Updates From The Bat-Cave: Birds of Prey #11 Is Pick Of The Week!

After last week shipped literally one book (and a family emergency dictated this column not appearing), things return to normal with a fine slate of books this week. It’s been said before, but this week is really one of those “something for just about everyone” kind of weeks.

Birds of Prey #11

It’s perhaps an unorthodox pick for the spotlight book of the week, but it’s just too tempting of a target to pass up. After a somewhat uneven beginning to this Birds of Prey relaunch, Gail Simone settled into a groove with the second story arc, “Death of Oracle.” Next month Jesus Saiz joins the regular creative team and the new direction for the title (established in the aforementioned “Death of Oracle”) takes full effect. But this month?

It’s date night.

One of the cool things about this issue is the connectivity it represents between Simone’s two DCU books, this one and the morbidly awesome Secret Six. Between both books, Simone has carefully established and then deliberately built upon a smoldering romance between the Huntress and Catman. Their animal attraction (pun sort of intended) towards one another has caused no small amount of dismay on the parts of their respective teammates, but fan reaction has been very positive. It’s easy to understand why: in a way, they’re the Bizarro version of the classic Batman/Catwoman romance.

Similar to Batman and Catwoman, Catman and the Huntress operate on different sides of the law, but in both cases, the “villain” in the relationship is really more of a morally flexible character rather than an out-and-out bad person. Visually, the respective duos are also quite comparable, the cat motif being obvious and the Huntress/Batman “pointy-eared mask/cowl” only slightly less so. The key difference, however, is that Batman is the paragon of self-control and Catwoman is hard to understand, whereas Catman and Huntress are…well, barely restrained psychotics, let’s be honest.

So that’s where we are: the two are going to finally take the next step and stop beating around the bush. The solicitation humorously points out the obvious: there is literally no way these two can co-exist peacefully...but that is, after all, the point and the fun of their whole dynamic.

On a side note, it’s worth noting that the last issue of Birds of Prey to feature a “first date” scenario between costumed characters (Dick Grayson’s date with Oracle) went down in history as one of the book’s most memorable (and most valuable, if you’re interested in that sort of thing). Let’s hope history repeats.

Batman and Robin #22

Last month was the second part of the three-part “Dark Knight, White Knight” story, which has seen a mysterious new figure (who appears to be made of light) who calls himself the White Knight attempt to purge the city of darkness. However, his methods leave something to desire, as they essentially amount to drugging innocents and throwing them off of buildings in angel costumes.

Issue #21 was a mixed bag. On one hand, not much happened in terms of plot development in the first half of the issue. On the other, the action was pretty fast and furious, so that’s hard to fault. However, the second half of the issue held some interesting twists to the story and left us with a clear direction about where the arc is going, while still leaving dangling the identity of the White Knight.

One thing that cannot be understated here is that Patrick Gleason is a champ. His artwork was the saving grace of the front end of the previous issue and it was the icing on the cake in the back half of the book. The issue was laid out with a good mix of standard-sized panels and splash pages and Gleason rocked them all. It’s just a great-looking book, no doubt.

While it’s unlikely that you’re going to jump on board now if you weren’t already, it’s worth grabbing the whole story when you’re at the store this week if you haven’t tried the book or if you drifted away when Grant Morrison left. While it would be nice if DC could figure out an actual regular creative team (after announcing Tomasi as the ongoing writer, Judd Winick is already filling in starting next month), it seems unlikely that fans will jump ship right away, so long as this level of quality is maintained. Batman and Robin has undeniably lost some of its panache without Morrison making every issue feel crazy important (and sometimes just crazy), but it’s still a solid read.

Planetary/Batman Deluxe Edition

Here’s a tough call: on one hand, it retails for $23 and only actually contains one issue worth of story (albeit one that was originally a prestige format comic, so it’s slightly longer than the normal single issue). On the other, it’s a fun story from a well-loved writer (Warren Ellis) with amazing art from the always-impressive John Cassaday.

The value of this package probably depends, one would have to imagine, on how much you like Warren Ellis. The only extra feature beyond the nicer format is Ellis’ original script. So fans of both Batman and Ellis are probably pleased to see this on the shelf…but then again, those fans probably already own this in its original prestige format and this doesn’t add much for the price tag. Your mileage may vary.

The always-entertaining Batgirl ships this week, with #20 on the shelf and highlighting Batgirl and Proxy taking on the new villain in town, Slipstream…without the help of Oracle. Red Robin #22 is also out, carrying the second installment of a three-part crossover between itself, Batman, and Gotham City Sirens. The last regular monthly book (well, for the next two months, anyway) is Outsiders #38, which leaves the “Reign of Doomsday” crossover behind and begins the last dash to cancellation. On the collected edition front, Gotham City Sirens Vol. 1 is out in trade paperback this week. That book was previously available as a hardcover.

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