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Birds of Prey #67
writer: Gail Simone
artist: Ed Benes
cover: Greg Land

How good a writer is Gail Simone? So good that she can make even Gypsy from Justice League Detroit seem cool.

It's a brief shining moment in a run that has really been nothing but shining moments. Though this arc, "Sensei & Student," (a vague allusion to Jane Austen, perhaps), is Simone's second, it ties neatly in with things set in motion by the first. But more impressively, it also resonates with Black Canary's past. That's a move that shows Simone's courage as a writer, since the mother and daughter Canaries have a rather complicated post-Crisis continuity.

Let this arc stand as evidence that Simone should be running with the big boys of fan-favorites, if she's not already. The writer clearly grasps the love fans have of history without being a slave to it.

Though previous writers have tried to spotlight how powerful the DCU superheroines are, most notably Phil Jimenez in Wonder Woman, those efforts ended up being just too crowded. Over the course of six issues, Simone has illuminated just a few surprising characters, and given each a depth only hinted at. Aside from Gypsy, even the little-used Katana has a good scene.

It makes sense that there's a connection between Cheshire and Lady Shiva; suddenly it also seems perfectly logical that Black Canary II would have that same connection. And yet there's a personal enmity between Dinah and Cheshire that goes far beyond the hero-villain thing. Though they've never been set up as archenemies before, Simone has connected the dots that have always been there. And it's about time someone did.

Providing the visual connection, Benes apparently inks himself this issue (the cover says Alex Lei inked, but the interior credits don't). If Lei was not involved, then Benes looks just fine without him.

Every character has a distinct look and body language. It might be easy to dismiss Benes as a "good girl" artist (or "bad girl" artist, take your pick), but he clearly understands how to do more than just draw women in alluring poses. Besides, we have Greg Land to take care of that department.

There are emotional throughlines on each page; notice a quiet moment between Savant and his "sidekick" Creote. All through this arc Benes has shown the transformation of a sociopath realizing he might actually care about someone.

I'm not veering from my original thesis, though; Simone clearly laid the groundwork for that. It's just that writer and artist make a great team. Hey, just like Oracle and Black Canary and The Huntress.

Actually, Simone has also opened the door for a wider membership in the Birds. Again, something danced around in the past, but because she writes these characters so well, you can hope it comes to fruition.

I'm betting she can even make us beg for Looker to appear.


Derek McCaw

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