By: Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jesus Saiz (artist), June Chung (colorist)

The Story: The Birds discover the joys of flower power.

The Review: Like many Batman villains, Poison Ivy has become more complicated over the years, starting off as one of your typical deranged Gothamites and growing into an eco-terrorist of the first degree.  In the process, she’s transformed from villain to something of an anti-hero (with the occasional descent back into villainy).  Still, she’d never label herself as a “good girl,” and as seen in the now-kaput Gotham City Sirens, she likes to stick with other shady dames.

So it’s surprising Black Canary extends an invitation for Ivy to join her team—or it would be had we a different flock of Birds than we do now.  Starling won’t win awards for the pure of heart and Katana’s skill of plunging her sword into anything that moves won’t either.  Even Canary doesn’t have a stainless rep anymore.  So the real question is: what advantage does Ivy get out of joining when her only goal is to “prevent greedy individuals from despoiling the planet”?

We know what the Birds will get with the addition of “the talking salad” (Starling’s words, not mine): firepower.  Except for Dinah’s Canary Cry, the ladies’ talents all focus on espionage and sting ops skills.  Ivy offers a very different set of abilities.  As she demonstrates on one of the thugs they capture, her charm is as potent as ever, reducing him to a blithering puddle in the span of one page: “I’ll take you home you’ll like home let me take you home.”

Adding the semi-villainess to the Birds also adds some delightful new dimensions to the team dynamics.  Though Katana and Starling have just met and haven’t exactly taken to each other, both are immediately on the same page when it comes to their newest teammate.  When Canary asks what they think of Ivy, you have to love their silent exchange of glances seconds before they simultaneously draw their weapons.  Looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

It’s worth mentioning that Swierczynski has done the near-impossible: made Katana not only tolerable, but downright intriguing.  It’s not perfectly clear if Katana really speaks to her dead husband in a mystic way or if her dialogue with him is a kind of coping mechanism, attributing her own fine-tuned instincts as help from a spiritual source.  Whatever the case, it not only adds a compelling edge to her character, it makes for some funny moments, as when it encourages her to pull out her sword in the middle of a packed train compartment.

While the real villains of the series remain fairly unimpressive, they at least show a thorough competence at what they do.  You all remember the kiss Canary got from one of them in the debut, right?  You all probably figured that’d come to haunt the ladies at some point, and the clues have been so apparent you saw this issue’s big cliffhanger long before it happens.  But the Birds’ peril doesn’t diminish for it, so next issue definitely still has plenty of good times to offer.

Saiz, as usual, delivers beautiful women and beautiful everything in general.  His design of Gotham’s train station is an architectural wonder, even supporting continuity by drawing upon elements from Moritat’s design of the place in All-Star Western, like the old-school Victorian building leading into the massive, modern, glass-and-steel structure behind.  And you have to love his interpretation of an Ivy-hallucination, complete with psychedelic coloring courtesy of Chung, where the thug turns almost fay-like amidst a bounty of oversized flora.

Conclusion: As always, the action goes at a rollicking gallop, dragging plenty of strong character moments along for the ride.  While it’s questionable if we’ll get anywhere out of the ordinary, I’m in for the long haul.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Poison Ivy may not be technically much of a human anymore, but she’s still a woman, and no woman likes references to her age, which she demonstrates by neatly vining up a train steward: “That’s for ma’aming me.”

– I also love the interstitial panel of all the headlines of murdered polluters, right after Ivy says, “I’m no killer.”