#CBR5 Maneuver #21 – Birds of Prey Volume 2

Birds of PreyTarget: Duane Swierczynski’s Birds of Prey: Your Kiss Might Kill.  Art by Jesus Saiz and Travel Foreman.  Collecting Issues #8-12 and Issue #0 of Birds of Prey (N52)

Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction

After Action Report:

DC’s release dates for its mass-market collections are stupid.  Between the hardcover special releases and some bizarre need to spread releases out, it’s been eight months since I reviewed Volume 1 and fourteen months since the first issue in Volume 2, issue #8, was printed.  This obviously isn’t a problem for people who are just collecting the issues, but DC seems pretty intent on screwing its MMP base, particularly those of us who are fans of Batwoman.  Now, part of this delay is because I’m STILL enormously behind on the reviews, but, much like the U.S. government, I refuse to let facts get in the way of a good rant.

I really enjoyed the first collection of the new Birds of Prey, so it is with mixed feelings that I report that Volume 2 leaves much to be desired.  Between the jerky plot jumps and the ill-conceived Poison Ivy arc, the issues in this volume never really get down to business.  Some of this is due to the Night of Owls and Issue #0 ‘crossover’ events, which derail the existing plot lines in really jarring ways.  But even the two arcs that belong to the Birds feel clunky and don’t have the same storytelling hook present in Swierczynski’s first arc.

But before I can get into the details, we have to go back to the end of Volume 1.  In my review of Trouble in Mind, I noted that by the end of the collection, they had only really gotten one layer off the onion-like mystery that was the first story arc.  Evidently, I was the only one who liked that.  So, instead of diving further into this story of biological weaponry and clever brainwashing, we are dropped ass-first into a totally new arc that looks to be about Black Canary’s New 52 backstory.  No time is given to the old plot and there is literally no resolution to be found anywhere in Volume 2.

Oh well.  On we soldier.  The backstory issue is promptly derailed by the intrusion of the Batman crossover, The Night of Owls.  The crossover event is actually kind of interesting, involving an ancient society that has been controlling Gotham behind the scenes for centuries.  Shades of Batman Begins aside, the story is worth checking out in general, but the Birds of Prey contribution to the crossover is dull.  The Birds end up fighting against one of the Talons, cryogenically preserved superhuman assassins from history.  There is almost nothing to redeem this issue, although the Talon’s perception of the teams’ costumes as 19th Century finery, or in Katana’s case, a suit of Japanese armor, complete with demonic samurai mask, is visually interesting.

The conclusion of the crossover artificially sets up the next arc.  Poison Ivy is critically injured during the fight with the Talon, and the team takes her to a remote island to regenerate.  This kicks off Poison Ivy’s arc, which I won’t discuss because of spoilers, though I will say that the Canary backstory issue is left entirely unexplored and mostly unmentioned in a horribly awkward example of the continuity stupidity.

Other aspects of the book are stronger.  The art continues to be high quality and while I can’t quite turn the corner on Starling’s battle getup, I generally like the character design.  Sometimes Katana’s outfit gets super-streamlined and loses the small, blocky armor plates that made it look more realistic, but that could be attributed to the shift in artists.  Travel Foreman takes over for Jesus Saiz right after issue #8 in a pretty seamless transition.  The combat in Foreman’s run is a little muddled, which is a problem when you’re dealing with 4-5 heroes, but it isn’t a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination.

Thematically, this collection of Birds of Prey is more simplistic than Volume 1.  A lot of the grey of the team’s morality is shoved into black and white in the context of the stories being told.  Poison Ivy in particular is much reduced by her poorly written Face-Heel Turn, which seems to strip all of the interesting subtext out of her character.  In doing some research for this review, I came across a lot of complaints that the first arc of Birds of Prey had been poorly received by comic fans because it was paced too slowly.  I suspect Swierczynski was under pressure to make the comic move a little faster and had to sacrifice the strong character elements to do so.  The result is something much closer to a traditional comic’s pacing, but missing all of the fantastic writing that made Birds stand out.

Volume 2 concludes with another Issue #0, detailing how Starling and the Black Canary met.  It’s an interesting story dealing with the traditional Batman villain, Penguin, but it derails the Poison Ivy arc before it feels like it finishes.  Also, I didn’t really care how the band got together because I was invested in what they were doing.  While the obsession with origin stories has been discussed in relation to the inability of Hollywood to move past them, there’s also something stupid about having to tell them every time a series gets rebooted.  What’s even more annoying is that we had gotten a look at Canary’s actual origins issue #8, and that plot got entirely dropped.  If he had to write an Issue #0, anyway, the least Swierczynski could have done was tie those two elements together.

The internet informs me that this stretch of issues is the start of an almost year long drought of good Birds of Prey stories.  Both the upcoming arcs and those contained in Volume 2 are shorter and more necessary to the greater DC continuity than they are to the Birds themselves.  At this point, I think DC’s desire to maintain a more integrated and unified world setting, has irrevocably damaged some of their better properties.  And while these detriments aren’t enough to turn me off Birds of Prey entirely, I just can’t recommend Your Kiss Might Kill as a stand-alone experience.

Posted on August 12, 2013, in Cannonball Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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