By: Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jesus Saiz (artist), Allen Passalaqua (colorist)

The Story: Don’t you have days where you feel you might explode?

The Review: One of the great things about this series is the fact that it not only serves as a great vehicle for showcasing strong female characters, it actually surpasses that function.  If you read the title for any length of time, you’ll soon overlook the gender of the team and appreciate them on their own merits.  You relate to them by their personal quirks and backgrounds, not the mere fact that they are women.

It’s good to see Swierczynski continue that tradition, especially in the creation of Starling, the newest Bird of Prey.  With her forthright, aggressive personality (and elaborate arm tattoo), your first instinct may be to pin her as your typical ball buster, but looks deceive here.  Sure, she gets her kicks from chaos (“Sue me.  I like breaking stuff.”), but she has no problem showing her romantic side in attempting to play Dinah’s wingman even during mission work.  Besides, no pure ball buster can fake a fainting spell that well (“Ma’am, take a deep breath Ma’am?!”).

As the issue goes on, Starling quickly becomes as intriguing a personality as fan-favorite Black Canary.  You can’t help wondering how this lady of a thousand sketchy talents (“I’ve got all kinds of crazy CIA hoodoo I’ve been dying to give a good hard field tes—”) wound up partners with a bona fide superhero.  But then again, Dinah doesn’t exactly have the public goodwill in her current iteration as she did in the past.  Murder charges will do that to your reputation.

Starling by herself has personality that goes on for days, but Swierczynski jazzes up the roster even more with the addition of Katana.  Now, Katana was always one of those characters writers didn’t seem to know what to do with.  She had a soul-eating sword and kind of bore the air of a modern samurai, but she never really resonated with readers.  There were times when she didn’t even seem that skilled at her job, as she rarely took point or had a crucial role with the Outsiders.

Tweaking Katana into a woman who talks to her sword, Joker in Full Metal Jacket style, addressing it respectfully as her husband?  Now, she takes on a whole new level of interesting, becoming even more so as she demonstrates cold precision in her kills.  Maybe that was the problem with her before; for a master swordswoman, she always seemed a bit squeamish about using it.  Now, she runs men through without blinking, giving her that much more street cred.

All this character work mostly makes up for the still somewhat vague plot and underwhelming enemies.  Take away their invisibility and they might as well be your usual, disposable thugs.  Still, they have connections to a force capable of injecting explosives into a person without his knowing and detonating them on cue, so you’ll be looking out for who or what that force can be.  In the meantime, enjoy the last-page introduction of the newest, shadiest recruit to the Birds yet.

It was always a crime that DC didn’t have Saiz on a regular title before, so this series offers a perfect remedy, where he can put his soft, expressive figures to life.  As careful and attentive as he is to the dramatic scenes, he can also quickly switch up the energy into action mode, firing the characters into intense, whip-like motion.

Conclusion: This is certainly a return to form for the title, as it offers high-paced action and bold character work hand-in-hand.  That said, more developments to the plot would be much appreciated.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I appreciate a person who can ‘fess up to their shortcomings, as Starling does upon realizing Katana snuck up on her without her noticing: “She’s right behind me, isn’t she?”

– If these goons are invisibility-capable, why don’t they turn it on more often?  Seems a waste is all I’m saying.