Birds of Prey, though created by Chuck Dixon, can pretty easily be pointed to as Gail Simone’s breakout book. A unique combination of strong characterization and bad-ass kung-fu action sequences, the book served as a nearly perfect example of what Simone was capable of (though books like Deadpool, Agent X, and particularly Secret Six would later display a notable mastery of a much darker humor), and in an industry known for its poor treatment of women, the team of all-female ass-kickers was a breath of fresh air. Of course, Simone eventually left, and things went downhill from there, particularly for Black Canary, who played incompetent sidekick/damsel in distress to Green Arrow, while other members of the team merely got tossed into three-ways with various members of the costumed hero community.
With Brightest Day, however, DC has decided to relaunch Birds of Prey. I won’t even begin to speculate why, but in a week filled with unnecessary death and shallow event comics, the well-characterized action book with a light sense of humor stands out quickly as one of DC’s strongest releases. After flying solo for a time, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, and Black Canary are called in once more by their former leader, Oracle. It seems someone has gotten extraordinarily detailed information on all the costumed heroes of the DC Universe, the Birds included, and they’re willing to release it and cause all out war on Earth’s greatest heroes. Oracle recruits her old team, along with Dove and the violent, newly resurrected Hawk, to find out who and put a stop to it.
She’s joined by Ed Benes, a regular artist on her original run on the title. Given the amount of time that’s passed, it shouldn’t surprise me, but Benes has improved significantly since his original work on the book, and the art here is, by and large, a treat. The action is punchy and quick, the design is excellent, and the characters are distinct. His least successful image, unfortunately, is the book’s last – you don’t often see a nine-section chain whip used in comics, and there’s a reason for that: it looks vaguely ridiculous and unwieldy. Still, Benes has at least slightly toned down the cheesecake factor and upped the ante on the action sequences, and it’s more than a pleasure to have him back on the book. Together, Benes and Simone almost make it seem like they never left, and Birds of Prey #1 is an undeniably successful opening issue, and one I hope you all try.
– Cal Cleary