Gail Simone being back on Birds of Prey is kinda like a big deal. I’m pretty sure that Esther is still going “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” even today. She’s gotta be hypersonic by this point.
Anyway, I liked the old BoP. Those first 12-18 issues or so are some of Simone’s best work, and I didn’t even really mind Ed Benes’s art back then. But, the new announcement bugs me because of DC’s history with announcing fan-pleasing things and then doing half the job on them, at best.
-Spoiler dies in a sexualized and degraded way. Fans form Project Girl-Wonder in protest of the way her murder devalued her character. A couple years later, DC Comics brings her back, completely sidestepping the issues behind people were mad at her death. She’s just… back.
-DC makes a big deal about the return of Milestone, a well-loved company that featured a truly multi-cultural cast. Rather than bringing DC Comics up to the modern day with regards to portrayal of race, the Milestone books are effectively quarantined. They were shuffled off into a series as filler between big-name runs (Mark Waid and JMS) and their reintroduction took place in Dwayne McDuffie’s already-hamstrung run on JLA. And then, in the end, they drop every Milestone character except for Static. They wanted a new toy and jerked everyone around to get it.
-DC announces the return of fan-favorite Gail Simone’s fondly remembered Birds of Prey, with art accompanied by Ed Benes. Simone on Benes: “[H]e also does lovely, subtle acting, and tremendous facial expressions and body language. I think he brings a very fiery European influence that is a wonderful remedy to some of the tired vaguely manga and video game-esque influences we’ve seen lately.”
And, well, I realize that Simone can’t trash her artist (that would be unprofessional), but that doesn’t actually reflect reality. Benes’s men have one face, his women another, and they all have the same flat, empty expression. The body language tends to be of the “crotch or butt thrust directly at the reader” variety, and the “subtle acting” is so subtle as to be nonexistent. The “fiery European influence” would be better termed “draws kinda like Jim Lee used to, only with bigger boobs,” and the “vaguely manga and video game-esque influences” is the kind of annoying strawman people pull all the time without actually naming names. Is she talking about UDON? Humberto Ramos? Paul Pope? Joe Madureira? Ed McGuinness?
Benes is a bad artist for comics, is my point. His storytelling skills are subpar, his love for T&A gets in the way constantly, and his people all look the same. There are numerous other artists DC could have paired Simone with to make a book that would be the girl power monthly it should be- Nicola Scott, for example, or the Lopez brothers from Catwoman. They’ve proven that they can draw realistic, funny, and attractive women, and, most importantly, they have strong storytelling skills. The Lopezes in particular do great work, even with a varied cast, in a style that would fit the tone of Simone’s BoP.
But hey- Ed Benes. DC says he’s nice? I say he’s polite.
Y’all can have him, though.