It seems like the long, confusing first arc of Birds of Prey volume 3 is finally over. Was anything accomplished by that story? Have the characters grown or changed? Did the finale make sense and feel deserved given the scope of what came before? No, no, and no.
So let's move on.
Birds of Prey #8: "A Far Cry" is again written by Duane Swierczynski, with pencils by Jesus Saiz and inks/finishes by Javier Pina and colors by June Chung. Saiz provides the cover, as well.
The issue opens three days ago* at the Cornwell Hotel where the Gotham City P.D. is investigating a brutal murder. A mysterious man with more clout than the local cops kicks them out, taking charge of the case. The murder victim's entire face was caved in, including his teeth, which were shattered, making facial or dental identification impossible. Convenient. But a fingerprint check reveals that the victim was a member of the investigator's mysterious organization.
The investigator believes that Dinah's sonic "Canary Cry" was the murder weapon.
Cut to Dinah Lance being burned…
In the Cornwell Hotel today, Black Canary, Batgirl, and Katana are fighting for their lives against a team of assassins called the Infiltrators. The Infiltrators are led by a holographic commander whose name we never learn, because that's how Swierczynski rolls. Dinah's narration explains that the Birds came here "on a tip" from "a man" who claimed "to have information that would interest [Dinah]." If there is a lazier way of establishing the situation I would like to see it.
Dinah knows the hologram from her past. The Infiltrators, however, seem new. The first Infiltrator we meet is Napalm, who has flamethrowers attached to each wrist. Napalm is really excited about torching Poison Ivy, and is really disappointed to discover that she's not here.
Next up is Flesh, who looks like a well-muscled sumo wrestler. His skin is impervious to cuts and damage, so he spends the issue fighting Katana (also 'cuz they're Japanese…?).
The last Infiltrator we meet is Head (seriously), who has chemicals pumping into his brain that make it impossible to knock him unconscious. That seems like a really, really super-specific and not-as-useful-as-you'd-think-superpower for an assassin, but whatever, his name is Head. Head targets Batgirl, apparently, to exploit the weakness that she tends to knock out her opponents. What a crutch she relies on!
Meanwhile, Starling has gone to an "undisclosed location" in South Dakota, which might be the base of operations for the Infiltrators, or at least close to it. I guess South Dakota is a big state, but there's not a lot there other than Mount Rushmore. Starling breaks into a safehouse looking for evidence that will either confirm or clear her friend Dinah of the murder charge against her. That's when she's met by someone who looks like the investigator from the beginning.
Back in Gotham, the Birds and the Infiltrators have caused so much structural damage to the upper floors of the Cornwell Hotel that the walls are coming down and floors are collapsing. At one point, another Infiltrator slaps a collar on Dinah, preventing her from using her Canary Cry. This Infiltrator's name isn't mentioned (because: Swierczynski). Dinah and Batgirl lead most of the Infiltrators down to the lower levels. And then Katana joins them by riding Napalm down the elevator shaft.
Yeah, at first I was a little wowed that Katana was so casually killing another one of her enemies, but then I saw that the Birds brought down an entire luxury hotel! Yeah, that entire damn building came down! Think there's any chance that innocent lives were hurt or lost by that stunt?!!
But there's still another wall to knock down!
Next issue: Birds of Prey ties-in with the "Night of the Owls" crossover in all the Batman books.
This version of Black Canary was married. She was Dinah Drake, the name of the original Golden Age Canary. Lance is her married name, but she didn't marry Larry Lance, as the original Dinah did. She married a guy named Kurt Lance.
Also, she killed him.
Starling used to work for the Penguin. We've been told that Starling is a spy, so maybe she was undercover at the time she was working for him. Maybe not.
Poison Ivy only appears on the cover of this issue. She's not in the story. This is a good thing. Although, wasn't she dying at the end of issue #7?!! Shouldn't that be addressed?
This issue is a vast improvement over the last handful of installments of this series. It still suffers from a lot of the same problems as before, though.
Swierczynski sets the table with the "anonymous tip" reference that is so cliche, so lazy, so stupid that it makes the characters seem dumb for going along with it. As usual, the "mystery" element of these stories only works because the characters aren't smart enough to solve it.
There's also some confusion about the timing of events. The opening is tagged as "three days ago", but Dinah killed her husband three years ago. The impression I got was that the investigator in the opening scene was discovering Kurt Lance's body, but he says, "Dinah Lance has struck again." This suggests she killed her husband and then three days ago killed someone else in the same way. But his hair in the opening scene is a lot shorter than it is later on when he meets Starling in North Dakota. So what's going on? I'm assuming the caption on the first page is wrong: that it should have said years, not days.
The issue has some strong qualities, too. Despite being really simplistic baddies, the Infiltrators are decent villains. Flesh has a cool gimmick, and Head at least looks interesting. I'm not saying these guys deserve more than one issue, but they're fun for these pages. The action keeps the story moving at a pretty good pace.
Starling isn't annoying in this issue. That's good.
Best of all, we're finally--finally--acknowledging the murdered elephant in the room. Why is Dinah wanted for murder? Did she actually kill someone? Who and why? I guess we'll find out next issue.
Oh, wait. Next issue they fight the Court of Owls. Damn.