By: Duane Swierczynski (story), Cliff Richards (art), Gabe Eltaeb (colors)

The Story: Greenpeace won’t be too happy about the Birds stealing their thunder.

The Review: As someone who likes to support women, particularly in the comics biz, I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Birds of Prey.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but do you realize that at 127 issues during its first run, 13 issues during its second, and now a dozen issues post-relaunch, this is the longest-running superhero series starring primarily women?  Certainly a far cry from Marvel Divas, no?

Furthermore, this title also has the distinction of starring women who spend the vast majority of their time doing and discussing things that have nothing to do with finding/dating/marrying a guy.  For those reasons, I’ve stuck by Birds of Prey even when it doesn’t hit a very high bar of quality.  And that may explain why, despite a string of underwhelming issues, it still has a place on my pull list when titles like The Flash or Justice League International fell off the radar.

Make no mistake, however: it hasn’t been easy to remain a fan of the series lately.  Where once Swierczynski seemed to have a plan for his heroines, it now feels like all they’ve all been reduced to skipping about from plot thread to the next, rarely finishing the one before moving on to the other.  The most egregious example has to be when we came inches away from learning the truth behind the murder of Dinah’s husband by her own hands, only to get interrupted by a Night of the Owls crossover.  We haven’t come back since.

But I wonder if Swierczynski’s to blame.  Now that DC has made a big deal over its #0 issues and the upcoming Team 7 title (which follows a young Black Canary back in her old spy days), maybe Swierczynski was forced to put his own origin stories on hold.  And maybe that’s why the pacing of this series has become so erratic.  In this issue, the Birds shut down a polluting corporate mogul, destroy an oil rig, hop back to Gotham to recharge Ivy, then have an inner-team showdown.  Needless to say, things happen so fast, you have no time to appreciate them.

The rush of the series has also spurred Ivy to backstab the Birds far earlier than you thought.  It doesn’t feel like she’s been on the team long enough to earn their complete trust, so for Canary to claim it’s been years since she “felt so utterly betrayed” just makes her sound horribly naïve.  As if no one could predict that an infamous supervillain with a rap sheet as long as Silent Spring would turn on you at some point, once you failed to serve her agenda.  The sad thing is Canary still experiences shock when Ivy “broke her promise” a few pages later (the italics give it an especially childish ring, doesn’t it?).

Richards offers some functional art, but it’s neither all that beautiful nor graceful.  He has a very cartoony sense of motion, frequently using swirls and squiggles to show which direction people are moving.  The tactic works, but it also reminds you distinctly of the way Archie comics handles movement.  Furthermore, Richards doesn’t always have the strongest grasp on visual logic.  You don’t get, for example, how an abandoned plane speeding upwards in one panel can suddenly crash and explode into an oil rig tower in the very next panel.  It just feels like an extra step is missing somewhere.

Conclusion: While Swierczynski is entirely capable of writing a good comic, he has completely lost his sense of focus for this title, and the upcoming #0 issues can only distract him further.  Kudos for lasting a year, but this title doesn’t seem destined to avoid the Drop List longer than that.

Grade: C

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Apparently, the oil rig’s safety mechanisms, which “defeated” Ivy the last time she attacked it, consist of some kind of TV monitor and some sliceable tubing.  Outstanding.

– Batgirl’s signal is to put her hands together in a facsimile of a bat.  Very subtle.