By Scott Tipton
Some very cool and long-awaited releases on the bookshelves in recent weeks. Let’s take a look, shall we?
DC is currently reprinting Chuck Dixon and Greg Land’s original BIRDS OF PREY run in trade paperbacks, with Volume 2 just now hitting stores.
While the series is as great as I remember (and I’d forgotten that for much of the early run, Black Canary had no idea who her mysterious partner Oracle was, with Barbara Gordon remaining entirely in the background from her Clock Tower HQ in Gotham), what really makes this collection special is that it includes issue #8, “On Wings,” the issue that for a whole generation of fans cemented the notion of a romance between Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. It seems like it’s always been that way now, but for most of the characters’ existence in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, Babs and Dick had more of a sibling-like relationship, with Barbara being about 10 years older than Dick (which explained how Babs could have been a Congresswoman in the 1970s, but that’s a story for another time…).
“On Wings” is a lovely little done-in-one tale of Dick taking Babs out for a night at his circus, ending with a return to the trapeze for Dick and the recently paralyzed Babs, who had earlier admitted to missing her nights soaring above the streets of Gotham as Batgirl. It’s sweet and wistfully romantic, and by itself is worth the cost of this book.
Romantic in a very different and much funnier way is HARLEY AND IVY, the new hardcover collection of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s various Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy stories.
Included here is their excellent miniseries from 2004 (with inks by the great Shane Glines, and various short stories with art by Rick Burchett, Ronnie Del Carmen and even ARCHIE legend Stan Goldberg. Special mention must be made of the production design here; this book is gorgeous:
These are great stories, laugh-out-loud adventures of a couple of kickass women out to take on the world, even if it occasionally means breaking a few laws. Dini and Timm do an amazing job creating a real relationship here between the two; Harley loves Ivy, and Ivy loves her back, in spite of herself. In a hilarious scene from one of the stories, Batgirl tries to get to the bottom of Harley and Ivy’s relationship, and quickly regrets it:
While I’m enjoying the modern Harley series to various degrees, it’s great to have the genuine article back on the shelves in such a lovingly created volume. A must-have.
And under the category of “books I thought I’d never have,” the looooooooong-awaited collection of Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham’s first MIRACLEMAN book, THE GOLDEN AGE, has finally seen release in a very handsome hardcover.
The follow-up to Alan Moore’s legendary run on the series, Gaiman was left with no small feat in continuing to tell the story, which Moore had ended with Earth having become a superhero-led Utopia. Moore’s approach is not unlike what he would eventually become known for in his later work on SANDMAN: stories of ordinary people struggling with the extraordinary, in which the title character is rarely seen, but his presence is always felt. Here in THE GOLDEN AGE, Gaiman and Buckingham show us people struggling to adapt the new world around them, with new religions springing up and new holidays and festivals coming into being, and even the dead trying to find a place for themselves after having been brought back to at least a kind of life, such as one of many Andy Warhols forced into a friendship with Miracleman’s insane, murderous creator.
Another chilling tale shows how humanity, even in the face of paradise, finds ways to deceive itself into religion, as in a cult that springs up around Miracleman’s enemy, the man who murdered London:
But maybe the most powerful tale is the first one, about a quartet of supplicants who climb to Miracleman’s presence to ask for help, and the surprising responses they receive.
I hadn’t read these stories in decades, but they really hold up. It’s some of Gaiman’s least-seen work, but still some of his best. I suggest you check it out.