Birds of Prey #80 Review

Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: The Cold Light of Day

Written by: Gail Simone
Art by: Ed Benes
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

What a weird story arc Hero Hunters has proven to be. It has turned out to be less a complete continuous arc and more of a branching device to join a one shot and 2 two issue arcs. I think it is more accurate to call Hero Hunters a “five issue theme” than an arc. This is not a criticism, mind you, just an observation. And it really has nothing to do with this issue in specific. Sorry ’bout that.

In any case, this picks up several minutes after the events of last issue with the wounded Thorn in surgery to remove a bullet from her abdomen and Birds Huntress and Black Canary waiting in the lobby feeling guilty and suspicious, respectively. It quickly turns out that Canary’s suspicions are well placed and the Birds are forced to bring into action to defend the (borderline) psychotic Thorn. And then there’s the ending. But we’ll get back to that.

As usual, Simone bring her A-game to this book. She writes the characters dead on (for the most part…again, we’ll talk about that ending in a sec) with a sympathetic ear. She never hesitates to expose their flaws, but at the same time, she never condemns the Birds for them. She also writes unflinching fight scenes, a skill put again to good use in an inspired clash with corrupt members of the MPD in the hospital stairwell.

Benes’ art is, well, Benes’ art. You should be clear by now how you feel about it. The “cheesecake” aspect of his work has been far more reigned in during recent efforts and a flip through this issue reveals nothing I would consider to be gratuitous or unnecessary (except, perhaps the nurse. But then, a lady’s gotta wear something under her clothes, right?). However, we are talking about women wearing spandex and small amounts of it, so if that isn’t something your comfortable with then…prepare for discomfort. For my money, especially since he has gotten his cheesecake quirks under control, Benes draws excellent superhero action. Sure, all the women are beautiful, but that has always been the case in comics, so no surprises there.

So that leaves us with just the ending to discuss. This will be difficult as I don’t wish to spoil it for you, but here it goes. Essentially, the mission has ended, the hero hunter crusade has drawn to a close. Barbara and the Birds are chatting and Barbara is preparing to reveal the war wound (a bit of circuitry on her stomach that appears to be growing) she acquired from her battle with Brainac several months back. Then, with little warning, Huntress “figures” something out and says some rather mean things, including accusing someone of being like Batman. If you don’t know, these days, accusing someone of being like Batman is pretty much one of the most terrible things you can say. Why? Because no one likes Batman anymore. At all. They may respect him, but the Dark Knight’s got no love in the DCU these days.

In any case, this ending is just…so out of left field. For one thing, what Huntress “unravels” is ridiculously obvious. It would be a bit like accusing me of trying to keep you entertained while I give you the news in DCNV. I mean, of course that is my goal, and it is a decent, harmless goal at that. Considering this obvious and relatively harmless revelation, Huntress’s reaction is wildly over the top. In a book that has had writing strong enough to make me buy a Brainac/Oracle matchup that ends with Oracle semi-victorious, that made it easy to swallow a Huntress/some random civvie date that began with her picking him up (in costume) and ending with her sleeping with him, that this would be the most difficult thing for me to buy into says a lot. As I mentioned above, Simone excels at the characterization on this book. So how is that she so spectacularly dropped the ball here? This I do not have the answer for.

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