greg Land's artwork nine times out of ten.  The story, too, is better than what Dixon has given us over the last few months.  The train robbery is a nice, classic setup with some interesting twists.

Throwing Catwoman in the mix didn't really seem to add much to this chapter, but hopefully more will come of her inclusion next time around.  Meanwhile, I'm really excited to see what Power Girl brings to the table.  I'm also further intrigued who Oracle's mystery suitor is and whether or not it aligns with my prediction.

Come back in two weeks for a review of Birds of Prey #13.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Society Dame: Justice Society of America #7


Justice Society of America #7 is written by Len Strazewski with pencils by Grant Miehm, inks by Rich Buckler, and a cover by Tom Lyle featuring Black Canary and Solomon Grundy.  The series is edited by Brian Augustyn along with Mike Gold, who edited Black Canary's miniseries, her ongoing series, and her first arc in Action Comics Weekly.  The issue is cover dated August 1991 and hit the shelves in June.

Miehm previously pencilled the Black Canary-focused second issue of the series, which looked pretty great.  That bodes much better for this issue than the last chapter by Tom Artis.

"Vengeance from the Stars Chapter 7: The Return of the Justice Society" opens with Green Lantern Alan Scott and Black Canary happening upon the nefarious Vandal Savage and his undead henchman Solomon Grundy just before they destroy the heroes' compatriots, Hawkman, the Flash, and William Wildeagle.

At the sight of Green Lantern, Solomon Grundy loses what little remains of his mind and rushes to attack.

The Flash uses his super speed to catch Black Canary before she hits the hard ground.  Green Lantern uses his power ring against Grundy, but the magic has little effect, so he calls the Scarlet Speedster back for reinforcements.

Nice of Black Canary to be able to mock the damsel in distress trope as--while she is the least powerful person in the area--she was also the first one to step up and throw down against Grundy.

Meanwhile, inside the Mt. Pride Observatory, a manually and emotionally battered Ted Knight watches his old friends battle valiantly and perhaps futilely against the power of Vandal Savage.  The same power that crushed Ted.  He thinks back to the glory days of the Justice Society of America, before the team broke up and members went their separate ways... before Ted retired his Starman duties to focus on astronomy.

But now, Ted sees that he was wrong to walk away from the responsibility of being a hero.  And for the first time since the first issue, he stands upright in defiance.

Outside the observatory, Vandal Savage is struggling with the damaged Cosmic Rod he stole from Ted while the rest of the heroes try to subdue Grundy.  Hawkman grabs the not-so-gentle giant and lifts him into the air, only to drop him from a great enough height that Grundy leaves a crater in the earth when he lands.  Green Lantern knows, sadly, that's not nearly enough to keep Grundy down.

As the four heroes (and Wildeagle) close in on Vandal Savage, they come under fire from Savage's hired guns, the same hoods who robbed the Gotham Museum and fought with Black Canary back in issue #2.  The boys finally arrive with the stolen loot and Savage dives into their car.  He throws a hook around Grundy and drags the brute back to the observatory where an energy force field goes up, preventing the Justice Society members from following them.

Inside, Ted Knight is frantically working to construct a means of fighting Vandal Savage with spare parts, when the ancient evildoer tosses Ted's own Cosmic Rod at him and demands Ted fix it.  Then Savage takes in the stolen relics from Ancient Egypt: tools, he informs the men, that will grant him total control over the energy monsters he creates and the power to rule the world.

Outside, the four heroes recap the events that brought them to this point.  Realizing they will soon be faced with three different energy monsters when none of them could even defeat just one, they decide to storm Mt. Pride and stop Savage before he can attack.  But they still have the force field to contend with.  William Wildeagle suggests using his ancestor's tomahawk, a wooden weapon that Hawkman used to some success in his battle with the giant woman.

Hawkman throws the tomahawk against the force field, causing a massive energy spike.  Or maybe it has nothing to do with the tomahawk and everything to do with Vandal Savage making a dramatic re-entrance in his best pharaoh fashion.

Savage goes on to monologue about how the monsters went into the modern world to steal "the powers that drive the modern age: electricity, radio and television waves, and atomic power."  He also boasts that he is Cheops, returned to greatness once again.  Hawkman takes issue with that claim because he's a reincarnated Egyptian prince himself and knows who Cheops really was.

Then things take an... interesting turn, when Savage unleashes the three constellation monsters in their true form, which appear to be three television celebrities.

Simply solid issue with some great action beats from Black Canary and The Flash.  It's great to see the heroes working together as a team and interacting rather than fighting electric giants one-on-one.  It's also great to see Ted Knight get his balls back and start to resist the crippling influence of Vandal Savage.

And Miehm's art is without question better than Artis' work on the last issue.  It's not always clean but it is dynamic and energetic.

Come back Thursday for the final chapter of Justice Society of America...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pretty Bird: DETECTIVE COMICS #562

Previously in Detective Comics...

Detective Comics #562 starred Batman and Robin in a story by Doug Moench with art by Gene Colan and a cover by Ed Hannigan.  Green Arrow and Black Canary teamed up in a backup strip titled "The Criminal Element" written by Joey Cavalieri and drawn by Jerome K. Moore.

The story opens with Black Canary unconscious, being carried to the edge of the pier by the pair of drug dealers we saw talking to Steelclaw last issue.  After knocking them all out with sleeping gas, the villainous Steelclaw revived his lackies and ordered them to dump the Canary in the harbor to drown.  One of them wonders why they don't shoot her dead before dumping her, but the other says the shot will ring out too loudly over the water and bring unwanted attention to them as they also happen to be waiting for a shipment of drugs coming into that same port.

The hoods dump Black Canary in the water.  Shortly thereafter, the boat settles up to the dock with the drug shipment, but only two crew.  This causes the hoods on the pier some distress as now they'll have to unload the product all by themselves.  It comes as a relief, however, to Black Canary who regained consciousness when she hit the water and climbed up the other side of the boat, because now she only has four crooks to deal with.

She tosses one of boat crew into the other, knocking them overboard.  Then she leaps down to the pier to take out the other two.

Earlier that night, Mayor Bolt holds a press conference in his residence.  Reporters ask about his plans to combat the current crime wave in Star City.  Bolt gives a nice little soundbite about understanding the criminal element and being vigilant.  Neither Mayor Bolt nor the press corps was vigilant enough to notice the grappling hook arrow fired onto the terrace signaling the entrance of the Emerald Archer.

Mayor Bolt fires right back at Green Arrow that he sounds like the proverbial pot complaining that the kettle is reckless and only dressing up in a costume to make money.  Their debate is interrupted, though, when Mayor Bolt gets a phone call about his son, Brucie.  Yes, he refers to him as Brucie.  Again with that same familiarity that Steelclaw used when referring to the mayor's son.

The mayor ends the press conference and his people shoo the reporters out of his office.  Before leaving through the window, Green Arrow warns Mayor Bolt that if he doesn't do something about Champion, Green Arrow will have to take him down.  In the meantime, if anyone gets hurt because of Champion, Green Arrow will hold the mayor responsible.

Bolt watches Green Arrow swing away, questioning the archer's real dedication to cleaning up Star City.  Green Arrow can always run away to the Justice League Satellite, Bolt thinks, whereas the people have elected him to clean up the town.  While he's considering this, Bolt walks through a hidden door in the back of his office and down a spiraling stone staircase behind the wall.  He knows that the presence of vigilantes undercuts his credibility, but the Star City Police Department is corrupt and ineffectual.  That leaves it all up to him, Mayor Bolt, to root out crime, and to do that he has taken on the guise of a criminal mastermind in order to gain information.

Steelclaw leaves through a secret exit, gets in a car, and drives away.

