Mister Freeze attacked the Birds, capturing Starling and offering to return her in exchange for Strix, former Talon of the Court of Owls. The Birds agree to meet Freeze at the Court's laboratory where Strix was revived, but once there, they realize it was all a setup. Freeze wants to possess the Court's secret of reviving the dead, and Starling is working with him.
Birds of Prey #20: "The Cruelest Cut" is written by Christy Marx with art by Romano Molenaar, and Jonathan Glapion taking over for Vicente Cifuentes on inks. Molenaar and Cifuentes provided the cover, which was already drawn before Christy Marx took over writing the series, so her hands were kind of tied in terms of story direction.
When Black Canary met Starling roughly a year ago, the latter was working for a criminal. Despite her secrets and mysterious background, Dinah chose to trust Starling and partner with her. Just like she chose to trust Poison Ivy, like she chose to trust Condor and Strix without knowing them. She trusts killers, thieves and mercenaries, and she has the nerve to act surprised when they betray her. That's how issue #20 begins, with Dinah pissed off that yet another one of her hand-picked teammates turned traitor.
Starling tries to defend her actions, claiming that she owes Mister Freeze for some reason, and that the Court of Owls is a mutual enemy so why not work together to everyone's benefit. While Dinah and Starling debate whether betraying your friends is a big deal or not, Batgirl tries to free Strix from the ice. Freeze gets tired of talking, though.
As the fighting resumes, the two Court scientists make a run for it. Starling tries to shoot them, but Condor uses his telekinesis to deflect her bullets. Then Black Canary and Condor rush Freeze.
Meanwhile, Batgirl gets to live out so many fanboy fantasies... by beating up the always annoying, ever poorly written Mary Sue, Starling.
Black Canary and Condor are trapped behind an ice wall. Condor encourages her to use her sonic scream to free them, but she is justifiably worried about losing control of her power and killing everyone. Good thinking there.
Dinah remembers how her late husband, Kurt, helped her control her sonic scream before she killed him (which, if you read yesterday's review of Team 7 #8, you know he only helped her focus her scream one or two times, and she didn't kill him with the scream). This is becoming a trend; whenever Dinah thinks of Condor, she remembers her husband.
While Dinah uses a thermite grenade to burn through the ice wall, Mister Freeze catches up to the Owl scientists. He tortures and kills them to get the information he needs, which ends any need to continue fighting the Birds of Prey.
Starling makes a run for it as Dinah and Condor free themselves. Dinah's anger gets the better of her and she lets loose with a "Canary Cry" at Starling.
Does Starling die? It's unclear, but no she doesn't.
Then, because Dinah is tired and spent, she's able to use her sonic powers on a low enough setting that she can free Strix from the ice without harming her too much.
Dinah and Condor go looking for Mister Freeze while Batgirl takes Strix to the roof to warm up. Once they get there, they find the other Talon, Calvin Rose, waiting for them.
This issue is almost entirely action, so there isn't much in the way of characterization. Black Canary is still worried about losing control of her super powers, but not so much that she doesn't use the power twice in this issue: one time, she overdoes it, one time she's fine.
Condor is inserting himself closer and closer into the role of love interest. There's an obvious mutual attraction and I'd be surprised if they're not sleeping with each other a year from now. I'd also be surprised if he doesn't turn out to be a traitor, too, since that's how this series does things.
Batgirl doesn't do much but fight Starling, and Strix is encased in ice for the majority of the issue. Starling does a lot of talking to defend her treachery, and this would be a great opportunity to give her some humanity or some depth of character. But since her reasons for working with Freeze are "secret", her defense is just whining that the others don't understand her. It's really weak and unsatisfying. Like everything about Starling.
I guess this issue was one of the best of the series, because there was so much action that the characters didn't have time to be dumb or make me sad. That said, the action wasn't very creative or interesting.