Dec 30, 2019
Birds of Prey #58 and #59 “Of Like Minds” parts 3 and 4 (of 4)
We open up with a woman in a martial arts uniform sparring against an aged Asian man, and the inner monologue has her talking about how her judo wasn’t cutting it and she had to up her game. She and the teacher wind up becoming close. Too close, in fact: the teacher starts pulling his punches and the woman realizes she’s not going to learn more. Cut to years later, and the woman spars with Lady Shiva, who guarantees her every time she misses a block she’s gonna hit her twice as hard. The result? The woman learned how to both take a hit and not to miss blocks. We learn the woman is in fact Black Canary, still handcuffed to the bed from last issue, and she learned that while love is a good teacher, pain is an awesome motivator.
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Dinah’s talking about how she’s planning on getting out of the cuffs. Part one was getting her gloves off and I had to go back an issue to confirm that yes, she was wearing them in the past two issues. You see, I admire consistency like this. Part two of Dinah’s plan consists of cutting open her palm to let the blood act as a lubricant. Just then, Fisher comes in with breakfast and Dinah clamps down on her bloody palm and tries to get the man to explain what they have on him. It turns out Creote and Savant are holding his family hostage and he leaves with his runny eggs. Damn, man; if you can’t cook, then go buy some damn Froot Loops. Elsewhere in the building, Savant decides to give
Creote us some much needed exposition. We discover Savant used to be a bona-fide superhero.
I don’t hate the costume. Realistically, every street level superhero would be dressed in some version of a riot cop getup with maybe a logo spray painted on the chest, but that would look boring as hell. You might think the poofy sleeves and cape aren’t very sensible, but Savant’s going for a swashbuckling vibe here. One night, Savant tracked down some arsonists and kicked their butts, then Batman showed up all pissed off. Why? Because while Savant was laying the hurt on the arsonists, Batman was busy saving people from the burning building. Savant notes he had no idea actually caring about people was a job requirement, and he got all butthurt that Batman yelled at him. Methinks Savant didn’t get yelled at enough as a kid.
Elsewhere, Huntress is running down leads to find Black Canary, and the trail takes her to a garage and a parking valet. His price for info on Savant’s car? She has to date the dude. I give him points for chutzpah at least. He suggests Huntress can keep the mask on if she’s into that. Huntress then… accepts the date? Well, color me surprised. She’s on the move, and the clock is ticking; Oracle has less than an hour to give up Batman’s secret identity to Savant. Speaking of Savant, he calls Barbara to mess with her some more, asking three questions in three different languages. Barbara nails ‘em all, and then Savant hits her with a math problem. The answer? 1.4866, which is the cubic space of a cadaver storage drawer. Barbara breaks and she screams she’ll do whatever Savant wants in exchange for Dinah’s safety. Only, Savant’s put down the phone and left the room. If ever there was somebody who exemplifies the phrase “their own worst enemy”, it’s this guy. Savant meets Fisher on the stairs heading up to the attic and the latter tries standing up for Dinah. Savant’s response is to almost carve Fisher’s nose off. Savant’s verbal response is awesome.
Savant: The only reason I don’t kill you right this moment is I’m not absolutely positive I didn’t do it already.
Damn. If Oracle knew just what sorts of mental problems Savant had she could have all kinds of fun with him: “Batman’s secret identity? Is this some kind of joke? You’re Batman!”
Black Canary’s almost ready to tear her wrist through the handcuff when Savant shows up and gets all creepy as he wants to know if Oracle is beautiful. Well yeah, in a Marry Ann-over-Ginger, or Velma > Daphne kind of way. He presses the issue, but Fisher takes his life into his hands and shows up with tea, pointing out Dinah’s throat is still messed up. Fisher warns her it’s hot, and she’s shocked when it’s cold, and then she realizes why. Before Savant can take up with the interrogation, however…
I-I’m so offended! On behalf of all men, I shall go to Twitter and compose a two thousand word manifesto about how sexist Gail Simone is. Or I’ll laugh because it’s true, and because good comedy sometimes gotta be offensive. The menfolk leave Dinah alone, allowing her to activate the bird shaped pendant mic that Fisher put in her drink, which she now has resting on her tongue. Oracle cheers, then contacts Huntress and tells her she’s got a match on Savant’s car as well as a general idea where Dinah’s transmitting from. Huntress points out traffic’s bad, so Bab’s answer is to hijack the transit network and switch every red light in Huntress’s way to green. Huntress will be there in ten minutes.
