By: Duane Swierczynski (story), Jesus Saiz (pencils), Javier Pina (inks), June Chung (colors)

The Story: Starling proves threatening a man’s privates is on par with threatening anyone else’s life.

The Review: Even though this series has been consistently enjoyable since it debuted, it still hasn’t really achieved that special quality which makes a title a must-read. Last month, I pointed out the slightly lacking group chemistry among the Birds; while each has her unique attraction, they don’t have much in the way of common ground or a mutual agenda.  Another missing element, one which may prove even more important, is a clear direction for the series.

Swierczynski likes the in medias res style of opening, throwing us right into the boiling point of the action from the start, and letting us figure out the context as the issue goes on.  He’s managed to make it work before, but this time, the jump between where we left off last time and where we pick up now leaves us helplessly confused.

Last we heard, Katana had “discovered” Choke was still at large, which leads you to assume that the Birds would attempt to pick up his trail again.  Instead, they face off against the Infiltrators, a completely different set of enemies, for the sake of a completely different mission: investigating a “tip” on a “murder that would interest [Canary] greatly.”  This switch in objectives seems to underscore the fact that the Birds don’t actually have very clear objectives.

Perhaps Swierczynski wants to rectify this problem by focusing on a major plot detail which has been thrown at us a few times but never explored: Canary as murderer.  We’ve been operating on the assumption, given her good name, that she’s innocent, but her last-minute confession throws that whole theory in doubt.  At least she leaves some room to find out if she had good reasons to do as she did, though frankly, it will take some extreme circumstances to justify her actions.

You know, all this reminds me that we really have no idea what the Canary of this new DCU is like.  Previously, we could rely on a backstory where she was a Justice Society legacy hero and possible founding member of the Justice League.  Now that the Society no longer exists (in this world, not to say it doesn’t in others to come), and the League has only recently formed with Wonder Woman as its sole female founder, Dinah’s whole life is open for re-invention.  Making her a former spy gone rogue after an unspeakable crime is a pretty good beginning, I must say.

This issue also opens up a divide among the Birds.  While Dinah learns to place her trust in Katana and Batgirl, the women who stuck by her even though she kept the truth from them, Starling goes off to learn the truth for herself.  On the one hand, this shows Starling’s paranoid instincts may always undermine whatever affection she has for others; on the other hand, it’d be interesting to see how much Dinah’s side of the story lines up with Starling’s discoveries.

Starting next issue, Saiz is off to other things—I won’t say better, considering Resurrection Man’s dubious quality.  He will be sorely missed.  Besides a special gift of making women look both beautiful and tough without overemphasizing either quality, Saiz is a strong storyteller, as his action sequences on this issue show.  The page depicting Katana falling down an elevator shaft with a defused Napalm over a quartet of panels, the final one ending in explosion, conveys the weight and speed of gravity so convincingly that it’s exhilarating.

Conclusion: Solid stuff from pretty much the only all-female team title on the stands, with Swierczynski finally starting to answer questions we’ve had all along.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Seriously, Katana has never been so badass.  Despite facing a bigger opponent upon whom her swordplay has no effect, she doesn’t back down, but presses forward, ultimately proving crucial for not only defeating him but his whole gang.

– While it sort of makes sense that Flesh wouldn’t need clothes, given his invulnerable skin, it is kind of weird he chooses to wear nothing except essentially a banana-hammock in battle—one that’s apparently flame-resistant, to boot.