Meanwhile, in a music shop across town, some kid we met back in issue #551 hears evidence that Onyx is back in town.  Onyx was last seen helping Green Arrow rescue their monastery in issue #557.

Come back next Friday for the next part of Green Arrow and Black Canary's continuing adventures in Detective Comics...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Society Dame: Justice Society of America #6


Justice Society of America #6 is written by Len Strazewski with pencils by Tom Artis, inks by Frank McLaughlin, and a cover by Tom Lyle featuring Black Canary and Solomon Grundy.  The series is edited by Brian Augustyn along with Mike Gold, who edited Black Canary's miniseries, her ongoing series, and her first arc in Action Comics Weekly.  The issue is cover dated August 1991 and hit the shelves in June.

The last issue that Tom Artis drew for this series was the Hawkman-centric issue #4.  That was a shame because I love Hawkman, but Artis' art was pretty lifeless and boring.  This time it's even worse, which sucks because this chapter focuses on Black Canary and Green Lantern fighting in the sky.  But, as we'll see, Artis' art is boring and awful.

"Vengeance from the Stars Chapter 6: Danger Flies the Skies" opens with Black Canary slowly regaining consciousness, pleading with her husband, Larry Lance, to let her sleep ten more minutes.  Then her eyes open fully and she realizes she is dangling high in the sky in the taloned clutches of a giant energy bird, the latest form of the constellation monster Sagittarius.

Green Lantern, caught in the bird's other talon, tells Canary to shut up so he can concentrate.  Real nice, Alan, coming from the crime fighter who can fly if the bird drops you!

Green Lantern struggles and manages to free his left arm from the talon.  He doesn't use his free hand to escape, though, just scratch his nose.  Black Canary tells him that the bird is also carrying a box full of stolen Egyptian relics from the Gotham Museum, and while she's recapping events from issues #2 and #3, a crop-duster soars nearby.

This is no random airplane flying near the bird's path, though, this "borrowed" crop-duster happens to be piloted by Doiby Dickles, the buffoonish cab driver that took palled around with Green Lantern before usurping his feature in All-American Comics.  Dickles flies close enough to tell Green Lantern he brought the special item, but the bird takes notice.  Sagittarius swoops down to attack the crop-duster and Doiby leads it on some fun little aerial acrobatics that make Black Canary nauseous.

Well, they should have been fun aerial acrobatics, but Tom Artis' layouts and panel construction are so flat that the motion and energy of the stunts is lost.  Anyway, Doiby gets out of the pilot's seat and hands Alan Scott the green power lantern.

Sagittarius doesn't like this at all and dives down toward Doiby who is trying to regain control of the plane.  Green Lantern uses this time to speak the oath that powers his magic ring.

Alan creates an energy projection to pluck the bird's hind feathers, causing Sagittarius to drop Green Lantern and Black Canary.  Green Lantern creates a green parachute for Dinah, allowing her to settle gently on Doiby's plane while Alan turns around to combat the bird monster.

Meanwhile, on the ground below, Vandal Savage's henchmen watch the fight in the sky while Solomon Grundy rages about wanting to kill Green Lantern.  The henchmen use reverse psychology on Grundy to get him to pick up the fallen box of Egyptian loot and put it in another plane.  Then they take off for New Mexico and the Mt. Pride Observatory where their evil master awaits.

Back in the sky, Green Lantern tries to cage the bird with his power ring but it doesn't work.  The bird is too powerful and it shoots energy beams out of its eyes that knock Alan unconscious.  He begins to fall, but the ring keeps his descent slow and steady.  But that puts him in danger of Sagittarius' beak and claws.

Doiby flies the plane near the bird and releases its tanks of insecticide smoke in Sagittarius' face.  The monster is distracted enough fro Black Canary to climb out onto the plane's wing and catch Green Lantern.

