DC Comics Live-Action TV Master Post

For some time now I have been watching and reviewing various DC Comics-based live-action television series from a number of different sources. Although a few series, including notable ones, pre-date what eventually became known as the Arrowverse, the CW’s DC shows really started this trend of high-quality television shows based on DC Comics.

There are three broad categories of DC Comics shows: The Arrowverse, DC Universe, and Other. Also, some shows that would be considered other, such as Constantine have been retroactively folded into the Arrowverse. And Crisis on Infinite Earths actually implied that many earlier classic DC shows, such as the Adam West and Burt Ward Batman series (aka “Batman ’66”) take place in the same multiverse but on different Earths. So DC is big, it’s complicated and there’s a lot. And while I don’t profess to have seen every single DC show out there, although I have seen many. So this post hopes to clear up some of the confusion and provide links to my previous reviews in one big post.

The Arrowverse

Starting on the CW network in 2012 with Arrow, the Arrowverse has grown to include seven ongoing series and counting. and although Arrow itself ended in 2020, the universe spun off from it continues to grow and grow. A Superman series starring Clark and Lois and their children is now planned for 2021, and Arrow itself hinted in the final two episodes of Season 8 for a possible Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps series and a possible Birds of Prey. And, Spoiler Alert, Crisis on Infinite Earths laid the ground work for a possible Justice League series. So the Arrowverse is not ending, despite it’s flagship ending after eight seasons.

Arrow

Based on Green Arrow, but modernized, Arrow follows millionaire Oliver Queen who returns to his home, Starling (later Star) City after being presumed dead for five years. The series saw several other DC characters both heroes and villains making appearances as regulars, semi-regulars, or in one-off and two-off appearances. The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow spun off directly from Arrow.

Read my Review of Arrow Season 1
Read my Review of Arrow Season 2
Read my Review of Arrow Season 3
Read my Review of Arrow Season 4
Read my Review of Arrow Season 5
Read my Review of Arrow Season 6
Read my Review of Arrow Season 7
Read my Review of Arrow Season 8

The Flash

Spun off directly from Arrow, The Flash features CSI Barry Allen who becomes a speedster after being hit by lightning during the Particle Accelerator accident in Central City. Barry uses his newfound ability for super speed to fight crime, stop evil metahumans, and help good metahumans. He works with his friends and teammates at Star Labs and continues to work at the Central City PD as a CSI. Like Arrow, The Flash brings in a number of DC Characters both as regulars and as usually one-off villains of the week.

Read my Review of The Flash Season 1
Read my Review of The Flash Season 2
Read my Review of The Flash Season 3
Read my Review of The Flash Season 4
Read my Review of The Flash Season 5
Read my Review of The Flash Season 6

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (aka “Legends of Tomorrow” or simply “Legends”)

Also spun off directly from Arrow and The Flash in a two-part back-door pilot, Legends is an original series, bringing together a number of characters that had previously appeared on either The Flash or Arrow as well as new characters from DC Comics. Not only is Legends a team show, but the cast routinely rotates as new characters are added and older ones leave. The cast is different for each season. The general premise of Legends of Tomorrow is that a group of “B-list” and “screw-ups” who time travel for a purpose that, in general, changes each season. Their ship is the Waverider and it’s integrated AI is Gideon.

Read my Review of Legends of Tomorrow Season 1
Read my Review of Legends of Tomorrow Season 2
Read my Review of Legends of Tomorrow Season 3
Read my Review of Legends of Tomorrow Season 4
Read my Review of Legends of Tomorrow Season 5

Supergirl

The first season of Supergirl actually aired on CBS not The CW but it had one of the same producers (Greg Berlanti) as the previous CW Arrowverse series, and even it’s first season had crossover episodes with The Flash. Since the second season, Supergirl has been on the CW. Supergirl is Kara Zor-El, cousin of Superman (Kal-el, aka Clark Kent). When Krypton was about to be destroyed Kara’s parents but her in a pod (a small spaceship) to go to Earth to watch over baby Kal-el. But Kara’s pod was “knocked off course” (and stuck in the Phantom Zone) for a while before finally being freed. When Kara finally landed on Earth, Clark was all grown-up and unable to care for a teenaged girl. He arranged for Kara to be raised by the Danvers family. And even though Jeremiah Danvers disappeared and was presumed dead for years, Kara found herself being raised by the foster family of the Danvers including mother, Eliza, and sister, Alex. We join Kara in Central City, a young adult, and intern at Catco Worldwide Media, whereas her sister Alex works for the DEO. As with other Arrowverse series, a number of DC characters are introduced in Supergirl, including Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) who becomes a regular.

Read my Review of Supergirl Season 1
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 2
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 3
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 4
Read my Review of Supergirl Season 5

Black Lightning

Initially thought by many to be “separate” from the Arrowverse despite airing on the CW, the producers did say it was in the same general universe. With Jefferson Pierce (Black Lightning) appearing in Crisis on Infinite Earths the show is now officially part of the Arrowverse. Black Lightning was stated to take place on a different Earth. It’s not clear if Freeland has been re-located to Earth Prime like National City or if it is on one of the Earths that were spared like the DC Universe shows. Once upon a time, Jefferson Pierce was Black Lightning, an African-American superhero in the city of Freeland. But when he was injured too often, his wife divorced him, and he found himself raising two young daughters – Jefferson figuratively hung up his cape. Several years later, Jefferson again becomes Black Lighting. Over the course of two seasons, it becomes clear his daughters also have superpowers, with the older daughter, Anissa becoming Thunder and the younger daughter, Jennifer, slowly coming to terms with having powers. Black Lightning Season 3 aired in 2019-2020.

