Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Batgirl Annual 2, originally released April 30th, 2014.
Shelby: A couple years ago I saw Melancholia in the theater, I believe with the esteemed Retcon Puncher Taylor. Spoiler alert: it’s probably the most depressing move I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, but calling it a downer would be an understatement. In it, Kirsten Dunst plays an extremely depressed woman; at one point, she is physically incapable of getting out of bed, relying completely on her sister’s aid. For me, it raised the question of how much leeway should we give people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. While I was watching the movie, I was distracted by how seemingly mean the rest of the characters were to this severely ill woman, but you have to step back and think about the impact her illness has had on their lives. At what point do those closest to someone with this sort of disease finally snap from dealing with it, and can we really blame them for doing so? And finally, what happens when that mental illness manifests itself as super-powered criminal activity? (Okay, that last question is more about the Batgirl annual than Melancholia, but you get the idea.)
Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Birds of Prey 20-21, originally released May 15th and June 19th, 2013.
Patrick: Fun fact: when Family Matters debuted in 1989, Jaleel White had not been cast on the show. Instead of being the adventures of Steve Urkel and the neighbors he loved to annoy, the show was a simple spin-off of Perfect Strangers – the story of a middle class working family in Chicago. But Steve Urkel made his appearance in the twelfth episode and was so well-received that it changed the DNA of the series forever. For better or for worse Steve Urkel had taken over Family Matters, and suddenly he was the only thing mattered. As Birds of Prey struggles to find it’s own audience and its own direction, it receives an Urkel of its own: The Court of Owls. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Taylor are discussing Birds of Prey 18-19, originally released March 20th and April 17th, 2013.
Shelby: I have the most trouble writing beginnings and endings. Beginnings are hard because you have to draw the reader in, entice them enough to keep reading. Endings are hard because you have to conclude your message with enough finality that there’s a sense of closure without being too abrupt. My biggest complaint about Duane Swierczynski’s run on Birds of Prey was his endings; story arcs just sort of … stopped. There is little I find more frustrating than a well-written story that doesn’t deliver on the ending, that simply ends. Birds finds itself with a new beginning, though, as Christy Marx wraps up Sword of Sorcery and takes over writing duties here; her strong, female-centric take on Nilaa won me over from day one, and would seem to make her a perfect fit for this superheroine team title. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Birds of Prey 14, originally released November 21st, 2012.
Patrick: Why do we read comic books? Yes, I’d like to begin this write-up with a question so abstract. I ask because sometimes the answer isn’t readily apparent. Some of the comics we read are revolutionary — expressing incredible themes and concepts in exciting ways. But I’m not a total snob: I’m just as happy with simpler pleasures. Adventures are fun, characters are iconic, art is compelling. It’s a magic spell that’s been successfully cast on me time and time again. Birds of Prey may have dropped a few steps from those early issues we loved, but the spell shouldn’t have worn off entirely. Right?
Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Birds of Prey 13, originally released October 17th, 2012.
Shelby: A common trope for team titles is the “member with a problem.” You’ve got one member of the team with some sort of personal issue which spills into their superhero-ing. The team wants to help, the individual says they can do it alone and end up in trouble, the team saves the day. It’s tired, but it works; as a plot device, it injects character moments into the story while bringing the team closer together and providing a quest for us to read. Birds of Prey 13 delivers perfectly on this trope, so why do I feel like I’m missing something?
Today, Shelby and (special guest writer) Lindsey Peterson are discussing Birds of Prey 0, originally released September 19, 2012. Birds of Prey 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Shelby: A difficult aspect of writing a comic book has got to be maintaining the balance between new and old readers: specifically, keeping both sides happy. You want to keep the long-timers happy; without their readership, you wouldn’t have been successful in the first place. But, you need to keep your books at least a little bit attainable to attract new readers; if your readership doesn’t grow, you won’t continue to be successful. With half of zero month behind us, we’ve seen examples of origins that bore us with nothing new and origins that confound us with no background knowledge given. Then we have my favorites, those titles which have struck that delicate balance between old-hat origin and current story arc connections. Birds of Prey is definitely in that last camp. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Birds of Prey 12, originally released August 15th, 2012.
Shelby: Why do we form teams? Is it to seek the support of others? Is it to accomplish big tasks more quickly? Is it to bring together different skill sets in order to solve more kinds of problems? These have to be at least some of the reasons why Black Canary decided to form a team to do some good in Gotham, but she has obviously made some mistakes in choosing her roster. You know that guy in the group who just won’t play ball with the plan and forces everyone to do things his way? Well, imagine that guy is an eco-terrorist metahuman holding you and the rest of the world hostage to do what he wants, and you can begin to see the dilemma Black Canary has on her hands. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Birds of Prey 11, originally released July 18th, 2012.
Drew: I’ve often said that I prefer questions to answers. Questions stimulate the imagination, where answers play in the realm of cut-and-dried facts; questions keep us guessing, while answers end the guessing. This leads me to seek out narratives steeped in mystery, like LOST. As that series drew to its conclusion, I was often frustrated as we received answers, partially because they weren’t always that interesting, and partially because I didn’t care. Answers to questions I’m not interested in — however well conceived — aren’t as interesting as more guesses about the questions I am interested in. I found myself thinking about this quite a bit as I read Birds of Prey 11, an issue that sets out to give us answers about Ivy’s past I hadn’t even realized were questions. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Birds of Prey 10, originally released June 20th, 2012.
Patrick: In a lot of ways, the New 52 incarnation of Birds of Prey acts as as one of only a few blank canvasses in DC’s library. The two founding members of the group are a brand new character — as in Starling — and one reformed in such a way as to be unrecognizable as the Black Canary of old. The rest of the team is rounded out by characters either not normally associated with the Birds of Prey or (in Barbara’s case) aggressively altered by the new continuity. My first dip into this world was so fresh and new and exciting, that I started to feel a little let down as writer Duane Swierczynski wrapped up one story arc, vamped for time, and then paid lip-service to Snyder’s Night of the Owls crossover event. I’m not going so far as to claim that those three issues (7, 8 and 9) were wasted, but now that Birds of Prey seems firmly set its own two feet again, it’s apparent that this series is at its strongest when its free to develop on its own terms. Continue reading →
Drew: Serialization is in. There have always been long-form narratives that have relied on dense mythologies to build-up stories over time, but until recently, they have always been balanced by more episodic works; for every Days of Our Lives, there was a Law and Order. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, but with the popularity of DVD collections for television and trade paperback collections for comics (and the availability of individual episodes or issues online) have made, dense, long-form narratives are easier than ever to gain access to. It’s understandable why serialization is so appealing to both creators and audience alike — characters have a chance to develop over longer scales than single chapters, and don’t have to jockey as much for space against the actual plot. Continue reading →