By: Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jesus Saiz (penciller), Javier Pina (inker), June Chung (colorist)

The Story: I don’t suppose anyone thought to write down what we were doing on a Post-It?

The Review: The best part about a title that features a group of solely women is for once you get (when executed properly) the kind of variety among characters of a single gender that you’ve been getting with dude-focused titles for years now.  It’s remarkable how many comic book writers tend to approach scenes featuring more than two women as if their only experience of such interactions is from what their girlfriends made them watch of Sex and the City.

In sharp contrast to the sameness of females over on Justice League International, each Bird has an immediately recognizable and distinctive voice and bearing.  Poison Ivy is brusque and to the point; Starling is equal parts brash and sensitive; Katana, while cool and businesslike, reveals a sense of humor beneath a surprising shyness; and Black Canary, as the emotion center of the team, has a little bit of everything bubbling her cautious exterior.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned anything of Batgirl yet.  The reason is simple: she doesn’t really get much of an appearance in this issue.  And the reason for that?  Well, it’s complicated.  As Canary very efficiently sums up, “Last thing I remember, we were on Choke’s secret floor fighting a dozen of those creepy ‘Cleaners’—and all five of us were kicking ass.”  Cut to the first page, and the Birds (minus Batgirl) are under military fire in the midst of a rubble, with no clue what’s gone on in the last few hours.

It’s not just that they’re missing time out of their lives.  None of them seem to have consistent memories of what’s happened (some remember Batgirl being there, others don’t).  Starling’s broken hand has mysteriously healed up.  More significantly, each of them comes away from the experience troubled and out of sorts, which they each deal with in their own way, revealing interesting bits of backstory along the way.

Ev can’t settle herself at the range, so she goes to visit a lady-acquaintance with whom she seems to have a complicated past (“I know what you said…but I really, really needed to see you.”).  Also intriguing is Ivy’s dealings with an unidentified businessman, which may bode ill for her loyalty to the Birds—or it may not; his question of, “You’ll still honor our arrangement?” could mean treachery, or it could mean he’s asking if she’ll keep up an earlier, unrelated bargain with him while having a go at “the hero thing.”

By the end of the issue, Swierczynski succeeds in setting up a plot where at any moment, disaster can spring out of nowhere and break the whole team apart in its infancy.  He’s slowly developed Choke’s manipulative reach to the point where beyond turning innocents into his watchers and recorders, he can make them into sleeper agents, his very own Cleaners.  That gives you a hint as to the kind of havoc he can secretly wreak on the Birds, since he got them in his grasp last issue.

Saiz gets to draw a lot of action sequences this time around, and each one is superb.  Just as Swierczynski gives each Bird an equally strong yet deeply personal voice of her own, Saiz draws their movements with the same grace and force, yet specific to each woman: Ivy’s is wild and predatory; Katana swift and agile; Starling direct and blunt; and Canary, a balance of all.  Incidentally, I love how he draws Katana covering her mouth as she laughs, a subtle but effective detail which possibly shows her former life as a dutiful, refined Japanese wife.

Conclusion: With the Birds, you get a little bit of everything, written and drawn with a lot of expertise and craft.  Rock-solid, with only a few hairline cracks in the plot.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – “My Uncle Earl had a great take on paranoia.  He’d tell me, ‘Kid…most times, they really are out to get ya.’”  Ev’s uncle sounds like a man I’d love to get to know.