Read my Review of Black Lightning Season 1
Read my Review of Black Lightning Season 2

Batwoman

Batwoman is Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin. She is a lesbian who is out and proud, but being outed at West Point torpedoed her dream of a military career. She returns to Gotham City, where Bruce has been missing for three years. Although initially hesitant like many superheroes on the CW, Kate becomes Batwoman and faces off against a season-long villain. Batwoman definitely takes place in the same universe as Arrow, Legends, The Flash, and Supergirl as Kate/Batwoman (Ruby Rose) has appeared in the Elseworlds and Crisis on Infinite Earths crossovers. The initial storyline is based on the graphic novel, Elegy by Greg Rucka. Unfortunately, due to the Pandemic Season 1 wasn’t completed. Ruby Rose, the lead actor, has left the series. The title role of Batwoman has been re-cast. It isn’t known yet if the new actress will play Kate and they will ignore the fact that it’s someone new or if she will be playing a new character. However, Season 2 will run on the CW in 2021.

Read my Review of Batwoman Season 1

DC Universe

Stargirl

Stargirl was originally transmitted on DC Comics streaming service, DC Universe, but also aired the same time (well, the day after) on the CW. The series is a transitional one, belonging to both DC Universe and the CW. In Crisis on Infinite Earths, Stargirl, Doom Patrol, Titans, and Swamp Thing were all shown to take place on their own individual Earths.

Stargirl follows Courtney, a teenaged girl in a blended family who has recently moved to Blue Valley Nebraska from California. Courtney discovers the Cosmic Staff which belonged to the deceased Justice Society of America hero, Starman. Courtney’s step-father was Starman’s sidekick, Stripey. Courtney and her friends from high school, over the course of the first season, become members of a junior JSA and face-off against the Injustice Society.

Read my Review of Stargirl Season 1

Doom Patrol

Doom Patrol is one of the strangest and most surreal television shows I’ve ever watched. It’s not your average television show. The series also addresses psychological health conditions in a fairly direct manner. The team all have serious issues that go beyond their special abilities. In many ways, the only way to truly understand this team show is to watch it. Doom Patrol was transmitted on DC Comics streaming service, DC Universe. Future seasons will air on HBO Max.

Read my Review of Doom Patrol Season 1

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing originally was transmitted on DC Comics streaming service, DC Universe. In the Summer/Fall of 2020 it was rerun on the CW network. The character of Swamp Thing started in Vertigo Comics, DC’s original “mature readers” imprint before being brought into the DC Universe proper. Dr. Abby Arcane is an infectious disease specialist for the CDC who is sent to the small town of Marais in Louisiana to investigate a new, dangerous, and possibly deadly disease they call the “green flu”. Abby meets Dr. Alec Holland, a discredited botanist, who is studying the local swamp for a businessman named Avery Sunderland. Holland needs to rebuild his reputation. But Avery sends his goon squad after Holland, causing him to fall into the swamp and become the half-Alec, half-walking, talking, living plant and Guardian of the Green. Swamp Thing is a horror series, but it’s also a Beauty and the Beast tale and in many ways, a mystery series – as everyone in Marais is hiding dark secrets, including Abby. Unfortunately, the series was canceled early in its first season. However, it gained fan and critical acclaim on DC Universe and it is doing well on the CW. With many scripted series on hiatus due to Corvid19, there is always a possibility that the CW or HBO Max will bring the show back.

Read my Review of Swamp Thing The Complete Series

Titans

Titans was transmitted on DC Comics streaming service, DC Universe. Future seasons will be on HBO Max. Titans is a more grown-up, darker, and grittier version of the Teen Titans animated series. In DC Comics both titles Teen Titans and Titans have been used for this team (as well as New Teen Titans). Led by Dick Greyson who eventually claims the superhero name of Nightwing, Titans also features Raven, Beast Boy, Jason Todd’s Robin, and Starfire. However, especially in the first season, this series is about building a team and the characters becoming the characters we know they will eventually be – which is why when we first see Dick, he’s a police officer, and when we meet Raven – she’s a runaway. I also felt like the two seasons actually felt like one long season. Titans is definitely worth watching but it does require some patience – don’t expect a team that’s worked together for years from episode one, but they are getting there.

Read my Review of Titans Season 1
Read my Review of Titans Season 2

Other

Batman (aka “Batman 1966”)

Batman starting Adam West and Burt Ward was the extremely popular 1960s series shot in Technicolor with two half-hour episodes (the first ending on a cliffhanger) forming each story. The show is bright and colorful, has a somewhat campy style but not quite as much as one might think. It’s also a very formula-driven show. Still, it’s a classic. 

Read my Review of Batman (1966) Season 1

Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey is loosely based on the various DC Comics comic book series about an all-female superhero team headed by Barbara Gordon. This series is set in New Gotham and features Barbara Gordon (Oracle), Helena Kyle (Huntress), and Black Canary’s teenaged daughter, Dinah, who is starting to develop her own powers. This series follows Dinah learning about her powers, Helena learning to control her metahuman abilities, and Oracle not only running the Birds of Prey. Oracle is a computer expert, hacker, and tactical expert, but she is an awesome fighter herself. Unfortunately, the series only lasted one season.

Read my Review of Birds of Prey the Complete Series

Constantine

The character of John Constantine comes from Vertigo Comics where he was first introduced in Swamp Thing. He was popular enough to be imported into regular mainstream DC Comics in various series (Constantine, Hellblazer, John Constantine Hellblazer, as a lead character in Justice League Dark, etc.). And although Constantine the series was originally on NBC for one short season, the CW brought the actor (Mark Ryan) and character back, first in a guest role in Arrow, then in a featured guest (semi-regular) role on Legends of Tomorrow, and finally as a regular on Legends. So, this is a character who is so popular he keeps coming back. John Constantine is a magician, spellcaster, exorcist, magic-user, and con man. He also tends to be very unlucky – magic always has a price and for John that often means losing the people he cares about, thus his rather gruff manner. The original Constantine series establishes who Constantine is, what he does, and explores his world. But it ends much too early.

Read my Review of Constantine the Complete Series

The Flash (1990)

This series aired on CBS and was the first attempt to build a show around the character of The Flash as a weekly television series that I know of and despite a good cast, the series watched now, definitely has its flaws. However, the lead actor, John Wesley Shipp, has been a regular on the modern The Flash series on the CW, playing that Barry Allen’s father, Henry Allen (an admirable character) as well as characters from various other Earths. Also, the Flash of “Earth-90” was an important character in Crisis on Infinite Earths, so in a way, this version of The Flash has been folded into the Arrowverse retroactively. On its own, though, this series is about the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, a police scientist who gains his super-speed in a lab accident and from a lightning strike. The first half of the series has Barry catching regular criminals and the second half introduces more supervillain type characters.

Read my Review of The Flash (1990) The Complete Series

Gotham

How did Bruce Wayne become Batman? Gotham attempts to answer that question, introducing Bruce as a young boy who has just lost his parents to a violent crime and is now being raised by Alfred Pennyworth. But the series quickly becomes about some of the most famous villains in the Batman canon and how they came to be who they are. And it’s the story of a time and a place, the story of a city – the city of Gotham. Gotham is stylishly directed – the show looks gorgeous and weaves together the old and the modern seamlessly (everything tends to look very historical – yet the characters carry cell phones). Gotham is also very much set in a different universe, with no connections to the Arrowverse or anything other than the next series on my list, Pennyworth.

Read my Review of Gotham Season 1
Read my Review of Gotham Season 2
Read my Review of Gotham Season 3
Read my Review of Gotham Season 4
Read my Review of Gotham Season 5

Pennyworth

Pennyworth is the story of Alfred before he was Alfred. That is, this is a young Alfred Pennyworth, just out of the army and the SAS. The series was created, produced, and largely written by Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon who developed Gotham and I consider Pennyworth to be a prequel to Gotham. It’s set in an alternate universe (World War II appears to be ongoing, even though it’s also the 1960s, we assume). Pennyworth is at times dark and violent, but I absolutely loved it, as I had really liked Gotham. Alfred Pennyworth is trying to make a name for himself, wants to start his own security business, ends-up working for Martha Kane (not yet married to Thomas), and meets Thomas Wayne though he doesn’t get along with Thomas at first. Alfred also seems to fall into situations that cause him to have to do the opposite of what he says he wants to do. That is, for a man who keeps saying he wants nothing more to do with violence and that he doesn’t want to work for spies or special operatives – he ends up doing precisely that. The show was brilliant.

Read my Review of Pennyworth Season 1

Lois and Clark

“Superman as a romantic comedy? Yeah, let’s do that,” is pretty much how this show seemed to come about. But it’s also incredibly fun, with a light romantic touch combined with SF plots that show a great amount of originality and fun. Lois and Clark is light, fun, enjoyable, funny, and full of high adventure. Even when they try to be serious, this show just has that feel-good, everything will work out feeling of a good romantic film.

Read my Review of Lois and Clark Season 1
Read my Review of Lois and Clark Season 2
Read my Review of Lois and Clark Season 3
Read my Review of Lois and Clark Season 4

Wonder Woman

It’s hard to remember just how important this series was. At the time it was made, there were no other female superheroes on television or in the movies. And there were few other superhero shows at all. The Wonder Woman series, starring Lynda Carter, taught a generation of women they could be heroes too – and that being a hero didn’t mean you couldn’t be kind. Diana is strong, principled, and more than anything, she is kind. And even though it looks a bit dated now, and the stories are largely stand-alone, it’s still something to see.

Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 1
Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 2
Read my Review of Wonder Woman Season 3

And that’s everything up to this point for live-action DC Shows. I’m waiting for the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of Black Lightning Season 3, Doom Patrol Season 2 and Pennyworth Season 2. The Arrowverse shows will not air until 2021. Titans is apparently just starting to film again and moves to HBO Max.

Birds of Prey The Complete Series Review

  • Series Title: Birds of Prey
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 13
  • Discs: 4
  • Network:  WB (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, Mia Sara
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

The WB’s Birds of Prey is loosely based on DC Comics various Birds of Prey comic book series. The series features three female superheroes: Oracle, Huntress, and Dinah, the teenaged daughter of Black Canary. Oracle is Barbara Gordon who was once Batgirl until she’s shot by the Joker and paralyzed (an event that is shown in the title sequence of every episode of this series). Barbara is a school teacher in this version of Birds of Prey, not a librarian and information specialist. Although she is an expert in computers, technology and information gathering (or as Alfred puts it in the introduction, “Master of the Cyberrealms”). She’s also dating Wade, another teacher from her high school. Huntress, Helena Kyle, is the daughter of Batman and Selina Kyle (Catwoman). In this version of the story, Selina gave up her life as a cat burglar when her daughter was born, but also raised her alone. Helena doesn’t even find out Batman is her father until after her mother is killed. Helena was young at the time of her mother’s murder, probably around eight to eleven (her exact age isn’t stated). Helena is also a metahuman. The intro on each episode describes her as “half-metahuman”, which doesn’t make sense – she has metahuman abilities so she is a metahuman, but I think they are using that term so the audience knows only one of her parents was a metahuman. Dinah runs away from her abusive foster family and finds the Birds of Prey. She has psychic powers including prophetic dreams and telekinesis, etc. As she’s young, she’s still learning her powers and Barbara and Helena take her in to train her. Alfred Pennyworth watches over the heroes, especially Barbara. Helena also meets the “one good cop” in the city, Reese, and they become uneasy partners, then friends, and finally somewhat romantically involved. The story takes place in New Gotham after Gotham City’s been destroyed in a disaster and Batman has disappeared.

All three women in Birds of Prey are awesome heroes and great fighters, yes, even Barbara. Helena’s fight scenes are always well-choreographed. Dinah is learning about her powers and how to be a hero and her abilities and confidence grow during the short series. Oracle is usually the voice in Helena’s ear, but she has the ability to take care of herself as needed. She’s given an arc with the development of her relationship with her boyfriend, Wade. Dinah’s mother, Black Canary comes back for one episode but is then killed. Mia Sara is Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who happens to be Helena’s court-ordered therapist, and a criminal psychopath trying to take over New Gotham – something of which the Birds of Prey are completely unaware.

The pilot introduces the characters, New Gotham, and the set-up for the series like any pilot. Individual episodes usually have a crime committed in Gotham that Reese is assigned to investigate. Helena works with Reese. The criminal usually turns out to be a Meta, so Dinah and Oracle help. The Birds and Reese eventually capture or stop the Meta. Often “stop” means the meta is killed, often by their own actions. There’s also a hidden Meta Bar at a place called No Man’s Land Collectables, with a bartender named Gibson who has the meta ability to remember every single thing he’s ever done, experienced, tasted, or seen, which is more of a curse than an ability. The “Meta crime happens, Reese and the Birds investigate, the Meta is stopped” formula is livened up by the continuing storylines for each of the Birds: Barbara’s relationship with Wade, Helena’s relationship with Reese, and Dinah’s coming to terms with her powers and later, losing her mother. There’s also some great fight scenes and the Metas that the Birds and Reese take on are interesting. There’s also the storyline of Helena opening up to her therapist, who happens to be Harley Quinn – opps.

In the final two-parter, first, the Birds go up against Clayface and a meta who turns out to be his son. Helena finds out it was Clayface who murdered her mother. Since Clayface is already in solitary confinement at Arkham, there isn’t anything more she can do. But she opens up to Dr. Quinzel, and this both sets up the final episode and causes lots of problems. In the final episode, Dr. Quinzel gets a scientist to develop a machine that transfers metahuman powers. Harley steals the power to deeply hypnotize people. She hypnotizes the scientist to jump out the window and the meta whose powers she took doesn’t survive the process. She’s learned from Helena about Barbara and Wade then hypnotizes Helena to do her bidding. She also kidnaps Gibson. Reese is called the investigate the double death of the scientist and the meta. There’s a disturbance at the metahuman bar, which the Birds investigate. Helena, under Harley’s influence, gives her information on the clock tower base and even Alfred ends up hypnotized. Harley kills Wade and brags about it to Oracle. She uses the tech in the clock tower to send a hypnotic signal to all the televisions in New Gotham and the city breaks out in rioting and craziness. However, Barbara comes up with a cure to the hypnotism and gets Helena back, and then develops polarized contacts to block Harley’s powers. Oracle, Huntress, Dinah, and Reese, with some help from a cured Alfred, are able to stop Harley and reverse her takeover of New Gotham’s televisions (and thus the city’s people). Harley is sent to Arkham. Alfred makes a phone call at the very end of the episode that’s really cool, which I won’t spoil, but if the show had a second season it could have led to something very interesting.

I enjoyed this show, though as this was my second watch through I noticed some of the show’s faults. Other than the pilot and the final episode, the general formula is there’s a crime, it’s a meta, the Birds have to figure it out, the Birds have to convince Reese it’s a Meta, and then they come up with a plan to catch the Meta. The continuing story and character development for two of the three main characters have them in a romance. But I actually enjoyed the story between Reese and Helena. And the story between Barbara and Wade didn’t shy away from her disability – especially in showing how against their relationship Wade’s parents were. It was a shame to see Wade fridged though. Overall, I like Birds of Prey and I can recommend it. This series dates from 2002 and aired on the WB Network which no longer exists. The DVDs also include Gotham Girls, a series of short animated adventures of Harley Quinn, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Batgirl.

Favorite Female DC Heroes

The Mary Sue website recently published a list of The Ten Most Powerful Female Villains of the DC universe, then challenged readers to list their favorite female DC heroes. So here we go.

1 – Birds of Prey

The Birds of Prey are not a single hero, but a group. Specifically, they are a team of female superheroes. First created by Chuck Dixon in the 1990s. The original group included Oracle (Barbara Gordon who also gets a place on this list herself), Black Canary (yes, she also gets her own listing), Huntress, and others. The team was rebooted in the New 52 and again in Rebirth. The membership of the team tends to rotate, but Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance, and Helena are usually members. The series has been written and drawn by women as well.

2 – Zatanna

Originally a “joke” character who appeared in Justice League International and cast spells by speaking backward, Zatanna has emerged as one of the most powerful magic users in the entire DC Universe. At one point in New 52 – John Constantine describes her as the most powerful magician on Earth because she can bend reality itself. This after John discovers she cast a spell on him to make him a better person. Zatanna has been a member of the Justice League and Justice League Dark. She’s also one of the main characters in the animated series Young Justice and a supporting character in Justice League Unlimited. Zatanna is also one of the main characters in the recent mini-series Mystic U.

3 – Barbara Gordon (Oracle, Batgirl)

My favorite version of Barbara is Oracle. After she was shot by the Joker in Alan Moore’s famous The Killing Joke, Barbara doesn’t curl up and die. She doesn’t become bitter and decide to be a villain. Barbara goes through intense physical therapy, learns to use a wheelchair, returns to grad school and gets her MLS – Master’s of Library Science, and gets a job at the Gotham City Library. All of that would make her an admirable character, and representative of a very under-represented group: those with physical disabilities. It is not easy to get a master’s degree. It is not easy to get a good job when one has physical disabilities – discrimination is alive and well. But for Barbara, this isn’t enough, she uses her computer skills and becomes Oracle – running the Birds of Prey single-handedly (for much of Birds of Prey the other Birds don’t even know who the “voice in their ear” is), she also became knowledge gatherer for Batman and his allies, especially Nightwing. Barbara is strong and admirable for all that. New 52 retconned her back to Batgirl, and personally, I felt that was a step back for the character. There are plenty of tough female superheroes, how many superheroes in a wheelchair can you name? Rebirth has Barbara as Batgirl, but back in charge of the Birds of Prey, and keeps her computer skills, so that’s something.

