BIRDS OF PREY GIANT #1 [Review]

BIRDS OF PREY GIANT #1/ Scripts by GAIL SIMONE, ROBERT VENDITTI, JOHN LAYMAN, JULIE BENSON, SHAWNA BENSON, MATTHEW ROSENBERG & JOELLE JONES/ Art by INAKI MIRANDA, ISAAC GOODHART, CULLY HAMMER, MARCIO TAKARA, MORITAT & SAM LOTFI/ Colors by JOHN KALISZ, CHRIS SOTOMAYOR, DAVE MCCAIG, JORDAN BOYD, LEE LOUGHRIDGE & PETE PANTAZIS/ Letters by TRAVIS LANHAM, AW’S JUSTIN BIRCH, JOSH REED, & STEVE WANDS/ Published by DC COMICS

Anthology books are great for new readers as they allow them to sample a lot of different writers and art-teams at once. They’re a tricky beast for critics, however, as we have to break down several shorter works that may or may not stand on their own. Thankfully, every story included in Birds of Prey Giant #1 stands on its own, so there’s no feeling that you’re missing out on half the story.

Fight or Flight opens the collection and it is a welcome return to form for long-time Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone. The plot is pretty basic and while it’s a clear attempt to work Harley Quinn into a Birds of Prey story so as to make this comic more closely resemble the upcoming movie, Simone finds a great hook to team them up naturally. Inaki Miranda (whose work I last saw in the excellent Supergirl/Batgirl team-up in Batgirl Annual #1) proves a wonderful partner, capturing the comedy and action of Simone’s script perfectly.

Disguises is a Harley Quinn story that pays tribute to the first Harley Quinn solo series by Karl Kessel and The Dodsons. At least, it reminded me of that series and the comparison is a favorable one. The story by Robert Venditti has Harley meeting up with an old college friend (who has no idea how Harley has changed in the past few years) and catching up. The story is hilarious, though somewhat disorienting as the perspective shifts between what Harley sees and what her old friend sees, but Postal artist Isaac Goodhart does a great job maintaining the balance and depicting the comic violence of Harley’s fantasies.

The Killing pits The Huntress against Deathstroke, as the two race to kill the same Mafia boss. The script by John Layman of Batman: Eternal fame captures the essence of both characters. The artwork by Cully Hammer applies a brilliant Noir aesthetic to the story, which is further enhanced by Dave McCaig’s excellent color work.

Gotham City Limits was originally published in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #14 in 2017 and seeing it here really makes me miss that all-too-brief series. The story by the Shawna & Julie Benson focuses on Huntress chaperoning a class trip in her secret identity and things going south when they’re abducted by Deacon Blackfire. The artwork by Marcio Takara and Jordan Boyd is as fine as the story and it is to be hoped that a few more Batgirl & The Birds of Prey TPs get sold because of the one-shot sampling here.

Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want was originally published as Black Canary #9 in 2016. This one-shot story was a welcome bit of relief from Brendan Fletcher’s confusing and highly overrated run on Black Canary. The plot sees Dinah Drake and her band hired to play the birthday party of a gangster’s granddaughter and Dinah having to subtly step in and maintain her cover as assassins start trying to collect the bounty on the the young lady’s head. Fun, action-packed, and perfectly illustrated by Moritat and Lee Loughridge, it’s a shame we didn’t get more Black Canary comics like this, as it was easily the best single story to play with the new idea of Black Canary as a rock singer and secret superhero in the Rebirth era.

Good Morning Gotham! is probably the weakest story in the collection, but that’s largely due to its brevity and lack of a plot beyond “Harley Quinn escapes from Arkham by going full Tank Girl.” Originally published in 2016’s New Talent Showcase #1, the artwork by Sam Lotfi and Pete Pantazis compares favorably to Amanda Conner’s work on Harley Quinn, sporting a similar animated aesthetic. Joelle Jones has written far deeper works, but this story still captures the essence of Harley and is a frivolous bit of fun.

If you’ve never been exposed to the Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn, this giant-size collection will give you ample opportunity to sample the many great creators who have handled them. It’s also worth picking up if you’re already a fan and have read half these stories already. It’s a rare thing for me to give an anthology a perfect score, but Birds of Prey Giant #1 has more than earned it.

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