Birds of Prey #86

Reviewer: Tim Stevens

As the teaser line implies, this book is actually three separate but connected stories in one issue. I’ll tackle them one at a time for your reading ease and pleasure.

Story Title: A Wakeful Time Part 1
Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Adriana Melo
Inked by: Will Conrad
Colored by: Hi-Fi Design
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

Everybody loves a party! Yes, even Barbara, despite her threats of revenge towards Black Canary.

The Birds and their extendeds (Former Commissioner Gordon, Nightwing, and Doctor Midnite to name a few) greet Barbara in her new home of Metropolis with food and merriment. Simone excels at this kind of interaction and it is great just to sit back and let the dialogue flow over you. New converts might be a bit mixed up by certain characters either because of the art (an otherwise competent Melo drops the ball when it comes to an especially elderly looking Doctor Midnite) or simply not having been with the book no long enough to know who’s who (Renee and her mom, for example, haven’t been seen since Barbara was kidnapped back in Simone’s first arc, I believe).

While it is not his book, I cannot help but comment on Nightwing’s appearance here. First, it is great to see him without an expression of either anger, bewilderment, or sadness which has seemed to be all his face was capable of the past few months. Second…what is going on here? Over in his own book, Dick is training Deathstroke’s kid and claiming that he is not undercover, he really has gone bad. Here he seems…normal, I guess you could say. Further fuel to the “Devin Grayson’s time with Nightwing and its status quo is drawing to an end” rumor, perhaps?

Story Title: A Wakeful Time Part 2
Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Adriana Melo
Inked by: Willl Conrad
Colored by: Hi-Fi Design
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

A fun story that is really out of place here. Canary announces her presence in Metropolis by taking on and handedly embarrassing the Prankster and his latest stunt, an Aztec sort of themed sacrifice thingie. Timm’s art is a treat as always, reminding me that I dug the Batman: The Animated Series and its spin off comics not just for their writing but because of that kind of house style they used. Simone is, of course, strong on Dinah’s inner monologue as usual and her banter with Prankster when she realizes who he is is priceless.

However, I can’t figure out what it is doing here. The art styles of the first and third stories are too similar to one another to make this a different art for each story showcase, so Timm’s section sticks out like a sore thumb. The connective tissue between this and the opening chapter is too weak to make this a tale that had to be told either. It’s nice that the story gets to see the light of day, but I would have liked it to either have been tied more closely to the events of the rest of the issue and/or have the three art styles SO different that Timm’s contribution would’ve seemed less awkward.

Story Title: A Wakeful Time Part 3
Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: David Lopez
Inked by: Fernando Blanco
Colored by: Hi-Fi Design
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

The spotlight falls on the Huntress in the final installment as we revisit two key subplots: her efforts to take over the Italian mob(s) in Gotham and her teaching. I’m glad to see that neither has fallen by the wayside as I had my concerns. Teaching is a necessary part of the dichotomy of Helena and her infiltration of the mob, trading on her father’s “good” name is so smart and logical that I am surprised it has not been tried before.

As for the plot of the issue itself, it does a nice job of showing a Huntress that is maturing, realizing that sometimes, a punch or a crossbow is not the best way to solve criminal problems. Her realization and her eventual resolution of the problem are well handled as is her agreement to return to the fold. It is nice to have what I think was one of Simone’s only mistakes in this title so quickly resolved. I still don’t buy Huntress’s “I won’t be part of this team anymore if you are trying to ‘fix’ me,” freak out from several months back but this way, I don’t have to think about it anymore.