October 17th, 2011

Birds of Prey: End Run

Story: Gail Simone | art: Ed Benes, Adriana Melo, Alvin Lee | DC Comics

Review by Bernice Watson

The legendary Birds of Prey are together again and fighting crime in this collected edition. Oracle, Huntress, Black Canary and Lady Blackhawk re-form the team to take on a mysterious villain who threatens to expose them all as well as the people they love in the superhero community. With the help of Hawk and Dove the team tries to track down their elusive enemy before the situation becomes deadly.

I’ve never read Birds of Prey before, which is incredible given what a fan I am of female heroes. When DC announced its intention to re-launch it seemed like a great time to get on board with this title and, having read the first re-launch issue, I decided to do a little background reading as well.

Written by the ever-talented Gail Simone, Birds of Prey: End Run doesn’t require a lot of in-universe knowledge to enjoy and that meant it was just perfect for my purposes. Obviously there are many references to past events that sailed clean over my ignorant head but it didn’t impair my understanding, or enjoyment, of the story at hand one bit. Simone’s snappy writing and witty dialogue were a treat and it was great to see strong female characters taking the lead in a comic.

In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the representation of women in comics I did find myself scrutinising the Bird’s outfits throughout the book. Like Wonder Woman, the Birds of Prey are caught in a bit of a bind – they all have iconic, historically established costumes that perhaps don’t gel with modern feminist ideals but without them the character loses something essential. How such conundrums will be solved in comics has yet to be seen and it’s something that many female readers will be watching with keen interest. However, the Birds are far from the sexually overt, exploitative representations that have stirred up the recent discontent. Despite their revealing outfits these women are definitely not simply sex objects for male readers.

The art in this volume is rich, vibrant and great fun to look at. I think in light of the aforementioned controversy, the page I enjoyed the most was the one where The Penguin is fantasizing about the Birds as his own personal sex kittens (before being rudely awoken by the real things who are suitably disgusted). Looking at the panels was ironic because the way the Birds posed and behaved, while an amusing turn-around for them, is standard for many female comic book characters. No doubt Simone had this in mind when she scripted the scene. Nei Ruffino’s colours are absolutely gorgeous throughout and lend this volume a depth that really enhances the artwork.

Overall this is a great read and I will be grabbing a copy of volume two, Birds of Prey: The Death of Oracle, released in hardcover this week by DC.

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