Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 8

October 25th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Another week has gone by and once again, I have my plate full. Last month, I dropped Blue Beetle, Legion of Superheroes and Red Hood and the Outlaws. From what I hear from those who have read those, I made the right decision. That leaves ten comics to read and review.

First is Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which may no longer tie in with Nightwing. It’s hard to tell, since their “Dick Grayson is a killer” plots appear to be moving in different directions. Still, it’s the best Bat-book of the relaunch by far. Snyder’s Batman seems to embrace just enough sci-fi gadgetry, high-octane action and dickery without going too overboard. I really dug his moment of confronting Nightwing about the suspicions that he was involved in a murder. He takes Dick’s explanation at face value, which makes it seem like a trust moment where he’s cool because they’re family… only we find out that Bruce is a bit of a cock (calling him a dick in presence of Dick doesn’t sound right) and didn’t trust him all that much after all. Dick, used to all of this, plays it off like it’s the usual Bruce thing, but even Bruce seems a little disappointed in himself.

“Yes, I’m a jerk. I know.”

The main story is moving along well enough and I’m cautiously optimistic about the possibilities of the new mayor hopeful character. Of course, I won’t know more about what he’s all about until the next issue. Most definitely sticking.

Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz isn’t so much a bad comic as it’s just weak. I kind of like it, but there’s nothing especially strong about it. There wasn’t too much in terms of strength of the last issue either. It’s cute and I can easily see the potential in the characters, but it’s in this strange middle area. Nothing about it offends me, but nothing about it has me super excited. I’m going to go probation style on this one. Sticking, but I need something to latch onto by the next one or I’m done.

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This Week in Panels: Week 69

January 16th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Huh huh. Week 69.

Very DC-centric week this time around, mainly because Was Taters contributed more panels than even me. Not that she’s only into the DC stuff. For instance, she also reads Thor: The Mighty Avenger and that’s Marve–DAMN IT, that’s canceled, isn’t it. Anyway, thanks to her as well as David Brothers and the man known only as luis.

I’m certainly going to need the help of any interested readers for next week because I have an entire three comics I plan on picking up (Green Lantern Corps, Avengers Academy and Deadpool MAX). So if there’s something you’ve been reading that you want represented, by all means. Now on with the chlorophyll.

Batgirl #17
Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez

Batman and Robin #19
Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel

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Why Birds of Prey?

September 8th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I know there’s some Birds of Prey readers out there who also read this site. (At least, one, maybe, does Esther read this stuff or just her own posts? I bet I could zing her good and she would never notice…) Anyway, BoP fans! Honest question here, because it’s been picking at my brain.

Why do you read it?

BoP is in this weird space for me. Gail Simone isn’t really to my taste, but I can see why people like her. But Ed Benes, whoo boy. Simone said he “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 man, let me tell you, I can’t think of a single thing in that sentence that I don’t want to pull apart, throw into a Glad bag, and drown in a river. He sucks, is what I’m saying, and I think he’s filling too many pages with drawings of women vulving like their life depends on it rather than doing things like having faces that emote and bodies that act. (No shots.)

One thing I noticed when poking around on blogs and reviews that praise BoP is that they only ever seem to praise Simone, and highly, at that. It’s her book, and with good reason, and Benes tends to get, at most, a line or two about a kick to the face or a guts pose. It comes across, and this is obviously a generalization, that fans of BoP enjoy Simone’s half of the book and tolerate Benes’s half. The art gets short shrift in a way that it doesn’t for other cape comics.

Is that weird? Am I seeing patterns where there aren’t any? I know that I have a (perfectly rational) dislike of the Benes studio’s work (ask me about it sometime), and others like have a perfectly rational like of their work (maybe). I liked it a lot more back when he was a cartoonier Jim Lee, the Wildstorm and early BoP days.

For the fans, are you reading it for Simone? Is it because there’s slim pickings for ladycomics with superheroes? Are you 100% into the comic, writing and art, and I’m just a jerk? For the non-fans, why aren’t you reading it?

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What is a cliffhanger.

August 25th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

A little while ago, I posted an entry about my decision to temporarily drop the Birds of Prey comic, due to a cliffhanger plot element.  Last month, after an epic separation of one issue, I jumped right back on board, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue due to a different cliffhanger.  At scans_daily, and in conversations with other comics people, I noticed that many people felt the same.

Tastes differ, and what makes me sit up and take notice of a comic is going to make another person throw it across the room.  But the conversations got me thinking about how cliffhangers work, and what separates the good from the bad.

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Birds of Prey #2: When it’s just . . . . Enough.

June 24th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Anyone who has read this site knows I’m no fan of character death.  I thought, though, that the right circumstances could make me ignore one plot element that I didn’t like.  I was wrong.

I’m a ridiculous fangirl for the writer of this series.  I adore the characters.  I’m psyched about the book.  I’m intrigued by the story.  This is as ideal a situation as it gets.

In issue #2 a character dies, and the heroes are distraught over that character’s death.  I’ve re-written this tiny post several times because I don’t want this reaction to seem flip.  The minute I saw that, I stopped wanting the book.  I didn’t decide that I wasn’t going to buy it, or that I was going to make some kind of statement by not buying it.  I just didn’t want it anymore.

