Birds of Prey 12

Today, Shelby and Drew are discussing Birds of Prey 12, originally released August 15th, 2012.

Shelby: Why do we form teams? Is it to seek the support of others? Is it to accomplish big tasks more quickly? Is it to bring together different skill sets in order to solve more kinds of problems? These have to be at least some of the reasons why Black Canary decided to form a team to do some good in Gotham, but she has obviously made some mistakes in choosing her roster. You know that guy in the group who just won’t play ball with the plan and forces everyone to do things his way? Well, imagine that guy is an eco-terrorist metahuman holding you and the rest of the world hostage to do what he wants, and you can begin to see the dilemma Black Canary has on her hands.

This issue picks up at the tail end of the heist in Dubai from last issue. As the ladies escape on a “borrowed” company jet, Canary finally loses it. They’ve come too close to killing people for her to continue doing things Ivy’s way. Things get heated, and Starling solves the problem by crashing the plane into an oil-rig. It was part of the plan, of course; they were there to destroy it. Ivy’s a little beat up after the mission, so the crew heads to some lab, I assume the one that built Ivy her super fancy suit in the first place. They finally decide they’ve had enough, so Canary and the girls engage Ivy so Batgirl can get away and get help from Batman re: the toxins in their blood that will kill everyone on Earth. Katana gets sick of Ivy’s shit, and … uh, kills her. Ivy’s dying(?) words are that Katana has just killed everyone on the planet.

There’s a lot to unpack here, as I understand it, since Ivy’s dead the toxins in her blood will now roam the Earth, free to kill everybody. So, she was acting as some sort of toxin dam, and now the dam is broken? Also, did we really just kill Poison Ivy?? That doesn’t seem right.

That’s a big deal, even if we don’t take into account that now everyone is going to die. And what about that juicy little tidbit of information? Reading about Poison Ivy now I can’t help but think of The Green, The Red, and The Rot; this would actually coincide pretty well with Rot World becoming a reality. It doesn’t quite fit, though; Ivy is of The Green, how would killing her essentially release The Rot into the world? Maybe I’m looking too hard for connections here.

This is my first time reading this title, so I just read through all 12 issues in the last couple hours. This book has seen a few artists, and while I will agree with the guys that Travel Foreman was not the best fit for the style of the book (even though I love him so much!), I don’t think Cliff Richards is any better. He has a really harsh style, with heavy shading and shadows. I imagine it’s meant to look dramatic, but in reality it just makes these ladies look like old hags.

I do like some of the work he has done with his layouts. While the ladies are fighting on the plane, Starling breaks it up by doing a barrel roll. Richards depicted this by just turning the background into a swirling vortex while the Birds are shaken up. He even twists the panels on the page, showing the effect of the environment the characters are in. I like that, I think that’s an elegant solution to problem at hand; I just wished I liked his style better as well.

This title has a lot of room for really interesting character interactions. We’ve got an all-girl team of heroes, each with their own unique personality and their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. I feel like a lot of those opportunities have gotten buried in the unanswered questions we’ve got with this title. Choke is still at large. Starling is still capable of killing the rest of the team. Canary killed her husband for reasons unknown. An unnamed government agency is after Canary. We’ve got all this, on top of the immediate problem at hand: everyone is going to die, apparently. We might get some answers in the zero issue next month; perhaps in learning why Canary started the team in the first place, we’ll learn more about the circumstances around her husband’s death. I just find that I want more out of this title, I’m not quite satisfied with what I’m getting. Drew, you’ve been reading Birds for a while, are you feeling more satisfied than I am?

Drew: If I may muddle a line from the good Rev. Lovejoy: short answer “no” with a “but,” long answer “yes” with an “if”. This issue does not represent this title at its best, and it’s seemingly been on the downswing for a while. Really, ever since the Choke arc came to its surprisingly abrupt end, this series has been a bit of a muddled hash. Swierczynski has set out to tell another longer story arc here, but the pacing has been far too rushed to have any of the resonance of those first few issues. Starling still gets a few zingers in, but otherwise, this is a shadow of the title I was so won over by just a few months ago.