Black Canary brings Alan around and asks if he can absorb the monster's energy using his lantern and he thinks it's a great idea.

Green Lantern flies out again, but this time when Sagittarius fires its deadly eye-beams, Alan catches them with his green power lantern and siphons the monster's stolen energy.  Weakened, the bird flies off.  Green Lantern and Black Canary are able to follow the bird, sending Doiby off on his own to hopefully die a horrible death.

The heroes follow Sagittarius to the Mt. Pride Observatory where their friend, Ted Knight, works.  Sagittarius disappears into the massive antenna relay that has been constructed around the observatory.  As the heroes get closer, they find Vandal Savage gloating over the half-conscious forms of Hawkman and The Flash.  They witness William Wildeagle shoot Ted Knight's Cosmic Rod out of Savage's hand, but then Solomon Grundy sneaks up on Wildeagle.

After the awesomeness of Mike Parobeck last issue, it really sucked to endure Tom Artis' pencils in this issue.  They're not terrible on their own, but they don't compare to Parobeck or Rick Burchett or Grant Miehm.  And the greatest problem is the uninspired panel construction and layout.  Every page is based on a six panel grid.  Occasionally, two panels will merge into one or he'll give us a splash, but they're never anything impressive.  I don't know if he was trying to emulate the simplistic style of Golden Age comics.  I also don't know why this eight issue series needed four different artists.  Either way, this issue suffered.

It's also not the best story.  It's just as formulaic as the rest; the aerial combat with the energy monster really isn't powerful enough to take up two thirds of the book, and the last two pages cover stuff we already know.  Plus, Doiby Dickles is lame.  All in all, this isn't a great way to lead into the final two issues of the series, but they should pick up.

Come back Monday for the next chapter of Justice Society of America...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Team-Up: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #100 (March 1972)

Happy Batman Day!

Yes, today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Dark Knight's debut in Detective Comics #27.  To honor this landmark in comics publishing, I couldn't think of a better topic for today's post than one of the Blonde Bombshell's team-ups with Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold.  And, thinking one big anniversary deserves another, what better issue to cover than The Brave and the Bold #100 starring Batman and Robin, as well as the Hard Travelin' heroes, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Black Canary?

"The Warrior in a Wheel-Chair" is written by Zany Bob Haney with art by the legendary Jim Aparo and a cover by the equally legendary Nick Cardy.  The Brave and the Bold #100 is cover dated March 1972 but hit the streets in December of '71.

The issue begins with an unseen sniper spying potential targets on the steps of Gotham City Hall.  When Batman comes down the steps, though, the sniper zeroes-in and fires, cutting down the Dark Knight Detective.  Commissioner Jim Gordon rides in the ambulance with Batman, cursing the drug dealers he believes responsible for this attempt on Batman's life.

The hospital's chief-of-staff tells Gordon the bullet penetrated Batman's chest and stopped perilously close to his heart.  There is only one surgeon who might be able to save the Caped Crusader, according to the chief-of-staff; unfortunately, Dr. Hellstrom is in Zurich and can't arrive in Gotham for three days.  That means Batman has to stay safely on the sidelines for three days while the biggest drug shipment in history is set to go down.

Batman stubbornly tries to rise out of the wheelchair but his body betrays him.  Alfred pleads with him to stay in the chair while Batman agonizes over his newfound uselessness in the war on crime.

While sulking, Batman observes a spider catching a fly in its web and has a sudden epiphany.  "The bat must turn into a spider," he says, and tells his faithful butler to summon Robin.

Later that night, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern arrive in Gotham City wondering if Batman's condition is as serious as it sounded when he beckoned them.  And naturally, it doesn't take long for the Emerald Archer and the Ringslinger to start shouting at each other about drugs and other societal problems.

Unseen by the trio of Justice Leaguers, Robin makes contact with his boss, using code names for both of them.

