New 52 Review: Birds of Prey #1

The BOP are back. But who the hell is Starling?!

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

For the bulk of its run, Birds of Prey has been primarily about the team of Black Canary and Oracle. And during a brief period when Black Canary was written out of the book to accommodate her monthly title with Green Arrow, Birds of Prey just wasn't the same without her.

In the rebooted incarnation of Birds of Prey, Dinah Lance and Barbara Gordon are separated once again, this time to make room for Batgirl's return in her own comic. Although Barbara and Dinah do get two pages together in this issue, their dynamic is so bizarrely off that they seem like completely different people than the duo we've been followed for so long. They look like themselves, but the strange and cold interaction between them is off-putting. 

To fill the Barbara Gordon-sized hole in the book, writer Duane Swiercynski introduces us to a new character named Starling, whom I initially thought was just a redesigned Grace from the Outsiders. Starling seems to have some of Lady Blackhawk's personality with better driving skills. But thus far, she's a poor substitute for either Babs or Zinda.

Where Swiercynski and the artist, Jesus Saiz excel is showing us Black Canary kicking a lot of ass early on in the issue. Despite being saddled with an incredibly ugly redesigned costume (which is all too common in the new 52), Saiz still finds a way to make it work in her action scenes. However, the design of the enemies with nearly invisible armor was pretty cool and it actually made them seem like a legitimate threat… for a few pages.

Overall, Saiz does some good work in the issue, except for one scene in which story and art both fail. Black Canary and one of the armored killers are fighting on top of a moving car when she takes off his mask and he kisses her in an apparent attempt to poison her. It just came off as a really stupid moment and an all too convenient way to drug Black Canary.

If you're looking for the other new team members, Poison Ivy and Katana, they don't actually appear in this issue. Although we see a picture of Katana at one point, it doesn't really count. Instead, Swiercynski spends the bulk of the issue with Charlie Keen, a reporter who has been duped into following Black Canary and Starling around Gotham City because he's been told that they are "a covert ops team run by a bunch of supercriminal hotties." 

Given how quickly Swiercynski seems to have written Charlie out of the story, it's a little mystifying as to why he gave him as much face time as he did. The BOP try to send Charlie out of town and things go very wrong. As a cliffhanger, it's not bad. But it doesn't make me want to grab the next issue of Birds of Prey. So far, this is a story that they happen to be starring in. But it doesn't really seem like it's really about them. They're more like props meant to keep the action moving.

Birds of Prey is going to rise or fall based on how well Swiercynski handles his leading characters. He's got the action side of the comic working, but there is still a long way to go before this incarnation can stand on its own alongside the great Gail Simone and Chuck Dixon runs. And it's definitely a book that I would like to see succeed.

But it's not ready for primetime just yet.

Crave Online Rating: 6.5/10