by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
March 17, 1999
Reviews in this issue:
Birds of Prey
Variant DC Universes
Birds of Prey
DC Comics recently elevated Birds of Prey from quarterly to monthly publication. The infrequent appearance merely whetted appetites.
The title is somewhat misleading since only one of the major characters, Black Canary, represents an avian species. The other heroine is Oracle, the former Batgirl, and bats are mammals. Of course, "bird" is also slang for a woman.
The plots incorporate a great deal of computer and communication technology. This gives the stories a whiff of Mission Impossible (the TV show and movie) or the earlier DC series Checkmate. How many other comics feature title characters who never meet?
For those who missed earlier issues, DC has issued a large paperback reprint. The price, $17.95, seems steep, but the originals are rather scarce.
Most of the stories in that volume are written by Chuck Dixon. The script and art are weak, but the concept of having Lois Lane ("Mrs. Superman") work with Canary and Oracle is intriguing.
Of the other artists represented, I have to give highest marks to Gary Frank, the first artist to tackle the characters. The fight scenes are realistic without being gratuitously bloody.
Stefano Raffaele does very well in the story entitled "Revolution." Matt Haley has the longest story to illustrate, "Manhunt". At times, his style veers towards the cartoonish, but he has a larger cast to contend with. Whether Huntress and Catwoman really add that much to the story is debatable. Cats and canaries are natural enemies; therefore, this might be worth exploring.
Now that the Birds are in a monthly format, Greg Land is the artist. I am convinced he is the best artist yet for these characters.
Chuck Dixon's probing of the psychology of the characters is impressive. The frustrations of the crippled Oracle and her hatred of the Joker are portrayed well. Obviously a confrontation between the two is coming. (Side note: a new Batgirl has appeared in Shadow of the Bat no. 83. This could get interesting.)
Reviewed Dr. Jon Suter
Variant DC Universes
Readers of Suspended Animation are aware of how important I consider the series Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC Comics used that 1985 miniseries to clean up its complicated continuity by destroying all its variant earths.
Those who relished the stories of Earth Two, Earth Three, Earths A, S. X, etc., felt that much was lost. After fourteen years, DC has given us a "missing chapter" from the Crisis and a visit to the previously unknown Earth D.
This missing chapter appears in an issue of Legends of the DC Universe. Marv Wolfman, author of the original series, provides seamless script which blends into issue 4 of the original.
DC used numbers and letters to distinguish their alternate earths. Those with letters usually represented worlds populated with heroes published by companies DC had purchased over the years. e.g., C for Charlton, S for Fawcett, X for Quality, etc.
Earth D is more like Earths Two and Three; its heroes are variants of those of Earth One. The D probably stands for Diversity. Earth D's Flash is a Japanese-American; Green Lantern is a Brazilian; Green Arrow is an Indian, Hawkman and his sister are also Asian; Superman and his wife Superwoman are Black while Aquaman looks like a gilled Vulvan.
The art is by Paul Ryan who has done an amazing imitation of George Perez's art. Another nice touch: the Earth D Flash was inspired by reading about the exploits of Barry Allen even as Barry was inspired by comics about Jay Garrick, the original Flash of Earth Two.
The meeting of Earth One's Justice League with the Earth D Justice Alliance reminds us of the 1963 meeting of the Justice League with the original team, Justice Society, in the first story.
I wish Glenn Orbik's cover had been similar to those of the original twelve, but that's nit-picking. Give everybody an A+.
Should there be more "lost chapters"? Wolfman's original script was almost water-tight and more additions might weaken it.
Reviewed by Dr. Jon Suter
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