By: Gail Simone (writer), Ed Benes and Adrian Melo (artist), Ed Benes and Mariah Benes (inkers)

The Story: A mysterious enemy is gunning for the Birds, but she’s got something more sinister than the near-deadly frontal assault in mind. The Birds are in real trouble.

What’s Good: I think Janelle Seigel has lined up some first-ranks creative talent for this series. First of all, Simone is a favorite writer of mine. I think she’s done some very subtle and powerful work on Wonder Woman and Secret Six. She can deliver a strong plot, and as this issue shows, she can deliver a complex one, too. This issue is the last part of Act One, where the heroes find out just how bad things are before they have to start dealing with them. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this issue makes issue #1 look easy for the ladies. Simone brings crisp, dynamic and funny dialogue to the table, and grim silences and panicked worry where necessary. The monologues are effective in bringing us up to speed on character and as well as events.

Artwise, I know Benes inspires love or hate depending on the reader, but I’m going to put him and the art team on the strongly positive side here. His women (and men) are all obviously idealized, exaggerated and heroicized (I doubt those are all words, but you get my drift…) as superhero perfection. In Benes’ mind, no hero or heroine can be any stronger, sleeker or more attractive. That’s his artistic vision. Agree or disagree with his artistic vision, but he is skilled enough to put his vision on the page. Hair flows. Heroes move in dangerous and dynamic ways. Their muscles ripple and their clothing is textured and folds when they move. Some artists can only do this, and usually less well than Benes, but take a look at the police and the Penguin in this book. Benes can handles non-heroic expressions and physiques with the same skill.

What’s Not So Good: I’ve never read Simone do anything but Wonder Woman and Secret Six, and her writing with the Birds of Prey cast feels different, a little less authentic and three-dimensional than Wonder Woman or the Secret Six players. I don’t know if I’ve gotten used to her writing in books with a very different tone, but I didn’t feel I got the kinds of windows onto the characters yet, as I would have in other works by Simone. Time will tell. One piece of writing that I hope was editorially-driven and not something from Simone was the caption describing Dove: “…she is the conscience of the superhero community.” Okay. This was a throw away line. Ignore it, right? I tried to, but I’m a critic. Small things are supposed to bug me. Here’s how this bugged me. First of all, Hawk and Dove are ridiculous, one-note characters. Second of all, as far as I’ve seen, Dove is such a minor player that who would– among the DCU– would even notice what she thinks? Third, what does a statement like that say about some of the moral heavy-hitters of the DCU? Is she the conscience of Jay Garrick or Barry Allen? Or Wonder Woman or Superman? I hope Simone was forced to write that. On the art chores, I’ll only note two things that detracted from the read. While Benes is extremely capable of putting his vision to paper, there are panels here and there whose action was difficult to follow. Minor point. Second, the shift in artists part way through the book was a bit jarring.

Conclusion: Simone serves up great stories and except for a few quibbles, I think this arc is going to be one of them. The Birds are in real, irreversible trouble that is going to force at least some of them to radically change how they deal with the DCU. Pick up Birds of Prey. And vote for Hawk and Dove to be dropped in a river….

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault