Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BIRDS OF PREY #3 (New 52)

David Finch provides the above cover for Birds of Prey #3, "You Might Think".  At first, I thought it was an artist variant of the cover to issue #1, because it depicts the same four women in front of what might be the same amorphous-looking tree and a similar kind of reddish-pink background.  Except for the inclusion of Poison Ivy, the same could be said about the cover to issue #2, as well.  What the hell, DC?  It's almost as if the cover is trying to capture the total lack of background, characterization, or substance of the stories within.

The third issue sees the series' third colorist.  This time June Chung provides colors for Jesus Saiz's art and Duane Swierczynski's script.  The story pics up where we left off, with Starling and Katana learning that Black Canary invited notorious eco-terrorist and Batman rogue Poison Ivy to join their superhero group.

Dinah's explanation confuses me.  First: I thought she was already putting her team together before she got involved in this current mystery with the faux-invisible bandits who killed Charlie Keen via text.  When did she decide to recruit Ivy?  Second: What is Ivy's "different and much needed skill set"?  I can think of a number of talents Ivy has that the other three don't, but other than the immunity to toxins, I'm not sure which one might be "much needed".  It could come up later in the issue, but it would be nice if it was clarified here so it doesn't pull me out of the story.

Anyway, Starling and Katana drawn their weapons on Ivy, forcing her to defend herself in the team's first intra-squad fracas.

Immunity from swords? Is that the valuable skill set they needed?
Ivy disarms her opponents, but Starling threatens to blow Ivy up with some plastic explosives she just happened to drop between the other's feet.  Ivy lets her go, laughing, saying she likes Starling's style.  So, was this a test?  Because that doesn't seem like it would end the tension between them.

Moving on… Ivy uses her powers to seduce/interrogate/brainwash one of the bad guys…  And by now I hate calling them "bad guys" but there is no other term I can think of because we don't know who they are.  We don't know if they're hired killers or mercenaries or someone's private security or special forces trying to capture the fugitive Black Canary.

After revealing the location of a safehouse, the bad guy recites a nursery rhyme.  Hearing it, Dinah gets a bad headache like she felt right before Charlie exploded.

The next day…or that morning, I guess, Dinah, Starling and Katana check out the safehouse.  There, Starling sees two names on a piece of paper and speculates that they're the next targets.

This scene is baffling to me.  There is no in-story reason for Starling to see two names and assume they're the same type of "walking bombs".  They shouldn't have any idea what they're even looking for, since the actual questions of this mystery have yet to be asked by the characters or the writer.  I would say this is the dumbest, laziest writing ever but Swierczynski beats me to the punch by pointing out that Starling should not reasonably jump to the conclusions she does.  It reads like he acknowledges the problem that this part of the script doesn't make sense but asks us to just go with it.  I'm not sure if his hands were tied by editorial interference, or if he really was just that lazy-but-honest-about-it.

Later, all four women board a train looking for their two targets.  Dinah and Starling move separately into position to drug the men so they can't blow up when given a verbal command like Charlie and the bad guy did.  Poison Ivy goes to incapacitate the engineer while Katana searches the train for bad guys, who, again, are supposed to be invisible.

And there Katana finds one…while the invisible suit has camouflaged him to look like an old woman!

So we're clear: the villains in this story have advanced suits giving them chameleonic powers to turn invisible or change their outer appearances to look like other people.  This is serious, heavy technology with crazy implications and story potential.  A small personal army with the capacity to be anywhere and look like anyone.  Marvel did a whole event based on that!  But in Swierczynski's scripts the bad guys have never gotten the jump on anyone!

Poison Ivy is ambushed in the train's engine room, but not because the baddies are invisible; they just sneak up behind her while she's gloating.  Dinah is about to move in on one of the targets when she is engaged telepathically by a mystery voice that convinces her she has the genetic code in her to be a suicide bomber.

Dinah runs off, ordering her partners to abort the mission.  The issue ends on a cliffhanger with the mystery voice about to recite a nursery rhyme.