4 – Black Canary

Black Canary is more than the girlfriend/wife/ex-wife of Green Arrow. She has been a member of the Justice Society of America (back in the 1940s), then Justice League International, Justice League, and the Birds of Prey. Her main power is her Sonic Cry, which is strong enough to kill someone. She also is a gifted martial artist, and at times has lived in the dojo where she teaches self-defense to at-risk women. Dinah is strong in more ways than one, and she remains one of my favorite characters.

5 – Jessica Cruz, Green Lantern

Jessica Cruz is one of the newest female DC heroes on this list, as she was introduced in the Rebirth book, Green Lanterns, with her partner, Simon Baz (a Muslim man). Jessica is Latina and suffered such severe acrophobia that she didn’t leave her apartment for two years. This is the woman who gets a power ring for overcoming great fear. Although Jessica is at first unsure of herself, she grows and becomes the hero her ring knows she can be. She and her partner, Simon, have a great relationship that is entirely platonic, a refreshing change for a story essentially about two cops. Jessica also is, by default, a member of the Green Lantern Corps and the Justice League, meaning she also goes on missions in space, and world-saving missions, as well as her “normal” work as Earth’s Green Lantern.

6 – Batwoman

Kate Kane is Bruce Wayne’s cousin, a lesbian, and a kick-ass superhero. Raised in a military family, when she was young and the family abroad, she, her sister and their mother, were kidnapped. Her mother and sister were killed, and Kate was raised by her father. As a young adult, she enrolls in West Point – and is kicked out when it’s discovered she’s a lesbian. She goes wild for a year but then returns to Gotham as Batwoman. For much of Rebirth, Kate has been the leader of the Batfamily in Detective Comics, but after a few serious arguments with Bruce (lets just say Kate is more pragmatic than Bruce, and she doesn’t feel as strongly about his “no kill” rule as he does), she’s currently on her own. Kate is a strong fighter, has the intelligence common in Batfamily members, has military contacts through her father, and has her mother’s money. She’s basically Batman but a woman, which makes her awesome.

7 – Huntress

There are two versions of Huntress, and I really like them both. The Earth 2 version is the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. (Bruce and Selina both grow older, retire from their respective “night ” jobs, and then marry.) The newer version is the daughter of a mob boss, who gets disgusted by her family’s violence, especially after her boyfriend is killed. She seeks revenge by killing mobsters. Bruce decides to bring her into the fold and gets her to agree to non-lethal ways of curbing the mob in Gotham. Both versions of Huntress have the first name, Helena, with the Earth 2 version being Helena Wayne and the modern version Helena Bertinelli. Helena is usually in a purple costume (sometimes black), and has strong fighting abilities, intelligence, and loyalty. As mentioned above, she’s frequently a member of the Birds of Prey.

8 – Fire and 9 – Ice

Fire was a Brazilian woman who had green fire powers. Ice was a Nordic Ice goddess. Both were characters in Justice League International. Both really need to be brought back!

10 – Wonder Woman

What new can one say about Wonder Woman? Diana is an Amazon princess, originally she brought American airman Steve Trevor back to America during World War II (which was contemporary with the times of her comic which was first published in 1940), where she stayed to fight Nazis, evil, and supervillains. She has the strength of Superman and the intelligence of Batman. Diana is part of DC’s Trinity of superheroes (the other’s being Superman and Batman) and is a member of the Justice League.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 5: Soul Crisis (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 5: Soul Crisis
  • Author: Christy Marx
  • Artists: Romano Molenaar, Daniel Sampere, Travis Moore, Robson Rocha, Jonathan Glapion, Vicente Cifuentes, Jordi Tarragona, Oclair Albert, Mark Deering, Julio Ferreira, Scott McDaniel, Chris Sotomayor, Taylor Esposito, Dezi Sienty, Travis Lanham, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller
  • Collection Date: 2015
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #25, 27-34; Birds of Prey: Future’s End 1 (2013-2014)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 11/15/2016

**Spoiler Alert** The fifth volume of the collected New 52 version of Birds of Prey really feels like the end of this series. The book opens with a flashback, telling us how Black Canary became Black Canary. It’s a wonderful story. The book ends with a flash forward to five years in the future – having survived a dip in the Lazarus Pit, Black Canary now leads the Red League – rescuing women from abuse, sex trafficking, slavery, and other crimes. Some of the women she rescues willingly join her. Black Canary runs into a future bizarre Batgirl called Bête Noire (the Black Beast). I liked this taste of a future Black Canary – the only issue I had was the internal monologue boxes were red print on a black background which is very, very hard to read. Actually, I find red print difficult to read on any background.

Beyond those two very separate books – this volume wraps up the loose ends from the previous volume. Then the newly regenerated Mother Eve sends the Birds of Prey on a rescue mission to the Congo in Africa to retrieve one of her operatives. There they run into the Suicide Squad (Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Capt. Boomarang, and King Shark) and Amanda Waller. Waller tells Black Canary “the truth” of why Kurt, her husband, has no memory of her – their marriage was a sham and part of Kurt’s cover. Waller then takes Kurt out of the rehab facility he’s been in since his recovery. Black Canary is devastated by this “truth” – but this is Amanda Waller we’re taking about – a master manipulator who wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up to her and introduced itself.

The story ends, however, with the Birds breaking up – Batgirl leaves in disgust and returns to Gotham. Condor tries to stay with Black Canary, since he’s fallen in love with her (for awhile now) but we know the relationship will go nowhere. Canary strikes out on her own – and the flash-forward last story I already mentioned tells us how that will go.

