Not Just Chicks in Spandex

Having just finished the first three trade volumes of Birds of Prey by Duane Swierczynski, I’d like to share some of my thoughts…

I really like Starling, for starters.

I actually like all the characters, the plots, subplots, and such. I’m definitely coming around to understanding and being more and more interested in Black Canary, but I’d say I’m more interested in reading about Katana and Starling. Starling (in the above picture) is this smart, funny, cutting, and sweet character who is wicked with her guns, can hot wire nigh anything, and is also a pilot. I have a soft spot for the sharp-tongued figures.

Katana is stoic, enigmatic, and brilliant with her…katana, which is dubbed “Soul Taker” and (she believes…Hell, so do I) is inhabited by her dead husband. I also have a soft spot for deadly and romantic assassins.

Despite her insistence of not wanting to be part of a team, we have my favorite DC hero, Batgirl. Then, there’s a few dubious characters included in the team-up, such as Poison Ivy and a Talon (see Court of Owls) called Strix.

Strix can’t communicate except by writing, more often than not, on the ground. Another soft spot for damaged “kid-on-the-inside” types, who happen to be inordinately deadly and hard to kill.

Anyway, I like the title so far. It’s fun and interesting, and the all-girl team never brings attention to that fact except for one time in the third volume…

…and that’s to make a joke. I also like Condor, though I don’t know enough about him yet to ascertain whether or not he’ll be used to manipulate me emotionally, or how well he will. Not doing a terrible job so far, but I’m keeping judgement in reserve.

So, my review of the trade series so far is about 3.33/5 (using Goodread’s star rating system). I liked both volumes 1 and 3, but 2 is what tanked my rating average. It’s writing was confused and garbled, the plot “twist” involving Ivy was expected and headache inducing, and the art had me reaching for the Ibuprofen.

Honestly, they could have skipped Your Kiss Might Kill and just had a short vignette connecting Trouble in Mind and A Clash of Daggers. I don’t know how or why, but DC is doing a fine job at making the classic Batman villains boring and vulgar (in the pedestrian, common way; not gratuitous swearing, smut way. Though, I wouldn’t put it past them…especially considering the art of volume 2). I did a fair amount of ranting about how the New 52 Joker is pretty weak, despite his shocking visage, in fact I would say his new look is a great deal responsible for his lack of intrigue.

The one positive I have for New 52 Poison Ivy is her costume is pretty rad. That’s it. Well, okay, some of her dialogue is okay, but we have Starling for the tongue-in-cheek, back-of-the-hand commentary. Ivy’s gratuitous.

Her story is one we know back and forth, her presence in this arch is shoehorned (much like the Death of the Family-Joker binge), and she’s just a plot point we know we’re heading towards and we’d like to get past it soon, please, there are better stories beyond. Seriously, volume 3 is a lot more fun and volume 2 did nothing to lead into it. Actually, Batgirl turned out to be a better segue. I think DC is trying to keep some of its characters relevant, which they totally should do when dealing with the Rogue’s Gallery. But, not like this. Not by treating the audience as non-literates, not challenging them to greater ideas of what bad or evil could actually mean. Listen, I’m totally up for morally ambiguous figures who are trying to figure out which is the right side and what exactly the greater good actually is.

Again, though, the rest of the team–Black Canary, Starling, Katana, Strix, and the erstwhile Batgirl–fills that need well. They’re better characters. They’re so much better, in fact, that we may not need defined arch villains. Maybe that’s what DC is trying to keep relevant. But, one definite figurehead of evil is not relatable anymore, and popular culture (especially comics, in many instances) reflects what is relevant and relatable in reality.

They’re doing better with their heroes, as far as I can tell. And, I appreciate that they’re not touting the whole “Girl Power!” theme that was, I’ll cop to it, somewhat expected. I like this series so far. I’m happy to skip over volume 2 in the future and in my memory. I won’t recommend that any possible readers do that, but if it were to happen, it won’t the understanding of the story. At least DC isn’t backing down from it (so much, I think) the way Warner Bros. did where Young Justice was concerned.  A different story for a different day, but I’m sure you’ve already heard it.

The bird names don’t even bother me that much.  

5 Comments Add yours

  1. herdthinner says:

    I wonder if the artist regrets having designed the lovingly-crafted, detailed tattoos… that then need to be drawn every time the arm and neck are in sight. I see that, in one panel, they’re already forgotten!


    1. Holly says:

      I can see what you mean. The artist may have reasoned it away, though, with the movement of her neck. I’m assuming you mean the red flower?


      1. herdthinner says:

        I meant the whole arm, in the panel where she’s saying “Going to… SO.. kick your…”


  2. This was really interesting! 🙂 I like the New 52 Ivy…


    1. Holly says:

      She’s fine, I guess, as a character. But, not much has changed except her costume (which is cool and has an interesting backstory). She’s got some okay one-liners, too, but what happens with her arc in Birds of Prey was expected. I was hoping to be surprised with her.


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