By: Marc Andreyko (writer), Billy Tucci & Adriana Melo (pencillers), JP Mayer & Eber Ferreira (inkers), Nei Ruffino (colorist)

The Story: They just can’t get him out of their heads.

The Review: Simone brings such a strong, distinctive voice to her writing, and such a high level of craft, that you find it hard to swallow anyone else’s work once she departs from a project.  This seems especially true with the Birds of Prey, her first high-profile title for DC, one still making her reputation to this day.  Still, Andreyko seemed a good candidate for the job; he has plenty experience writing strong superheroines from his formidable Manhunter ongoing.

So why do the Birds sound so uncharacteristically fraught?  Oracle snaps, “I’m doing everything I can here, Manhunter!”  Kate’s professional response?  “Well then do something else!”  These women have gone through some pretty harrowing experiences (and in fact, the arc just before this had a particularly grisly one), so their testiness in this issue seems a tad forced.  Sure, two of their own are in danger, but again, nothing new there (the previous arc also had that plotline).

This may have nothing to do with the fact that Andreyko’s a man, but you feel more aware of the Birds’ gender this issue.  Their banter has an unnaturally flirty, Sex in the City quality that has almost nothing to do with their personalities or types: “Hey, big guy!  Can we play, too?”  “Oh, and a wordsmith, too?  Are you single?”  “S’OK, handsome.  I like it rough.”  These lines come in stark contrast to the textured, dimensional dialogue these ladies usually come equipped with.

Andreyko just seems downright uninspired at some points, even repeating himself a bit when Phantom Lady remarks, “[Nazis] tie bonds looser for old ladies,” a paraphrase of when she noted last issue, “These bonds aren’t too tight.  They probably didn’t want to hurt the old lady…”  Towards the end of the issue, it feels like Andreyko throws the whole thing to the wind, settling for good, old-fashioned monster blather: “…need…more…power…need…it…now!”

If only we have a strong plot to make up for the missteps in the dialogue.  Unfortunately, this figure from the Birds’ WWII past offers nothing of the kind.  It’s never made clear exactly what Rutger Bruggerman, evil Nazi doctor, had dastardly planned, nor what happened to him, nor even what all his pains are for.  This vagueness carries into the present, where it’s only implied, not clarified that the body the Nazi clones attempt to reanimate actually belongs to Bruggerman.

A series with such an illustrious history and quality really deserves a respectful and touching sendoff.  The closest Andreyko gets to providing either is a smarmy, cheesy closer.  Oracle suggests, “Takeout at my place then?”  With sparkling wit, Zinda replies, “Anythin’ but Argentinian!”  “Or German!” Phantom Lady adds.  “Hahahahaha!”

Tucci gets in only four pages this chapter, leaving Melo to take over the rest of the issue—a really poor move, considering how bland and even unattractive it looks.  The last few pages at times leave you wondering what you’re looking at.  Best example: the climax occurs in a tight, narrow panel filled mostly with Huntress’ cape and a flash of fire coming from an unidentifiable figure.  If not for the “Ka-Boom” letterer Travis Lanham provides, you’d never know this is meant to portray the Birds escaping from a factory explosion.

Conclusion: While Birds of Prey may be returning in name next month, we all know it won’t be the same title we love.  But then, it hardly matters; this last arc has made the series virtually unrecognizable, a poor shadow of its former greatness.

Grade: D+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Again, not accusing Andreyko of sexism, but it’s worth pointing out that Black Canary, master martial artist, chooses for her final blow to our villain the classic kick in the groin, which, as all us dudes know, the combat of choice for women everywhere.