Katana moved on to greener pastures after fighting a personal but incomprehensible battle against the Dagger Clan in her homeland. The others returned to Gotham City where Black Canary decided they needed to recruit a new teammate, because if the series only had three leading characters, the writer would have to spend time revealing things about them, and we can't have that. (This book sucks.)
Birds of Prey #16: "Lights Out" is written by Duane Swierczynski with pencils by Romano Molenaar, inks by Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Chris Sotomayor. Molenaar and Sotomayor provided the cover, which dramatically depicts the Talon Strix fighting Batgirl, which is just about the only match-up that isn't included in this stupid book.
The issue opens with the Birds meeting on a rooftop instead of, like, any more natural place for people to meet. Batgirl has just brought along her candidate to replace Katana as a member of the team. To everyone's surprise, she brought a Talon, one of the deadly undead assassins from the Court of Owls that tried to murder every prominent person in Gotham City a couple months earlier.
One of the Talons tried to kill the Birds for as-yet unexplained reasons, so it stands to reason that Dinah and Starling would be appropriately shocked, even mad about this unannounced decision. After all, this is a comic book, and this is a textbook situation for how you get two good guys fighting before they reconcile their mistaken first impressions and team-up. That's what you would expect, and the thing is, as cliche as that would be, Dinah and Starling would be perfectly justified in doing that! Why would Batgirl bring a Talon to a rooftop meeting and not give them any warning of what she's doing?
Of course, Dinah keeps a level head and trusts Batgirl to explain herself. After all, the Talon makes no aggressive move toward them that would suggest she's there to attack.
Then f***ing Condor shows up out of nowhere and attacks her!
Starling tackles Condor off the edge of the building, while Batgirl tries to calm down the brain-damaged super-assassin who came for a friendly meeting and got attacked by a stranger. Naturally, the Talon, whose name is Strix (Latin for Owl), feels ambushed and lashes out, punching Black Canary, exactly as you'd expect given how volatile all of these characters are. I thought Batgirl was supposed to be smart...
Remember a couple issues ago when Condor pushed Starling off a roof and nobody did anything about it. Well, she remembers, and gets some payback in this scene.
I still say she should have gotten payback on Dinah for not doing anything to help her, but what do I know, I'm just the idiot who paid for this piece of crap story.
Anyway, everyone calms down and just accepts that Strix and Condor are now part of the team.
Hey, Dinah's first two draft selections were homicidal Batman villain and a gangster's bodyguard who looks and talks like a trailer park whore.
Dinah's upset that Batgirl didn't ask permission to recruit a Talon? Hmm... That sounds like there are serious problems with respect and leadership in this team. Maybe Dinah should address that.
So, three weeks later, the team arrives at a... a place, like a factory or a shantytown... on the "fringes of Gotham City" to take down a Basilisk weapons deal. We've heard Basilisk mentioned a couple times, but never explained what it is. I guess because it's named after a mythological serpent that Swierczynski wants us to assume they're a terrorist organization like Hydra.
The team splits up. Starling and Strix go off together: the mute and the motormouth. Starling keeps talking, trying to be funny, but not succeeding. Meanwhile, Dinah and Condor flirt and--
Condor is... is... revealing information about himself to the reader...
Holy crap, that's characterization! Swierczynski did it, he actually did it! He gave us information about one of the characters he was writing! True, it's the laziest, dumbest kind of characterization and the writing is pathetically juvenile, but hey!
Moving on. The Birds beat the crap out of some nobodies and then they have to bust into a warehouse or something. Dinah is going to use her Canary Cry when she feels that old familiar sensation washing over her... er, rushing through her... er, she turns from Black Canary to Black Lightning.
I guess she couldn't control her sonic scream, which is odd, because you shouldn't have to make vocal sounds, but whatever. She screams and it destroys f***ing everything around her, causing a blackout in Gotham and maybe, based on the last page, maybe kills Starling.
Black Canary keeps calling Condor an idiot in that way that says she wants to take him to bed and do things to him they only have words for in German. She's also a horrible leader and a bad judge of character.
Batgirl comes off as naive and dangerously shortsighted, not for trusting Strix, but for not giving the women who would have reason to attack Strix fair warning that she's invited her to join the team.
Strix doesn't talk, so she's like the perfect character for this kind of series.
Condor used to be part of a team, but they broke up, and that made him sad, so he didn't want to be part of a team anymore, because he didn't want to risk breaking up and being sad again, but he met this team of sexy ladies and thought it might be worth eventually being sad if he could bang one or two of them.
The opening fight scene tells me that Swierczynski read a lot of old Marvel Team-Up books (and nothing else), because it feels like the kind of ironic, mistaken intentions fight between heroes that eventually leads to laughs and camaraderie.
The thing is, Condor attacked the Talon thinking he was protecting the other ladies. A) Strix never made any kind of hostile or aggressive moves that would suggest she came to fight, so Condor is an idiot. B) If Condor just assumed she was a danger because she's a Talon, how does he know? He wasn't involved in the Night of the Owls event. How would he know they're dangerous? C) Maybe Condor isn't an idiot; maybe he tried to be overly macho and chivalrous thinking the ladies would be so grateful they'd sleep with him. That's what I'm thinking.
This issue had all the same stupid things I've come to despise about this book, but it also had real attempts at characterization and substantive dialogue. It figures that Swierczynski is finally making forward progress with this series in his penultimate issue on the book.