Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Birds of Prey, volume 1: Trouble in Mind

As a straight twenty-year-old male, you would naturally assume that a team of sexy crime-fighting ladies would appeal to me, on a base level at the very least. Conventional wisdom would say that a tale starring such a team would be something I'd eat up and love. With this mind, I must congratulate Duane Swierczynski on what her has accomplished with Birds of Prey-- I did not think it was possible for a comic to be this aggressively dull.

In Gotham City, two old friends named Dinah and Evelyn decide to take up vigilantism. Under the superhero aliases Black Canary and Starling, the pair form a team of female supers to take on a ring of criminals led by the mysterious "Choke"-- a ring that specializes in mind-altering drugs that can be used to create the perfect spies and sleeper agents-- people who don't even know what they are.

With the aid of Canary's friend Barbara Gordon (a.k.a. Batgirl), they recruit a Japanese warrior known as Katana, who wages a personal war against the Yakuza in revenge for her husband's murder. Rounding out the team is Canary's controversial pick for fourth member, recurring Bat-villain and eco-terrorist Poison Ivy, who joins the team of superheroes because... um. Because.
She was tripped out on honeysuckle nectar and everything seemed like a good idea at the time.
Actually, it's never made clear why Ivy joined the Birds. It's hinted that she has a reason, so maybe this will be explained in later issues, but it seems rather vague.

And come to think of it, I don't understand why Katana is there either. It's established that she's waging a one-woman war on the Yakuza because they killed her husband, and that she believes her husband's soul resides in her sword (and it's implied that she's right)... sooooo.... why did she decide to take a break from that and fly halfway around the world to join a team of superheroes doing something irrelevant to her goals?

And while we're on the subject, why are Black Canary and Starling in the superhero business? We aren't given so much as a hint as to their motives. We don't even get a handwave in the vein of "strong sense of justice" or something. They're just there, superheroing.

Yesterday, I praised the writing of Demon Knights because it gave me an understanding of each characters motives and personality. Birds of Prey has a cast half the size, and fails miserably at that. Katana's the only character who even slightly stands out, and, as I just described, her actions don't match up with her motives at all.
She's a samurai chick who's married to her sword. Do you have any idea how hard you'd have to work to make someone like that not awesome?
It's not all bad, though. I do like Katana, and if she had a solo series about her war against the Yakuza, I would definitely read it, and I kinda like Poison Ivy's new design (though it amuses me that, as of the New 52, Ivy now shows less skin than Harley Quinn-- but more on that when I get to Suicide Squad). And... that's about the extent of the praise I can really offer this book.

Oh, that's not to say it's bad. I don't dislike the book. Those would imply that it got a reaction out of me. And it didn't. Things happen, the characters do stuff, but there's no emotional investment. The writing isn't good, but it's not horrible, either. It's just bland.

I'm actually having trouble thinking of anything else to say about it. This book left me so unaffected, it's difficult to really say anything!

Wait! Here's something. I touched on this with the motivations rant earlier, but I think I should go more in-depth: the book is inconsistent. Late in the story, the villain does something to Ivy that incapacitates her, and it's stated that she only has an hour left to live. This is never brought up again. In fact, Ivy is absolutely fine just a few pages later. I can't help but wonder if Swierczynski was just as bored writing this as I was reading it.

The characters just don't act like rational people. They are merely set pieces to help push the story along. Picture this: if you and your team were infiltrating the base of a crime syndicate that you know specializes in mind control, and the next morning all of you remember the mission differently, would you just go on like everything's fine? Because what these people do. In fact, Canary refuses to even entertain the notion that one of them may have been compromised.

These people... I just... what? How can you be so stupid?

Maybe the mind control drugs were preventing her from thinking rationally? But that leads to a slippery slope of why didn't the villains just make the Birds their good obedient soldiers when they caught them, instead of letting them loose with a couple hypnotic suggestions, apparently just to fuck with them?

Swierczynski must have been sleeping when he wrote this. That's the only explanation. And giving how boring this book is, I don't blame him. Give Birds of Prey a pass.

See ya tomorrow when I review Aquaman.

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