Problem is, Dinah doesn’t have ten minutes. There’s a sickening cracking sound and Savant enters Dinah’s room to find she’s not in bed. She uses a chair on coasters and slams into the door, causing Savant to break his wrist on the knob.
Right. This entire page confuses the hell out of me. Somehow Dinah got the cuffs off her other wrist, then Savant just lay there and allowed her to cuff him to the doorknob? How did she do all that? It’s just a sloppily put together series of actions, and I think things would have made more sense if, I dunno, maybe she knocked him back down the stairs? Imagine Savant breaking both his legs along with his messed up wrist. There’s a clever bit of symmetry there. But okay, whatever. Savant’s unconscious and cuffed and Dinah crawls past him to discover she’s at the top of a long flight of stairs. Now she knows what a ’70s era Dalek feels like. Meanwhile, Creote comes back with the, you know, the, uh… feminine… stuff. He hears a sound and turns, and…
Wimmin drivers, amirite? Creote starts picking his sore butt off the floor and Huntress shows she knows her way around the kitchen as she takes a frying pan to his skull, telling him he deserves it for the ponytail alone. Preach on, sister! Upstairs, Dinah turns to find Savant uncuffed himself from the door with the key, while downstairs, Creote, ponytail and all, drags himself off the floor for another round with Huntress.
Issue #59 opens with Savant twirling the handcuffs on the first finger of his left hand. Wait, isn’t his wrist broken? Or at least severely sprained? Scroll on back up and look at that page and see how artist Ed Benes drew that panel. But okay, moving on. Savant notes that Dinah forgot about the key, but he never forgets anything; he just gets the timeline a little confused. Which makes his perfect memory almost useless if he can’t keep little details like what comes first straight. Savant gloats and notes that Black Canary’s given him more trouble than she’s probably worth, and now his billy club magically appears from thin air. Dinah swears to herself that she’s not letting him cuff her again as she grips a hidden candlestick. Downstairs, Huntress tussles with Creote, while Fisher takes advantage of all the fighting to sneak down to the wine cellar to rescue his wife and kids. Elsewhere, Barbara hasn’t been idle; inspired when Huntress offhandedly said the computer stuff was “Greek” to her (is that racist? I’m sure somebody will think so whether it is or not) she remembers Savant’s French was “spotty”, his Chinese was passable, but his Greek was flawless. Back at Savant’s torture castle, Dinah decides to throw caution to the wind and to use the banister to slide down…
Wait a minute. Let me back up… Yes, I thought so. The stairs are now completely different.