Birds of Prey is a great graphic novel series because it features all women superheroes. Women who are bad-asses who can take care of themselves. The New 52 version compromises that premise (which has been around since the Chuck Dixon series of the 1990s) by introducing Condor who, although cool, doesn’t really belong in this series. These “birds” do not need a man to rescue them. The series also compromises Black Canary, a long-time DC heroine by making her entire existence about her guilt over accidentally “killing” her husband and then her determination to rescue and restore him. Canary even considers betraying the team and allowing R’as al Ghul to kill Mother Eve – simply to get her husband back and whole. Come on! This is the woman who was the defacto leader of the Justice League! (Batman was the leader on paper, but as he tended to be busy he appointed Canary as his lieutenant.) Canary was the trainer for Young Justice in that animated series. She’s had her own series. And for awhile, she was married to Oliver Queen – the Green Arrow. So why wimp her out? Oh, that right, this is New 52.

Fortunately, Rebirth brings her bad-ass self back. Birds of Prey becomes a story of betrayal and of character after character leaving – another trope of “women can’t work together”. There are some great moments (Starling – I miss her!) and some truly beautiful art. But I prefer the original series. And Rebirth is looking to be good too. I rate things based on it’s own merits – and by that score, this novel was pretty good, but other versions of the Birds are better.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 4: The Cruelest Cut (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 4: The Cruelest Cut
  • Author: Christy Marx, James Tynion IV
  • Artists: Romano Molenaar, Jonathan Glapion, Vicente Cifuentes, Julio Ferreira, Scott McDaniel, Graham Nolan, Miguel Sepulveda, Robson Rocha, Sandu Florea, Oclair Albert, Chris Sotomayor, Rain Beredo, Taylor Esposito, Dezi Sienty, Travis Lanham
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Strix, Talon, Condor, 
  • Collection Date: 2014
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #18-24, 26; Talon #9 (2013-2014)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/29/2016

**Spoiler Alert** Volume 4 of the Birds of Prey series focuses on betrayal. Starling is kidnapped from Dinah (Black Canary)’s Dojo and a ransom demand sent: turn over the Talon and get Starling back. Batgirl begins to reassure the Talon (now called Strix) only to have Strix run. Black Canary and Batgirl follow – only to find Strix at the Court of Owls experimental lab. Suddenly, Mr. Freeze shows-up with Starling. Starling had thrown in her lot with Freeze, declaring, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” and since Freeze wants vengeance on the Owls for stealing his cryogenic technology, Starling figures she can use Freeze to get to the Court and the Owls. Black Canary and Batgirl don’t see it that way, and are angered at and feel betrayed by Starling. Condor, meanwhile, proves his mettle, and provides shelter at his workshop.

No sooner are the Birds settling in than Batgirl gets a mysterious message and leaves.

We follow the Talon who refused to kill Strix, on his own adventure to try to free his girlfriend (or wife) and child and then to invade Santa Prisca to challenge Bane.

Back at Condor’s workshop, Basilisk attacks, including a new member, Uplink, who psychically attacks the group, trapping them in dreams. Black Canary and Condor are kidnapped. A former police officer arrives and offers help from “the Benefactor”. Batgirl and Strix go to free Black Canary and try to figure out if Condor, a former member of Basilisk, can be trusted.

At the Basilisk stronghold, Canary discovers her husband, Kurt, isn’t dead – but he is comatose and he’s also a metahuman who’s power is the ability to magnify or block the powers of other metas. She also discovers the leader of Basilisk, Regulus, is a fused being that combines Kaizen and Dean Higgins. Canary had thought Dean was killed in a disastrous black-ops mission to destroy the villain Kaizen, and also “killed” Kurt.

The book ends with Canary holding Kurt, whom Batgirl has returned to his coma because he is experiencing continuous seizures. Condor has proven himself, as has Strix. Presumably, the Birds of Prey will escape.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 3: A Clash of Daggers (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 3: A Clash of Daggers
  • Author:  Duane Swierczynski, Gail Simone
  • Artists: Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes, Admira Wijaya, Daniel Sampere, Juan Jose, RYP, Dezi Sienty, Dave Sharpe, Chris Sotomayor
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Katana, Talon, Condor, Catwoman, Comissionor Gordon, Amanda Waller
  • Collection Date: 2013
  • Collected issues: Batgirl Annual 1, Birds of Prey #13-17 (2012-2013)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 9/26/2016

This volume of Birds of Prey consists of essentially three stories. In the first story, Commissioner James Gordon visits a Talon in jail. He’s trying to get some information from her, but she’s a Talon and a Mute, so his inquiries are a bust. However, Catwoman frees the female Talon. Later this Talon helps Catwoman and Batgirl in a fight against a group of Talons, led by a man who is organizing the arson of a series of buildings occupied by the poor in one of the worst sections of Gotham (and framing Bruce Wayne for the destruction and death). The Talon fights her former cult-mates and helps Batgirl and Catwoman saving their lives. Batgirl is especially impressed by both Catwoman’s heroics and the Talon’s integrity. The art of the first story is beautiful with a painted/watercolor look and a sepia tone.

In the second story, Katana is attacked and her sword is stolen. Katana follows the sword to Japan where she’s captured by the Daggers – a secret society and crime organization. The Birds of Prey follow her. Throughout the story there’s a countdown to something, “24 hours to detonation, 12 hours to detonation”, etc. which gives the story a tense undercurrent. The something turns out to be a scorched Earth bomb. The Birds, Katana, and a mysterious maybe-hero called “Condor” stop the bomb and Katana recovers her sword which she believes hold her husband’s soul. But in the end, Katana decides to stay in Japan.

