For this volume, I am going to focus on what was most intriguing to me: the artwork and the layout.
First of all, there is the cover itself.
When I was looking for the 3rd volume of Birds of Prey at Earth 2 Comics, I almost passed it by altogether in my search. This is because the artwork is vastly different than the two previous; the characters don’t even look like themselves. This cover was done by Cliff Chiang, a different artist than the two previous. It turns out he also penciled a variant cover for Volume 1, but I have not seen that, so his variation of the birds was very different than what I have grown accustomed to. To me the cover looked sloppy, I noticed a lot of blue ( thanks to Dwayne McDuffie I now know that indicates a slapdash inking job) and a complete lack of detail in the faces of the birds. So far, color me unimpressed.
And my confusion and dissapointment did not end with the cover. While I had grown accustomed to the physiques and the costumes within this comic, what I found on page 2 was too, too much. To speak plainly, what I found on the 2-3 page spread was rather disgusting. The birds were posing suggestively, exposing themselves even more than usual and throwing sexual innuendos in the direction of the Penguin of all people.
But what appears to be a complete exploitation of every member of the team turns out to be what I am interpreting to be a self-reflexive subverting of their own sexually suggestive nature. Thank you, Gail Simone. It turned out that Penguin, suffering from blood loss, had slipped into a fitful sleep and we as audience had been momentarily privy to the sex-fantasy dream he was having. Of course the comic book writers are perfectly aware of the reaction their female characters cause in the (ehm) minds of their beholders, but it was interesting to see such a magazine poke fun at these readers, through the already laughable character of Chester Cobblepot.
After the fun with Penguin, it wasn’t long before a battle with the police broke out. The team had taken refuge at Penguin’s club, but of course they weren’t safe for long. The team battled it out, which gave many ample opportunities to showcase the fighting prowess of the team and highlight the assets of the girls, especially Black Canary.
A couple of plot points are necessary here. There is definitely something going on with Penguin, and of course there is still that mysterious White Canary to deal with, but next up is the very interesting kidnapping of Oracle by the previously dead Savant and Creote. Ah, the plot thickens.
The rest of the volume consists of Hawk getting seriously injured by the White Canary, followed by Huntress telling Black Canary that she needs to go kill that bad bird by any means necessary (read: her sonic scream), and the beginnings of a battle between the two ladies.
Most of the imagery throughout is up to Birds of Prey standards, and the layouts on the pages are always varied, full of movement and vibrant. But it must be mentioned, two pencilers and two inkers divided up the work on the book, and the differences from artist to artist seem obvious. My theory is that the smaller panels went to someone who I will venture to say was lacking, if not in skill, than at least in time spent in the medium. The detail from large panel (such as the ones I have been highlighting through this blog) to small panel was starkly different.
The last page, perhaps the most interesting of the volume, both layout and plot wise, has a split panel of the Black and White Canaries up top, overlapping on a full screen shot of the rest of the team fleeing with Penguin. As the exact moment Black Canary realizes that her team is being led into a trap, set by penguin, the reader sees the interior thoughts of Penguin below: “You lose, Ms. Lance. You lose.” It is a very interesting moment, one that strengthens the bond between reader and main character.
I am interested to see what happens next, of course, but what I would really like to see is some consistency with the artist. Or maybe this is normal par for the comic book course? Some of the art is gorgeous, even if risqué, but other panels seem flat and the movement seems awkward. I think this is due to differences in artistry, although I am not sure. Perhaps large panels are simply seem as more important and are therefore given more time and attention, I am not sure.
Stay tuned for my final review, of #4…