Huh... Robin can't understand what value Black Canary brings to Batman's scheme?  Is this naiveté of youth?  Ignorant sexism?  Or just another Bob Haney-ism that we roll our eyes at and press on with this wacky adventure?  Let's go!

Commissioner Gordon contacts Batman and tells him he can't combat the drug trade by himself while recuperating from his gunshot.  Batman tells him not to worry, that he's brought in his ward and three members of the Justice League of America to help his operation.  Then, inexplicably, Gordon complains that this war on drugs is police business.  Is he objecting to more costumed crime fighters lending a hand in an unofficial capacity?  He knows he's talking to Batman, right?  Haney!!!  Anyway, Batman asks for Gordon's trust and a little bit more time to put his plan into motion, then he hangs up and fights back the pain of his life-threatening injury.

Across the world in Switzerland, Mr. Belknap, the head of the international drug cartel is nervous about the security of his drug shipments to Gotham, so he sets up a test run.  Back in Gotham, we learn that Batman has a coded set of delivery routes and dates.  If he cracked the code, he ought to be able to anticipate the location of every one of Belknap's shipments.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the Bat-Spider sends the Ace-Archer into action.  Green Arrow slips into the Gotham City Post Office and observes the drug traffickers disguising drugs into mail packages.

Green Arrow sends a shaft through the chest of one of the drug runners, killing him; the other punk gets away.  Green Arrow checks the packages full of drugs but discovers that it's only fine sugar.  After reporting in to Batman, the Dark Knight realizes that Belknap sent in a test shipment.  Now they are aware of each other and the operations will get even more dangerous.

Batman gets word that another shipment is coming in through the docks.  Green Lantern watches the ship come into port and unload a foreign car.  He suspects the drugs might be hidden in the car, but when he goes to investigate, hidden gunmen from the ship and the docks open fire.  Green Lantern uses the power of his ring to protect himself and thwart the shooters.  Then he uses the ring to deconstruct the car, only to find no drugs hidden inside.  Once again, Belknap has foiled Batman's plan by sending a false shipment.

Of course it's the woman who nearly ruins Batman's carefully constructed scheme!  And of course Robin thinks Black Canary's an idiot, though he is able to recognize her legs from across the street in the rain.

Wait, Black Canary had to get out of the rain because it was ruining her hair?  She wears a wig!!!

Batman wallows in despair that he couldn't catch Belknap's drug deliveries.  Three chances, three misses, and now the Dark Knight has run out of time.  He collapses under the strain and needs to be prepared for surgery.

Back in Switzerland, Belknap learns that Batman will be operated on by Dr. Hellstrom from the same country.  That night, "Hellstrom" oversees the loading of some equipment onto the plane sending him across the ocean.  In Gotham, Robin and Commissioner Gordon watch as Batman is wheeled into the operating room.  Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern fume over their inability to stop the drug shipments and head to the hospital to be close to Batman during his surgery.

In the operating room, Dr. Hellstrom points out his elaborate machine that will keep Batman's condition stable during the procedure.  The Dark Knight begins to feel the effects of anesthesia which causes him to hallucinate images of a giant spider web and Belknap at the center.  The vision of Belknap transforms into the vision of a surgeon and Batman feels himself ensnared by webs.

The Caped Crusader snaps out of his sleep and begins to resist the doctors about to cut him open.  He struggles while they try to increase his anesthesia.  In desperation, he signals Robin in the waiting room.

Before Belknap can slice Batman's throat, Green Arrow fires an arrow that knocks the scalpel out of the drug kingpin's hand.  The heroes take down Belknap.  Gordon gets word to Switzerland where they discover that the real Dr. Hellstrom was captured by Belknap's goons.  It will take six hours for him to fly to Gotham, and Batman doesn't have that much time.  So Green Arrow uses his green power ring to collect the surgeon and bring him to Gotham in a much speedier time.

When the real Hellstrom begins to operate on Batman, he realizes that his specialized machine isn't working correctly.  Upon inspection, the heroes realize that the machine is filled with Belknap's drug shipment.

