Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Dawn of DC: Birds of Prey #1

I don't often finish reading a comic and think "Holy shit. I have to say something about this." Honestly, if that were the case I would have a lot more posts here on my blog. Today I decided to get out and go to the comic store, something that I haven't done in a while. I have been good with money lately, so I decided to treat myself with a couple of comics in print (rather than my usual digital purchases). After perusing the store for a bit I picked up a couple of trades (the Golden Age, Neil Gaiman's start on the Miracleman comic from back in the 80s, and DC's Pride Through The Years). Emerald City Comics, a local comic store that I've gone to for years now, is smart and they have a mini rack of comics at the register. I decided on a whim to pick up the first issue of the Dawn of DC "event" for a new ongoing Birds of Prey comic.

Am I glad that I picked up this comic.

I am a fan of Kelly Thompson's Marvel work. Her runs on the Kate Bishop Hawkeye and Black Widow are some of my favorites of either character. I figured that I would like this book, but I still had high expectations.

I had seen some previews for the book, so I knew that the art was phenomenal. Drawn by Leonardo Romero, and with colors by Jordie Bellaire, the art is everything that you want and expect from a super-hero comic. Romero's work is dynamic, and plays to the strength's of Thompson's writing. One of the things that Thompson writes well are dynamic fight scenes that flow across the page, and Romero brings this to life. Bellaire's colors move from restrained when showing the motion of characters, to vivid and "gaudy" in that way that great super-hero coloring can be.

Look at this page:

The art and color combine in a way that makes the page come alive. You can see the movement of two of the best fighters in the DC universe. You can feel the impacts of their blows against the ninjas they're fighting (only the League of Assassins would put ninjas in orange jumpsuits), and you can feel the bodies hitting the ground.

Back to the writing. The character interplay is stellar. From the reaction of Black Canary in the first panel of this page, to the conversation between her and Batgirl on the rest of the page, to how Harley Quinn gets involved with the team is all top material. The dialog is crisp, and each character has their own unique voice, such as with Big Barda (who has honestly never had a unique voice going back to when Kirby wrote her). Barda's referring to Cassandra as "small bat" throughout their interactions is just heartwarming. Barda has respect for Cassandra from their first interaction, and the nickname isn't meant to to belittle Cassandra, but shows the respect that she has for Cassandra as a hero and a fighter.

Zealot doesn't have a lot to do in this book, but it is all about the setup and many of the characters meeting for the first time. It is obvious that they know about each other, and their reputations precede each other. That's important because this is story about reputations. Black Canary is carefully assembling a team that will have a reputation for being dangerous. Black Canary. Batgirl. Big Barda. Zealot. Harley Quinn. All of these characters are characters that are the "best at what they do," and it is refreshing to see a team like that built around characters who are women.

Once upon a time, the only way that you would have been able to tell these characters apart would be because of the colors of their costumes, because women in comics were all drawn very similarly for a long time. The fact that each of these Birds of Prey have a different body type is another reason why Romero's art is so wonderful on this issue.

And, holy crap. That last page reveal. There's no way I am spoiling it, but holy crap. It is a deep cut that fans of certain Gotham related books of the last decade will really be shocked and amazed by. I don't say that lightly. What I can say is that you need to buy this comic, and if this first spectacular issue is any indication, you need to put this title on your pull list.

Unlike other Dawn of DC books that I've picked up, this doesn't look to be a limited series. I hope that, like with many of Thompson's Marvel books, we get one of her solid, and lasting runs on the book. I am excited to see where she takes the story, and what she does with these characters.

After the Batgirls book by Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad, it is good to see Cassandra Cain on the front line of a comic again. If you haven't read that, you should really pick up the trades for it. Cloonan and Conrad are one of the great writing teams in comics right now, with great characterizations and stories in their books. I think their runs of Wonder Woman and Batgirls are going to be held up as some of the great runs not just of this era of comics, but for these characters in the long haul.

If the ongoing Birds of Prey book holds on to the potential of this first issue, Thompson's run is going to become a definitive one for the Birds of Prey.