Black Canary, Starling, and Batgirl return to Gotham. Batgirl brings in Talon as a new member, upsetting the other two who see her, well, by her costume, as The Enemy. Events happen so fast, Batgirl is unable to explain why she trusts this Talon. Condor also arrives, intent on joining the team – despite it being all women. A few weeks later, this new team is up against the Basilisk tech-terrorist group. Things again go terribly wrong when Canary loses control of her powers, Starling covers for her, and then Starling secretly calls in Amanda Waller. Basilisk turns from attacking a building and power grid to attacking the team with “heartstoppers” electric balls that can fire power that would literally stop the heart. Talon saves Canary, and Condor and Starling’s cry to Waller help the rest of the team.

The art in the rest of the collection varies by book. However, it’s all competent to good. Birds of Prey continues to be a fun series to read – full of powerful kick-ass women. I could do with a bit more characterization, but it’s still well-worth reading. Recommended.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 2: Your Kiss Might Kill
  • Author:  Duane Swierczynski
  • Artists: Travel Foreman, Jesus Saiz, Javier Pina, Jeff Huet, Timothy Green II, Joseph Silver, Cliff Richards, Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes, June Chung, Gabe Eltaeb, Chris Sotomayor, Carlos M. Mangual, Dave Sharpe
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Katana, Poison Ivy
  • Collection Date: 2013
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #8-12, #0 (2012)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 7/13/2016

The second volume of DC Comics New 52 version of Birds of Prey builds on Black Canary’s background – explaining why everyone is after her. Dinah Lance, it seems, was not framed for murder after all – but did actually kill her ex-husband, though it was an accident. He was training her to learn to control her Canary Cry, and well, things didn’t go well.

This volume also explores Poison Ivy’s character – she does betray her fellow teammates as well as show her more violent tendencies. However, this gives her some depth – and in many ways she becomes sympathetic – despite everything in the comic that tries to point to her as an “terrorist” and extremist. There is also some background and information given about Starling, though she remains enigmatic. Batgirl – and yes it is Batgirl, not Oracle, also shows up. Katana remains one of my favorite characters – despite her extremely violent nature.

Birds of Prey is a fast-moving action-packed book, but there is some characterization that manages to sneak in. And it is awesome to see unique, powerful, strong women who are determined in their convictions. Poison Ivy may be called a “terrorist” and Black Canary condemns her for betraying the team, but you can also understand her point of view, even if her methods are a bit extreme. At least Ivy focuses her attacks squarely at criminals rather than the innocent.

It will be interesting to see how this version of Birds of Prey develops.

I will say that although I prefer the Chuck Dixon Birds of Prey series from the 1990s; this book is one of the better New 52 books.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 1: Trouble in Mind (New 52)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 1: Trouble in Mind
  • Author:  Duane Swierczynski
  • Artists: Jesus Saiz, Nei Ruffino, Allen Passalaqua, June Chung, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: New 52
  • Characters: Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Starling, Katana, Poison Ivy
  • Collection Date: 2012
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #1-7 (2011-2012)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 5/30/2016

I’m not normally a fan of DC’s “New 52” Era of Comics, which is why I’m very excited about Rebirth but I’ve heard good things about the new Birds of Prey so I thought I’d give it a try. And much to my surprise I did enjoy this book, enough that I plan on buying volume 2.

This story features Black Canary as the nominal leader of the Birds of Prey, Barbara Gordon having bowed out to become Batgirl again. Black Canary is joined by Starling, an expert with guns, Katana, an expert with a katana sword as well as a martial artist, and Poison Ivy. The group each has their own troubles, Black Canary for example is wanted for murder – which she probably did not commit, though we aren’t given any information about why she’s wanted for murder or even who she supposedly killed. The group investigates what turns out to be a mind-control operation. The men in stealth-suits they are fighting are ordinary people who are being controlled by a drug that is supposed to be used to treat stroke, and nursery rhyme control phrases. When an operative is compromised, the control phrase can be used to literally make the person’s head blow-up. The Birds of Prey fall into the mess and try to figure it out. However, by the end of the book it’s clear that one or more, and possibly all of the Birds have also been influenced by “Choke” as they are calling the person in charge of the nefarious plan.

This version of Birds of Prey includes both villains (Poison Ivy) and chaotic good (Katana, Starling) characters as well as heroes (Black Canary, a very brief appearance by Batgirl) but the classic 1990s Birds of Prey featured around thirty female characters, some of which had been considered villains (Catwoman, Poison Ivy) or chaotic good (Huntress), so I don’t have a problem with the inclusion of “bad guy” or villain characters – the Birds of Prey had always been more open about membership than, for example, the Justice League (who seemed to have a Code of Conduct for members).

The story in Birds of Prey volume 1 Trouble in Mind was interesting, enough so that I will buy the next volume because I want to see what happens. However, I did feel the characterization was a little flat. Not as flat as other New 52 books I’ve read, which were awful. But when I compare this version of Birds of Prey to the Classic version, which I’ve also read, it comes up wanting a little – because the book is a slug fest for the most part, and character takes a back seat to the action. Now, I will say, again, I did enjoy Birds of Prey (New 52) but I just don’t find it as good as the original group led by Oracle.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 3 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 3
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Gloria Vasquez, Patricia Mulvihill, Dick Giordano,  Albert T DeGuzman, Patrick Zircher, John Costanza, Butch Guice, Drew Geraci, Jordi Ensign, Jose Marzan Jr.
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Power Girl, Nightwing, Alfred Pennyworth, Robin
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey #12-21 and Nightwing #45-46 (1999-2000)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 3/22/2017