The thing is, I went online and found several hints that this death is not what it seems.  I still don’t want the book.  I really don’t care about the circumstances of character death anymore.  It doesn’t matter if the fallout is realistic, if it’s happening for sound story purposes, if it’s helping to set up a new and exciting new world, if it’s a really great story, or even if the death is guaranteed to be temporary.  I just don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up the book.  Like I said, I love the whole package of Birds of Prey.  As soon as the ripples stop – no funeral, no angst, no memories or flashbacks -I’ll be back and loving it. 

It’s just that I realized that nothing on earth is going to make me willing to pick up one single more book with character death in it.  I read comics for enjoyment, and that sucks all of my enjoyment out.   There’s a limit to the death, pain, and despair that I’m willing to read.  I guess I’m at that limit.  Enough.

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Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I love you, Tomorrow.

March 31st, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

And seriously, I thought Birds of Prey was gone forever.  It was cancelled, people.  Cancelled and the characters parcelled out to to other books.  It was sold for scrap.

Well, ba BAM!

They are back in May, and they are back written by Simone.  With two new characters.  That’s like seeing the dog that ‘went to live on a farm upstate’ returned to you with a litter of puppies. 

And if they include Creote and Savant?  And Helena keeps up her weird-ass thing with Catman?

Hell, even if she doesn’t, and they don’t, I am a happy, happy person.

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Do the Math: Sometimes You Get What You Ask For

January 19th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

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.

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Everything’s Going My Way!

January 13th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

What had me singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” today?  Sure, my week brightens around Wednesdays.  And sure, I was still riding high on the leftover Batmanderthal vapors.  But this is what really kick-started my morning:

The Birds of Prey are back!  And they’re being written by Gail Simone!

Of course scans_daily is all over this, including the mysterious blacked-out figures in the background.  Creote is the front-runner, as far as speculation goes, for the big figure.

There are more contenders for the flying figure.  They include

1.  Misfit – Charlie Gage-Radcliffe  (Yeah, yeah.  “Dark Vengeance.”  Not my favorite.)

2.  Batwoman – Kate Kane (I’d think she’d be up front in the picture, though.)

3.  Batgirl – Bette Kane (That could be interesting.  And I’m pretty sure she’d be pissed to see how many people have stolen her moniker.)

4.  Manhunter – Kate Spencer (Very unlikely.)

5.  Spoiler/Robin/Batgirl – Stephanie Brown  (I don’t think Gail Simone has ever written her before.  That could be cool.)

Simone states that the two new characters are a pair, which cuts down on a lot of possibilities.  I suppose they could be Creote and a very interestingly posed/surgically altered Savant.  The ruling theory, though, is that they are Hawk and Dove  in some new iteration of the pair.  We’ll know in spring.  Until then, I’m humming the rest of Oklahoma!, and keeping hope alive.

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Humor vs. Character: Death Match?

October 28th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell


The character responsible for Kyle disgusted lip-curl is Bueno Excellente, Garth Ennis’s Section 8character.  Bueno overcomes evil with the power of perversion.  Seriously.  A drugged sexual encounter between Kyle and Bueno is implied (although it is possible that Bueno managed to save Kyle), in the above panels.  Some people have said that, whichever scenario is implied, the above panels are a rape joke, and would have an effect of Kyle’s character.  Other people say that it was just a joke and not part of continuity.

(There’s also a ‘just a joke’ argument versus an ‘offensive’ argument.  Since that always comes up, I’ll briefly summarize my thoughts on the matter.  Phrasing something humorously doesn’t mean the central concept isn’t offensive, and if someone is tough enough to make jokes about sensitive subjects, they should be tough enough to take criticism.)

I haven’t seen Bueno in action, so I don’t know if the moment is out of character for him, but I imagine that this was just meant as a funny shout-out to another comic book, and not an important part of either character’s history.  (Unless Grant Morrison gets hold of it in 30 years.  Then it will be the basis for several whodunnit-type story-arcs.)  There are other moments scattered through comics that do the same thing.

Much was made of the Tamora Pierce (Edit: Jodi Picoult was the actual writer.  Thank you David Uzumeri.) Wonder Womanissue in which Wondy dropped an injured man she was carrying when he made a lascivious remark about her.  It was supposed to be a humorous beat, but many readers pointed out that it was an out-of-character move for Wonder Woman that could have had serious consequences.

Savant and Creote were introduced in Birds of Prey.  Savant was a computer genius who had no ability to judge time; he wouldn’t know if he had done something yesterday or a decade ago.  Creote was a Russian ultra-thug who, it was revealed, was gay and in love with Savant.  They were bad guys who were semi-redeemed over about forty issues, and then left the story.  About ten issues later, when the Birds need someone they can trust to take car of a young girl, Creote turned up in an apron with a feather duster under one arm, oven mitts on both hands and balancing what looked like a casserole dish.  The panel was a funny image, but Creote was established as a glowering tough guy who was indifferent to his surroundings; indifferent, in fact, to everything that wasn’t Savant.

Obviously, the skill, timing, and context of these moments influence how people take them, but so does personal taste.  Some people don’t mind a little out-of-character wackiness if it’s in service of an overall humorous tone.  Others don’t think its funny if it doesn’t feel right for the character.

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Some News Stories Make You Happy To Be Alive

December 16th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell
These women?  They dress in matching outfits, they patrol their neighborhood, and if you are a corrupt official or a wife beater, they will fuck you up.

There may be no more Birds of Prey, but there is a real-life all-girl vigilante group whose leader spits out quotes like, ‘We are a gang for justice.’ Fantastic.

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