Monday, March 07, 2011

Birds of Prey - A Review

Birds of Prey is yet another of DC Comics' many relaunches in the face of Brightest Day, but it is not a good one. I never read the original Birds of Prey, even though I have the entire run of Green Arrow & Black Canary and kept meaning to check it out, so I took the opportunity to get in on the groundfloor this go-round.

The latest iteration is lead by returning writer, Gail Simone (Wonder Woman) and, though I can't speak for her previous work on the title or in general, the writing in Birds of Prey #1-4 (comprising Endrun) tries too hard to delve into character and explanation. Her attempts at thrusting familiarity onto the reader clunk into the gutters, and any notion of realistic dialogue is beyond her capabilities.

In one protracted exchange, Black Canary admits to abandoning her husband, Oliver Queen. Had the scene been about five blurbs shorter, it would have been a very clever exchange, but Simone ham-fistedly drags the reader through Black Canary's every thought as she justifies her rationale, specifically telling the reader what kind of person the Black Canary is (she's basically a cold-hearted, self-serving bitch under Simone's twisted pen). Readers are subjected to the kind of reasoning that would have gotten Birds of Prey canceled, had the character been male -- specifically because Gail Simone herself would have called for it! Regardless, that isn't characterization, that's explanation, and is indicative of Simone's approach throughout the title.

Birds of Prey is aimed at females, particularly females who hate men. Though there is a man on the team (Hawk), it is a team of superheroines, and women talk more than men -- about their feelings, plans, ideas, body issues, childhood, expectations, diet, ad infinitum -- so some of this over-explanation may well be the kind of thing female readers expect. I don't know, as I'm not a woman, nor am I familiar with female comics readers' sensibilities or expectations. This is not meant to be "sexist," I simply do not know.

But while we're here, Hawk is as broad a stereotype as any you'll find in any comic book, anywhere: A hard-drinking, tough-talking, sexually-freewheeling Tough Guy with a heart of gold (we're told). But then, he is Hawk (of Hawk and Dove, get it?) a "god" of war, so it makes perfect sense... doesn't it? It's hard to read any panel in which he appears because you can't stop rolling your eyes.

On a related note, did you know there is apparently no antonym for "misogyny?" Nor did I. If you're looking for subtlety, nuance, or just plain decent scripting, look elsewhere.

The art is hit and miss. While visually arresting, the action sequences are stiff and motion is poorly handled at every turn. Benes attempts to cover this up with crosshatching and other penciling trickery, but there is no way to hide the human form when it's in spandex. The artist should study the human form in spandex, as well as nudes, and learn how the body moves. Once he does this, all that crosshatch shit will disappear on its own. Also, distance yourself from Gail Simone.

REVIEW ENDRUN -- SPOILERS

The first four issues of Birds of Prey are, of course, an "arc" (read: Written for immediate TPB collection) entitled "Endrun." I'm not sure what the point of "Endrun" was going in, but Simone tossed it to write an homage to Tyler Clementi, the student who committed suicide after his roommates broadcast portions of his private life online across campus. Clementi's suicide and the allegations surrounding it touched many, myself included, but this was pure sensationalism at its lowest and most despicable.

Comic books are traditionally aimed at the adolescent, and provide many readers with a sense of comfort and vicarious "friendship." In a very real sense, comic book characters (and the creators) help "raise" many kids -- or at least babysit them from time to time -- and have a great capacity for teaching. As serial fiction, comics have always included, and been driven by, storylines mirroring real-world dilemmas, and this can be an important tool in teaching younger readers how a superhero -- actual icons to many younger viewers -- might handle this situation.

While comics receive mainstream acceptance these days, suicide is a truly important issue to many actual comic book fans (not just fans of the superheroes, movies, or "genre"), who are often outside of mainstream society. Many of us have personal experience with suicide, suicidal personalities, or at least the pain of separation -- of feeling or being considered "different."

