Thugs trying to extort a dojo, flashbacks to Dinah Drake’s childhood, a training montage, a massive city-wide power outage, The League of Assassins, secret agents, a mysterious piece of technology that everyone wants, riots in the streets, an incoming hurricane— THERE’S A LOT GOING ON IN THIS COMIC! I’d even say that there’s too much happening, but at least it’s never boring.

“The Birds of Prey Zero Year One-Dollar More Spectacular” (or “Sunrise” as it’s titled in the book itself) focuses on Dinah Drake alone in this look back to Gotham during the Zero Year blackout caused by The Riddler. However, while the horrors of the Gotham blackout are used well as a backdrop for this issue, the real story is about Black Canary’s beginnings. Here you’ll find out how she first received her martial arts training and you’ll learn how she went from a little Gotham dojo to the ranks of Team 7 (Do you remember “Team 7”?). It’s an action-packed, heartfelt, and incredibly fast-paced comic with a number of good ideas running through it and a really likeable heroine that I found myself rooting for the whole way through. But, as I said in the opening paragraph, there are too many things going on here. The gang extorting her dojo, the flashbacks to her emotional attachment to the dojo and her own origin, and then the greater threat of the blackout/storm to the dojo would have been more than enough for a satisfying and well constructed one-shot. But then a man with circuitry running through his scalp showed up rambling off exposition about a gadget that his special ops team needs to recover and before you know it we’ve got ninjas! I feel that a strong origin story was diluted here by including aspects of something that could have made a really entertaining action comic of its own.

The artwork on this issue is somewhat contradictory with three different artists working on the project. Any one of these artists, Molenaar, Sampere, or Moore would have fit this story nicely but together they simply don’t blend well. One’s scratchier, line-heavy style does not compliment the smoother, less detail oriented look of the latter half of the comic. If you flip through the book fast enough it actually gives the feeling of going in and out of focus like switching between lenses in that chair at the optometrist’s office. It’s not a bad looking comic by any means and each artist does a fine job of illustrating the emotional content of the character moments and the appropriate energy of the fight scenes, but I would have liked to have seen better consistency between styles.

Recommended If…

  • You’re at all curious about Black Canary’s New 52 origin
  • “The Karate Kid” films entertain you
  • You liked the short-lived Team 7 series
  • You’re trying to collect all of the Zero Year tie-ins

Overall

Christy Marx captures the horrors of a blacked out Gotham better than many of the other tie-ins, but Zero Year still takes a backseat to the origin story of Black Canary. While I also enjoyed the flashbacks and the character development of Dinah Drake, the story did get bogged down by the unnecessary inclusion of ninjas, special ops teams in search of top-secret gadgetry, and other over-the-top elements in the last half of the book. A city-wide blackout, origin flashbacks, a threatening street gang, and an incoming hurricane was really more than enough to create a riveting one-issue plot.

SCORE: 6.5/10