First Savant’s wrist, then the billy club, then this? All right, maybe the billy club was laying on the night stand on the landing outside the door; I’ll give ‘em that. But the rest? I don’t think it’s laziness. Miscommunication, maybe? A case of Gail and Benes changing their minds between issues? Whatever the answer, it vexes me. Dinah rides the rail down to the ground floor, which according to that pic on the right is like twenty stories down or something. Savant either can’t keep up, or he’s playing cat-and-mouse. He reaches the foot of the stairs and finds Dinah crawling away. Oracle calls for a sitrep, and things aren’t looking good for our heroes. Outside, Fisher gets his family to a car and tells his wife to get the children out of there; realizing that Dinah had given him a second chance before and he repaid her with betrayal, he’s gotta atone. Back inside…
…things look worse. Huntress is ready to go solo against both guys, but Dinah says she can’t win. Why? Because the pair beat her and she can beat Huntress. Instead of being insulted, Huntress admires Dinah’s moxie. The two men are ready to finish things off, when every phone in the house rings. Savant answers his cell: it’s Oracle. And she reveals that she now knows who Savant is: Brian K. Durlin, intelligent but unable to complete anything, as he’s dropped out of both med and law school, quit numerous martial art schools, failed various Olympic trials, mostly due to his inability to distinguish the passage of time, a mental condition he’s suffered from since he was a kid. Brian’s also a petty criminal and hid out in Greece for several years, but it turns out no law enforcement agency is looking for him: he’s not even a good crook. Huntress and Dinah laugh at the guy when Oracle reveals his father cut off Brian’s allowance, and all this needing Batman’s secret identity might be as petty as the fact that Bats made him looked bad and yelled at him and it comes down to his daddy issues. Then Savant hears the worst of it; Oracle’s been stalling so she can wipe his hard drives of all the blackmail material he has on other people. He dashes from the room and Dinah asks Creote if his boss knows he’s in love with him. Creote responds with an abashed, “He does not,” and that just made me smile. Meanwhile, Savant reaches his central control room:
I swear, who needs a monitor that big? You’d fry your eyeballs staring at it all day. Savant tries to shut it down, but Oracle’s in the driver’s seat and her virus is devouring data like, um, Homer Simpson at a buffet? Too old a reference? Uh, Cartman at a buffet? Oh, I know! The virus is Rick Sanchez and the data’s like free drinks at a wedding. See, I’m still hip! Nearby, Huntress asks Creote if they’re still fighting, and I wonder how many super-battles could be resolved if the good guy simply asked the bad guy “Hey, are you tired of me punching your face? Maybe we can stop for beers on the way to jail. First round’s on me.” Only this time, it doesn’t work, and Creote wants to go another ten rounds. But Fisher steps in, swinging for the fences with a piece of flaming firewood. Sadly, he hits Creote’s head and so far as I’ve seen, that’s the least vulnerable part of the henchman’s body. Still, the distraction is enough and Huntress is able to lay Creote out for good. Savant returns, mad as hell, and gets a poker through the left palm for his trouble. Dinah gets a good swing in and gets the cuffs on him, and gets Fisher on his feet. Now that the fight’s won, Dinah asks Huntress about her new outfit.
Hey, if I had abs of steel, you bet I’d be using every chance to show ‘em off. Anyone remember Bill Foster’s first costume?
Now there’s a man who liked to show off his workout ethic.
Savant’s bound but not out, and he smiles and says he has enough blackmail material on backup disks that will allow him to be free from jail by morning. But Dinah has a plan, and tells Savant he already told her about the disks. Savant falls for this and replies, “So you already know about the wine cellar?” The man really is his own arch nemesis. The heroines get the disks and Oracle wants them, but Dinah points out using the blackmail material is morally questionable at best. Oracle backs off and Dinah gives Fisher a Justice Society of America card so he can call for some legal backup and/or character references, because he did good. The heroines ride off into the night as Dinah admits she already destroyed the disks before Oracle made up her mind. But we soon discover…
Gail Simone’s first run on Birds of Prey is pretty decent. It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong four-part story. Yes, the first issue has some wasted pages, and there are a couple of inconsistencies between the last two parts, but overall it’s a fun, action-packed story that showcases our heroes’ various strengths. Artist Ed Benes delivers the goods… for the most part. There are a couple pages where the characters seem a touch off, but overall his art is strong. This is before his later work where he seemed to go all fan service and cater to thirteen year olds with the way he drew women. Check out his run on Justice League with Brad Meltzer to get an idea of what I mean.
To me, and I think many others, this is the definitive lineup of the Birds of Prey team and you can see why, with Dinah having someone new to verbally spar with, and there being the potential for more tension, as by this time Dinah and Babs had become besties. For me, this is one of the reasons why I don’t want to see the Birds of Prey movie, as we don’t have anything remotely like this dynamic; from what I’ve seen, it’s a Harley Quinn film with a lousy Birds of Prey paint job thrown over it in an effort to suck in fans of the comic. But time will tell.