After the operation, the heroes gather around Batman and explain how Belknap planned to usurp Dr. Hellstrom, kill Batman during the surgery, and then take his machine out of the hospital to flood the city with his product.  They wonder how Batman figured out Belknap had taken the doctor's place, and the Dark Knight tells them he felt needle marks on the doctor's wrist and remembered that Belknap was a junkie.  Hmm... that seems like information we should have had earlier.

What to say about this issue?  It's fun and hilarious in all the usual Bob Haney ways.  The story is too complicated by half for its own good.  Why all this ridiculous spider imagery and emphasis on Batman spinning complex webs like a spider?  This doesn't amount to anything profound and the metaphor doesn't even hold up.  The characters are exaggerated and slightly wonky, and sexist in Robin's case, but that's just natural fun.

In any event, the true star of this book isn't Batman or Black Canary or Robin... it's Jim Aparo!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Birds of Prey #11 (Nov 1999)

Previously in Birds of Prey...

Birds of Prey #11: "State of War" is written by Chuck Dixon with pencils by Dick Giordano, inks by Mark Propst, and colors by Gloria Vasquez.  The cover was done by Land and Brian Stelfreeze.

For the third straight issue, we open with a splash page of the Iron Brigade of Koroscova followed by a double-page splash of the Iron Brigade getting ignobly knocked off their high horse.  This time, it's by a squad of United States Marines come to enforce peace before Koroscova's troubles spill over its boarders into world war.

The Marines are supported by a CBRNe team in hazmat suits trying to assess the nature of the damage to Koroscova.

Said damage was caused by a reckless clone of Guy Gardner named Joe.  He escaped to the hills with the mad scientist that gave him super powers, and Black Canary who freed him without knowing who or what he was.  At the moment, Joe Gardner is feeling great.

Black Canary tells Joe she wants nothing to do with him.  Joe grabs the doctor and begins to fly away, but Oracle screams into her communicator that Dinah must stay close to Joe so that she, Oracle, can track him and obliterate him with the orbital satellite laser she hijacked from the U.S. military.  Not trying to conceal her displeasure at all, Black Canary calls for Joe to come back.  Of course, he's too arrogant to believe she wants anything other than his smoking hot body.

Elsewhere, the presidents of the United States and Koroscova play their games of diplomacy and international checkers.  Then Joe Gardner and the others arrive at the Marine encampment.

Black Canary gives Oracle the coordinates and then leaps out of the way as the laser targets directly on Joe Gardner.  It burns through the Earth's surface, but Joe is barely harmed.  Well, his feelings are hurt, I suppose, because he grabs Black Canary and threatens to kill her and the voice in her ear that he can hear.  He bats away Marines and asks if Black Canary has any last words.  She punches him in the face.  It has little effect except to bang up her hand, but it's a nice little moment of defiance before she dies.

Once Oracle realized her super laser couldn't kill Joe, however, she called in her backup plan.


Joe Gardner is knocked unconscious and half-buried in the dirt.  Superman makes sure Dinah is okay and then he heads back to Metropolis or wherever he's needed.  Black Canary flirts with the Marine commander and hitches a ride back to the states.  Though the mission is over and world war averted, Oracle isn't happy that somebody played her.

Back at the humanitarian agency that hired Oracle, the woman who lied to Oracle about the mad scientist's identity is greeted by the mysterious stranger who put her up to it.

The stranger teleports them both away.

By now it's pretty clear that Chuck Dixon writes about ten pages worth of material for a twenty-two page comic.  The first three pages of each of the last three issues aren't funny or clever; they're dumb and a bit insulting that I had to pay for it.  Dick Giordano's art is less stylized and ridiculous than Greg Land's but it's also not as strong as it was back in the Bronze Age.

Come back next Tuesday for a review of Birds of Prey #12.