The Characters

Last issue introduced us to the New 52 Katana.  This one is Poison Ivy's coming out party.  We see her use her powers to control a man, and her other powers to telekinetically manipulate plant life.  Starling calls her a killer, and while Pam denies it, the newspaper headlines support Starling's assessment of Ivy.

Last issue, I said that Katana's redesign was one of the few I enjoy looking at.  Poison Ivy's is not.  I am pleased beyond words that her skin is back to being a regular flesh tone instead of green.  What I don't care for is the black that covers the part of her body not covered by leaves.  Poison Ivy does not need to be almost naked all the time--although, being honest, Alex Ross' almost naked Ivy is my favorite version--but she does need to be sexy!  She needs to look irresistible, and exotic, and taboo.  This look doesn't capture those ideas.  Her eyes, her weird face tattoos, and the vines that appear to grow out of her chest are not seductive at all.  They make her look alien.


Dinah says that Ivy is vital to the team, but why?  Did the Birds just need somebody who can extract information from men?  There have to be some candidates in the talent pool who aren't recent escapees from Arkham Asylum.  In her explanation to Starling and Katana, Dinah says this:

Disagree with her methods?  She kills people!  And not having a clean soul--is that how she justifies partnering with a wanted criminal?  I mean, I guess Dinah is a wanted criminal in this continuity, so maybe it doesn't bother her at all!  And that just leads to more questions about who this Black Canary is and why is she doing any of this?

We're three issues into the series and I don't know why this team exists.  Swierczynski dropped us into the middle of a story with a mystery investigation with what seems like personal consequences for Dinah and her friends, but we can't understand those consequences because we don't know what the stakes are.  This Birds of Prey has never had a status quo.  There is no "normal day in the life of" issue or element.  Dinah was building her team before this mystery started, but why?  Were they supposed to be a street level superhero version of the Justice League?  Are they private investigators?  Bounty hunters?  Globe-hopping super-spies?  How were they going to operate and/or fight crime?  Going on patrol?  Taking an ad out in the paper?  Who are the bad guys?  What do they want?  Why were they targeting Black Canary?  What is she looking for?  Why does anyone do anything?

On a personal note, this is where I originally dropped this series.  I only went back and collected all the issues after I started this Black Canary fan blog, when I knew I was going to end up reviewing the issues eventually.  This was the point in the series when I lost faith that the writer/editors had any sense of direction or understanding of the characters.  But I'll keep coming back every week to review the next issue.

Birds of Prey #3: "You Might Think" has some interesting moments, including more of Saiz's terrific art, but the compounding questions and plot holes make it impossible to recommend this book.

Grade: D+

1 comment:

  1. The inclusion of Poison Ivy takes this team to a whole new level - shes just crazy and unpredictable enough to make us wait for the inevitable moment she betrays her teammates. Luckily we wont have to wait too long - and her betrayal is a doozy.
    Exactly why Dinah wants her on the team in the first place is a mystery tho as you say - unless her psychtropic skin-drugs can hypnotize or delude men she serves no purpose. One thing Ivy lacks is any real self-defence skills; in her battle with Wonder Woman a few years ago, it was left to Cheshire and the Cheetah to fight Diana, whilst Ivy was left to rely on her potions [or whatever theyr called]. At least with the inconsistent characterization this is addressed here, when shes ambushed on the train. Her lack of fighting skill is a talent sadly lacking in this book, and her 'feud' with Starling here and in the next issue is all over the place.
    The plot here is also all over the shop, with one convienient leap in logic leading to another. Theres no structure to the plot, and its only the rather unique way the victims are made into human bombs [really quite imaginative] that gives it its game.
    The cast for this new [or should that be nu] BoP is certainly eclectic enough - Black Canary, Katana, Starling and now Poison Ivy; that's almost like a fan-fic wish-list choice in a way. When Batgirl later joins it will become a bit more of a stable team.
    Smashing cliffhanger however. I really wasn't sure how theyd get out of that one.