dc comics birds of prey 8 2012 review feature image

REVIEW: Birds of Prey #8

Colors by JUNE CHUNG

Birds of Prey has been one of the most consistently good books of DC’s reboot. This issue delivers some spectacular, action-packed moments but when it comes to overall plot progression, it stalls. The wrap-up of the Choke storyline left quite a few questions about who the villain really was and how soon we’d see him again. Birds of Prey #8 takes off in a whole new direction as we’re beginning to discover the secrets of Black Canary’s mysterious new past. But then, starting in the next issue Birds of Prey will join the upcoming “Night of the Owls” crossover event and you have to wonder whether they jumped the gun here starting another storyline.

Writer Duane Swierczynski has been pretty solid in his handling of the Birds. This issue in particular plays with the strengths of each member. Well, let me rephrase that, it plays well with the strengths of the members who appear. Poison Ivy may be featured on the cover by she’s absent this time. In fact, her absence is commented on quite a few times throughout the book and you have to wonder what the significance is and if it will play a role in the next issue.

The premise here hinges on the Birds fighting a team of government operatives, each of whom has been hand picked to counteract their specific set of skills. For example, Katana is matched against a man whose skin is covered in a substance that makes him invulnerable to her blade. These matchups create instances where the Birds have to be extra clever and work well as a team to survive. And while it’s clear this arc will focus on Canary, it’s Katana who actually shines brightest. It might even be her best moment in the series yet. She’s the one who takes the initiative and proves herself to be a capable leader, not Canary or even Batgirl. In fact, it seems Swierczynski is more comfortable writing Katana, Poison Ivy, and Starling than he is with longtime Birds of Prey members Batgirl and Canary.

What’s unclear is how this story will connect to the “Night of the Owls” event. The plot here barely moves forward, as if this issue was filler to hold us until the upcoming crossover. I fear Birds of Prey might be piling up some unfinished plot threads, but the overall story Swierczynski is crafting is still good. And while he seems unsure of what to do with some characters, how he’s writing Katana, Starling, and even Poison Ivy has been really great. All three of them have become much more interesting characters over the course of this book.

Sadly, this is artist Jesus Saiz’s last issue of Birds of Prey. He’s been the perfect artist for the all female book because he can deliver striking, sexy ladies without dipping into cheesecake territory. All you need to do is look at Saiz’s art and compare it to the few covers David Finch contributed to see the huge difference in representation. How these women are portrayed is so important, especially in a book which has long been considered one of DC’s most female-friendly offerings.

Saiz’s pencils this issue won’t disappoint. There’s a great four panel sequence where Batgirl knocks out her opponent that flows wonderfully. And again, later on, there’s a two-page splash where the Birds are escaping an exploding building that would make a great storyboard for any action movie. There’s no arbitrary posing, there’s no contorting bodies allowing us to see both tits and ass. The Birds are depicted as capable fighters on the job. Saiz’s art really adds to the fun of this issue which is seeing the Birds in action, kicking ass.

Others have complained about Javiar Pina finishing some of the artwork saying it weakened the issue, but I didn’t notice. I think Pina did a fine job subbing in, and I kind of wonder why they didn’t choose him as Saiz’s replacement.

Whether the next issue will delve further into Canary’s past is unclear because the “Night of the Owls” is coming. I’m still unsure why Batgirl is in this book, and it seems so is Swierczynski. I was under the impression Starling was included to fill the hole left by Oracle in the Bird’s lineup, but I guess not. You’ll definitely want to check out this issue for some of the last, great art Saiz will bring to Birds of Prey but don’t look for any real closure to what’s been happening thus far.

ART: 5/5

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