Saturday, March 15, 2008

Birds Of Prey: Dead Of Winter

Dead of Winter collects together the end of Gail Simone’s popular and acclaimed run as Bird of Prey’s writer. It has seen the title move from being an Oracle-Black Canary team up comic to being a show case for the DCU’s female superheroes. It’s a transition that’s gotten off to a rocky start, however. No sooner did Oracle bring in a selection of the world’s finest heroines, than Spy Smasher (Katarina Armstrong), a government agent with a personal connection to Barbara Gordon, highjacks the Birds and sends them on a secret mission in a former Soviet republic. Once over there the team runs head long into the Secret Six, a team Simone developed for the Infinite Crisis mini Villains United.

The aim of the story seems to be to reaffirm Oracle's leadership and to underscore the importance of friends. The mission itself is mostly played for laughs. It’s all very intense and lives are on the line, of course, but the emphasis is on the two teams, action, and trading one liners. There is a secret reason behind it, but once that is disclosed it didn’t lend any gravitas to the situation. Instead, I was left wondering why the new Spy Smasher played things the way she did. Surely the team would have gladly signed on if she had told them what was going on. It might have worked if Armstrong had more of a history with readers. If we'd seen her being controlling and manipulative before, which she's obvious is, it might have been easier to accept that she just wouldn’t tell them. I am not going to spoil it by telling you what it is, but, trust me, she could have gotten any number of heroes just for the asking.

Dead of Winter brings Simone’s run up to seven trades. It’s been a fun series and I can certainly understand how she has managed to gain the strong fan base she has. There is a type of creator that I think of as a legacy author, artist, what have you. They are the people who churn out fans’ favourite comics month after month, without actually doing anything to establish themselves apart from mainstream comics. They aren’t really innovators. They often don’t own any of the characters or comics they’ve spent years on. Their energies are spent contributing to the legacy of a given hero or comic universe. Right now Simone has established herself as the highest profile female writer working in the mainstream. A natural for her new series, Wonder Woman. But it would be nice to see her move beyond legacy work and leave her own mark on the medium.

Note: I do realize that she is a creator, along with Neil Googe, of Welcome to Tranquility, and Killer Princesses, with Lea Hernandez, but her energies do seem focused on the DCU.

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