This is the third volume of the collected Classic Birds of Prey written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Greg Land and others. First, Black Canary is out to stop the breakout of a number of super-villains from a prisoner transport train. She, the military officers protecting the train, and the villains are transported by Boom Tube to Apokolips. There, with the help of a weaker parademon that isn’t part of the hoard, they must all escape. Barbara meets Ted Kord at a technology conference – and discovers he’s the co-hacker she’s been chatting with on-line for months. Diana tries to help an abused woman in her apartment building but is too late to prevent her from killing her abuser. Barbara interviews the Joker from an unseen position. Finding out the Joker has sold nuclear cruise missiles to a terrorist group, she asks for more information. When she tells Joker he isn’t in Arkham but New York, he tells her the nukes are on missiles that will hit New York. Oracle calls in Powergirl, Black Canary, and even the US Military to stop the attack. Dinah (Black Canary) is sent on a humanitarian mission to Transbelvia to help refugees and victims of ethnic cleansing and war between Krasy-Volnans and Belvans. She helps a group get to a shelter, overall things do not go well. Meanwhile, Jason Bard calls Barbara from the hospital where he’s undergoing an operation to restore his sight. Barbara offers to get him some investigative work.

There is a flashback story of Barbara setting up her Oracle base with the help of Richard Grayson (Nightwing) and Robin. She ends up also having Ted Kord visit her apartment and meeting with Jason Bard as well (who discovers she is in the chair).

The final volumes collected in Volume 3 of Birds of Prey reprint Nightwing and Birds of Prey in order. Nightwing is captured by Blockbuster, but freed by Cisco Blaine, who turns out to be a Federal agent. However, while Nightwing goes to get the files to bring down Blockbuster, Nite-Wing (Tad) the not-that-bright vigilante kills Blaine. Grayson freaks. Meanwhile, Black Canary is being pursued. Alfred and Robin rescue Dick, and they race to rescue Oracle. Meanwhile, Blockbuster has hired Mouse, Giz, Stallion, and Lady Vic, to find and destroy Oracle. Alfred, Robin, Nightwing, and Black Canary rush to help Barbara (Oracle). Barbara survives but Dinah is captured by the bad guys who think she’s Oracle.

Birds of Prey Volume 3 collects Birds of Prey 12-21 and Nightwing #45-46. Note this is NOT the Gail Simone version of Birds of Prey – it’s the original Chuck Dixon version.

Book Review – Birds of Prey vol. 2 (1990s – Chuck Dixon)

  • Title: Birds of Prey vol. 2
  • Author:  Chuck Dixon
  • Artists: Greg Land, Gloria Vasquez, James Sinclair, Dick Giordano,  Albert T DeGuzman, Pete Krause, Nelson DeCastro, Tim Harkins, Drew Geraci, Mark Propst
  • Line: 1990-Era (Early Modern Age)
  • Characters: Oracle (Barbara Gordon), Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Ravens
  • Collection Date: 2016 (reprint)
  • Collected issues: Birds of Prey 1 – 11 and Birds of Prey Ravens 1 (1999)
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 4/18/2016

Goodreads has this book mis-identified, though I can see the confusion. The cover shown is for the Chuck Dixon, Greg Land, Drew Geraci DC Comics Brids of Prey Volume 2 graphic novel published (or rather re-published) copyright 2016. Gail Simone is author of the current New 52 Birds of Prey run. This is a reprint of the 1999 series, and features: Birds of Prey 1 – 11 and Birds of Prey Ravens 1. So either the wrong cover is assigned (I looked at the other Birds of Prey book listed in Goodreads and it has the wrong cover and only lists Birds of Prey 1 -2 for content.)

Birds of Prey are the female heroes and sometimes chaotic good characters (such as Catwoman or Huntress) of the DC Universe. This book also introduces the Ravens a group of female assassin characters. Volume 2 of DC’s collected reprint of the 1990s run of Birds of Prey focuses on Black Canary and Oracle. In the first story, Oracle sends Black Canary to Rheelasia on a rescue mission. It’s a set-up, but in the midst of the chaos, Black Canary does manage to rescue Jason Bard – Oracle’s former fiancé and a PI sent to rescue the rich and privileged hostages a villain named Pajamas has kidnapped. Although Jason is injured, they manage to rescue the hostages and shut down Pajamas operation.

The next story is a Ravens story and introduces the Ravens: Cheshire, Vicious, Termina, and Pistolera, assassins all – who are on a mission to prevent the terrorist organization S.I.M.O.N. from exploding a neutron generator – which produces a continuous stream of deadly radiation over a controlled area. The Ravens are betrayed by Termina who thinks the radiation from the generator will reverse her illness that makes her deadly to everyone around her. The other three Ravens escape.

In the next story, Black Canary heads to the Minnesota lakes country – only to run into the Ravens again as well as an honest-to-goodness lake monster, and Kobra (an international criminal syndicate) – throw in a little time travel and Canary’s vacation becomes a Busman’s Holiday. However, the story is fun, light, and very, very enjoyable. I loved it.

There is also a short story of Barbara Gordon (the real identity of Oracle) and Dick Grayson (Nightwing) going out on a date to Haly’s Circus. It’s a wonderful and sweet story.

Getting back to the Birds of Prey, Black Canary also is sent on an humanitarian rescue mission, only to discover the man she was sent to rescue is the stereotypical “mad scientist” and his experiment is a super-powered clone of Guy Gardner (one time Green Lantern). Evil Guy Gardner clone nearly kills Canary but he is stopped by a big and pleasant surprise!

Birds of Prey is an awesome series – and this graphic novel I found to be even more enjoyable than volume 1 because it focused on Oracle and Black Canary. The guest-starring Ravens were introduced with enough detail to make them understandable as characters – and to make this reader sympathetic to them, even with their rather shady profession. Still, assassins who kill the lowest of the low / scum of the earth types although considered evil or at the very least chaotic good in the DC Universe (where killing people is always bad no excuses) seem to have their place at least in Birds of Prey. It’s also wonderful to see a whole series devoted to the female heroes and characters of the DC Universe.

I recommend this graphic novel and the series.