But it’s not too late to salvage it. I could be satisfied with this issue if Swierczynski is able to deliver on my faith that he has something up his sleeve. Maybe we can settle into a more comfortable team dynamic once Ivy is out of the picture?

Speaking of which — Ivy is most certainly NOT dead. This would be far too inauspicious a farewell to a well-known supervillain, and besides, comic book villains never really die, anyway. I kind of resent the talk of death to raise the tension here, since we all know Ivy will crawl back into that recuperation bath or something and be just fine. As for the killing “every human being on the planet” talk, I think Ivy is referring to the toxin carried by each of the birds that will kill them in six months, releasing another (or is it the same?) toxin to the world at large. Without Ivy to administer the antidote, that fate will surely come to pass — at least as far as Ivy is concerned. Doesn’t she know by now that Batman is pretty adept at synthesizing antedotes to her compounds? Or at least coming up with a plan B that isolates them in space or something in the event he can’t? Six hours might have been pushing it, but six months? Dude could probably clone and kill a few Ivy’s in the meantime, just to prove a point.

But I digress. However the team comes up with a solution, this is most certainly the last time they’ll be working with Ivy. I was curious about her history and motivations in joining the team, but her mysteriousness cuts both ways — I’m also the least invested in her, so losing her is actually okay. Moreover, losing a member may give the other characters a little more space to breathe, which would be very welcome. I am getting tired of the “Canary get’s mad at Katana for using…her katana” trope, but this arc has the potential to put real consequences on Tatsu’s actions, which may put it to rest once and for all.

I wonder how much of my shifting opinions of this title have to do with artist changes. Issue #2 had us making potentially hyperbolic comparisons to Watchmen, but this issue has no such ambitions. Richards’ art lacks the subtle acting and dynamic flair of Jesus Saiz work, but the thing I’m really missing here is Saiz’s sense of space. Take this sequence, paying particular attention to where you think Ivy might be in this room:

We’re not given much to go on, but based on the way everyone is positioned, I assumed they were all generally facing the direction of her tank, which I also assumed was upright. I’m still not totally sure, but I think the next page suggests that she’s behind them in that panel, laying on her back in an open tank. None of the trappings of these first few pages (the computers, the tank) are present during the ensuing fight. Without a sense of space, the sequence lacks any real sense of continuity, or even simple cause and effect, which makes it almost impossible to understand what the characters are doing, let alone why they’re doing it. It robs the action of any emotional resonance, turning it into a series of detached, disjointed action images.

That lack of emotional resonance carries over to the acting , but this issue is so action-oriented, I honestly don’t know if Richards could done much more. Remember when this title was happy to show us Starling’s love for whiskey, rather than just telling us?  Or when we might take the time to just show characters hanging out? Or when we would get glimpses into their lives outside of the team? The appeal of this title is the characters, not the action. Never mind Dinah, that’s why Swierczynski put this team together. He had a very clear sense of this at the beginning, and I’m holding out hope he’ll remember it soon.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

10 comments on “Birds of Prey 12

  1. I think Poison Ivy had potential to be a really interesting member of the team, even after she went rogue. She kept saying last issue that she felt a genuine friendship towards the rest of the team. The fact that she could say that, and still hold them hostage to help her speaks for some interesting relationships that could form. Now, of course, that’s not going to happen.

  2. Shelby and I both neglected to mention the significance of the team crashing a plane into a tower, but the team’s new status as TERRORISTS is duly underlined by that sequence. I’m actually not sure how we’re supposed to react. It’s a shocking moment, but one that weirdly happens after Starling had already started to rebel a bit in the pilot’s seat. She’s willing to jostle Ivy as a prank, but is still going to go through with crashing the plane? I don’t get it.

    • Yeah, I guess I didn’t feel the threat of killing the world seriously enough to believe the team’s acquiescence to their new tasks.

  3. Pingback: The Flash 12 | Retcon Punch

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