Katana was kidnapped and taken to Yokohama, Japan to be punished for some alleged crimes against the mysterious Dagger Clan. The Birds followed her, rescued her, and then let her get captured again when the Daggers assaulted the hideout of Dinah's new crush, Condor. Also, somewhere in the city there might be some kind of bomb about to go off.
Birds of Prey #15: "Sayonara, Katana" was written by Duane Swierczynski and drawn by fill-in artist Juan Jose Ryp, with inks by Vicente Cifuentes. Chris Sotomayor provided the colors for the issue and Trevor McCarthy did the cover, which, to me, looks just way to busy and "flat" to truly pop or look interesting.
The issue opens up with our new friend Condor interrogating an informant. Condor scares the guy by jumping off a roof in Yokohama and flying over the streets, insinuating that he'll drop the man if he doesn't talk. The thing is, we don't know who this informant is or what information Condor was trying to scare out of him. The guy reveals that if they don't get out of the city, they and everyone will be destroyed... but this information comes as a complete surprise to Condor.
So now Condor knows about the bomb, but that's not the information he was originally seeking. And we don't get to find out what he was looking for or what this scene is about, because Swierczysnki's writing style is f*** your questions; I need to bang out 18 more pages so I can get back to playing video games!
Meanwhile, back at the Sushi bar hideout...
Note that Dinah's dialogue acknowledges that she did not communicate a plan during their escape last issue. She just ran away from the fight with the Dagger Clan, leaving her friends and teammates to save themselves. And, of course, Katana didn't make it out. She's being held in some factory or whatever where the Dagger leader is smelting her husband-sword.
Tatsu asks the Dagger Clan the questions the readers are asking: Why is this happening? And Garasuki, the leader, gives the answer that the writer always gives: No comment.
There is no explanation given for why the villains want to punish Katana and her late husband. There is no reason given for why the villains want to blow up an entire city and let the survivors believe for ages to come that it's all the fault of Katana and her late husband. They even consider themselves a Suicide Cult. That takes an extreme amount of hatred and faith, and we don't get to understand any of it.
Anyway, fifteen minutes before the bomb is set to go off, Black Canary, Batgirl, and Starling storm the enemy compound with as much foresight and planning as you'd expect from this sad, sad series. Dinah and her friends don't know about the bomb, so they don't know that they're rushing a clock. Dinah and Starling have military and intelligence backgrounds, and Batgirl is of the "Bat-family" so there is zero #@$%ing excuse for any of them to have just rushed into an enemy enclave without proper reconnaissance or knowledge of the Daggers' numbers or tactics.
But whatever. The assault gives Katana enough time to free herself.
And then something weird is going on with Dinah.
Something is up with her powers. This has been teased a bit for the last couple issues and we'll get to it again later. In the meantime, Condor shows up, digging the bomb out of the sewer.
Who would imagine dying covered in raw sewage? Why would anyone ever imagine that?
Katana destroys the bomb. Then something inexplicable happens, because the script has a quota of bizarre, nonsensical things that need to occur every issue. Katana gets the Dagger leader to surrender his forces by holding her blade to his throat.
Wait, I thought this was a suicide cult...? I thought they were all planning to die for their mission. I thought they wanted to punish Katana at the expense of millions of lives. Why would they give up when they have the numerical advantage? Why would they care about saving their leader? They're a suicide cult?!!
Threat averted, the ladies go to the airport where Tatsu tells the others she is leaving this joke of a team so she can have a solo series and a role in a Geoff Johns-written Justice League knockoff.
This is the closest we usually get to characterization, so naturally it feels cheap and forced and just horribly written. Look at what Starling says before the hug. Dinah offers to keep the team in Japan so they can help and Tatsu politely declines; then Starling says, "Stop fighting." That's not what fighting is, you stupid Mary-Sue flake!
After dropping a hint that Black Canary totally wants to #@$% Condor, Starling questions her about the freakiness of her power fluctuations. Dinah's explanation is a little vague, but almost suggests that her sonic scream used to be affected by her dead husband Kurt Lance, like he amplified her latent powers, and now it's happening again even though he's supposed to be dead.
In the end, we have a disappointing scene where the ladies discuss replacing Katana. I hate Batgirl's reasoning that there needs to be a fourth member. We don't get enough characterization for two characters per issue, let alone four. And of course, since this team needs more wildcards than it can responsibly handle, Batgirl's recommendation is a Talon assassin from the Court of Owls!
A new clue is teased about Dinah's past. We don't know what her sonic scream exactly is or where it comes from, but this makes it sound like Kurt Lance was pivotal to either its origin or her control over it.
I'll miss Katana because of all the characters, she annoyed me the least. But I don't think Swierczynski ever knew what to do with her, including during this story arc where she was supposed to be the star. Her departure was abrupt and felt like a last-minute editorial decision.
Batgirl does nothing of interest in this issue. Neither does Starling, but nor does she say something stupid enough that I want to punch a wall.
I don't know that Condor needed to be in this issue. He didn't have to fetch the bomb; that could have been done by someone else or in some other way.
The Talon named Strix makes her first Birds of Prey appearance here. It's just a last page tease, so I'll have more to say next week... but is it too late to bring Poison Ivy back?
This series has beaten my standards down so low that I finished re-reading this issue and thought, Wow, easily one of the best issues so far. It's only after I think about it, when I analyze it, that I recognize all of the unanswered questions and unexplained decisions.
The art by Juan Jose Ryp was pretty good. Nothing about his style or composition really grabs me, but regular artist Romano Molenaar has had some problems in the past, so... I don't know. The art was fine.