After reading "Endrun," I'm not certain the self-proclaimed suffragist, Gail Simone, feels... anything. At all. Ever.

A bit-player appears from nowhere and kidnaps Barbara Gordon to force her to watch him commit suicide. Apparently, he was some sort of reformed conman the Bat Family allowed to be humiliated and tortured as part of his reprogramming... you know, to help him or something. (Again, Simone shows all the subtlety of a drunken fratboy whose dad owns a car dealership.) Batgirl sympathizes with a suicidal character (not empathizes - she's too strong to ever find herself in such a position, but she's "human" enough to "care") before forgiving him for being mentally ill! Then she promises to get him some help. FADE TO BLACK.

...

I was fucking stunned.

Now maybe Batgirl's paralysis extends all the way up to her pretty little bird-brain? I'm no doctor. There are only two things I can deduce from Batgirl's obvious injuries: She's a numb cunt and she sucks at her job.

That's not the way to ever handle anyone who's suicidal, and the only person who could not recognize this has to be wildly insensitive to the extent that I suggest a clinical examination. The whole thing is so heavy-handed that it's impossible to consider it anything other than the author herself speaking to the reader, and since Simone's Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode was pulled from the schedule yet again for bawdiness, I'm going to call a spade a spade:

Never has there been a more obvious, blatant, and specific outing of a sensationalistic hack who chiseled her way into this business with an air of both superiority and entitlement. I'm just happy this bitch did it to herself, because nobody else in the industry had the balls to call her out. And everyone who supports this chick and her agenda is a climbing, talentless hack, too.

I detest Gail Simone as both a human being and a "writer" and am appalled that DC Comics would ever even consider publishing such unfeeling, disturbingly sociopathic, and completely malinformed material. This is the same chick who threw a fit over misogyny in comic books! Now she's telling readers that people who consider suicide -- especially those who were fucking tortured and humiliated as some deranged sort of "healing process" --- are mentally ill "people" who should be pitied from a distance!? EVEN IF THE PERSON PITYING THE VICTIM IS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS STATE OF MIND!?

Fuck every goddamn inch of you, Gail Simone. You're a hack piece of shit who wormed her way into "a man's world" with an iron fist. At your very best, you are little more than an amateur fan-fic blogger. I've read more interesting shit on milk cartons, you talentless, loudmouthed cunt. Go back to community theater where you fucking belong.

Fuck you, Batgirl. You're nothing but a flightless bird -- a climber who will never truly make it because you're a stock stereotype of a real character. And also because you have no legs, bitch.

Fuck you, DC. In 25 years, you've managed to put out fewer than 10 titles worth paging through in the comics store, much less paying for. Every, single one of the editors who worked on Endrun should be forced to read it every day they work there before they even walk in the building, just so they can experience the truly soul-crushing damnation they have inflicted on those who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who are otherwise healthy but have contemplated suicide.

Many talented women work in comic books, and always have; Gail Simone is neither talented, nor the first. If she spent even half as much time perfecting her writing as she spends tooting her own humanitarian horn, she would be a passable staffer, but I don't see that happening. Simone has gone much further than she should have, given her limited abilities and the way she crashed the gates, but Birds of Prey is the resounding reminder that she's just not good enough for primetime. Never have I wished someone got laid in highschool more than myself.

If you, or someone you know, is considering suicide, you are not a loser, you are not mentally ill, and you should not feel ashamed. Emotions are illogical and have spawned entire professions, fields of thought, and movements in Art and Science; no one understands them, and no emotions are "bad" or incorrect. Feeling suicidal, especially for young people, is very normal -- but if you are experiencing these thoughts and emotions regularly, or you are seriously considering taking action on them, please call someone for help. Sometimes, talking to someone is all it takes.

Just not someone like Gail Simone.

Originally written, November, 22nd, 2010
Note that the author of this piece wishes no physical harm on Gail Simone nor anyone at Comics Alliance, nor any other talentless pussy who prefers censorship and crying like a bitch over freedom of speech.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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