Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BIRDS OF PREY #17 (New 52)

I hate this series.  I hate the writer.  I hate myself for choosing to review this crap every week.

Birds of Prey #17: "Heartstopper" is the last issue written by Duane Swierczynski (thank Christ).  The art once again is provided by Romano Molenaar with Vicente Cifuentes on inks and Chris Sotomayor on colors.

Last issue, during a mission to capture a weapons dealer for the (probably terrorist) organization known as Basilisk, Black Canary lost control of her sonic powers and unleashed a devastating "Canary Cry" that leveled a power station and plunged Gotham City into a blackout.

Yeah.  A blackout.  In Gotham City.  Riots, looting, jailbreaks, death, destruction.  All of that is on Dinah.  Intentionally or not, she just caused damage to the city's infrastructure that could easily cost upwards of ten million dollars and probably dozens if not hundreds of casualties.

That is ALL. ON. DINAH.

How will she deal with it?

Oh.  Oh no.  No no nononono.  No.

"It's nothing for you to worry about," she tells Starling.  Nothing for you to worry about.

Let's review the events that "the writer" clearly didn't: Dinah lost control of her powers.  Said loss of control just brought the building in front of them to the ground, causing a citywide blackout which will result in incalculable damage and death to innocents.  And any or all of her teammates could have been among the wounded or dead.

But it's not something Starling needs to worry about.  And it's not something Dinah's teammates need to know about.

Since issue #1, I have wanted "the writer" to provide some insight into the characters, especially the so-called leader, Black Canary.  I have wanted to know who she is and why she does what she does.  Well... now I know.

She's a coward and she's a liar.  In issue #9, Batman called her "sloppy and dangerous".  He was right.  Dinah should be in a prison cell.  This is what "the writer"--what the New 52--has done to Black Canary.

I... I don't want to go on reviewing this issue, because it's going to get worse.  Much worse...

Anyway, Batgirl and Condor don't realize that Dinah brought the power plant down, but Strix sure does and she lashes out physically at Dinah, who lashes back verbally, saying the silent assassin has no cause to judge her.  Y'know, the sort of defense a coward and a liar would mount.

Everyone keeps returning to Dinah's horribly bad decision to recruit Poison Ivy, but no one ever seriously calls her on it.

Meanwhile, in another part of the rubble, we find the weapons dealer the Birds came here looking for--who, after three appearances, I don't believe ever gets a name, because why would "the writer" bother with something like that?  Pulling himself out from under a building, his first reaction is to dig out the weapons he was going to sell and have them target nearby people.

Why?  **** you, that's why!

The weapons are little floating robots that detect human hearts and stop them with electro shocks.  They're called "heartstoppers".  This little bit of super villain mad-science is too specific to be anything other than absurd.  If you could invent something that could fly and detect the specific biological or rhythmic patterns of a living, beating human heart, why would you make it shoot out little snake-like tendrils like a police taser?  Why not, oh say, a missile?

**** you, that's why!

The heartstoppers attack Dinah, Batgirl, and Condor, but Strix slips under their radar because she doesn't have a living, beating heart.  Hey, that's convenient: almost as if it was planned that way!

Away from the battle, Starling checks in with her handler, Amanda Waller, revealing Dinah's part in the devastation.  Then a SWAT team shows up, because, y'know, someone blew up a power plant outside a major American city.

Oh, Dinah, you're hilarious!  I keep forgetting you're the devil-may-care smart-ass of the group.

Now you don't dare open your mouth?  What about all that dialogue you just delivered?

After Strix destroys some more of the trying-too-hard-to-be-clever-it's-just-stupid robots, Dinah jumps to a ridiculous conclusion.

How does she know it's Basilisk technology?  And why does she assume that in the wake of an entire building coming down that the dealer is still alive just because somebody activated the machines.  Doesn't matter.  Now it's Batgirl's turn to be stupid.

The last time you left Strix and Dinah alone, Strix tried to kill her.  And that wasn't a long time ago and like they've made up and bonded and stuff.  That was five minutes ago!  Also, Strix was trying to tell you that Dinah is dangerous.  She started writing it in the dirt and you just forgot about it, Batgirl.  I thought you were smart!

So as soon as everyone else is out of earshot, Strix grabs one of the robots and threatens to kill Dinah unless she comes out with an explanation.

Strix lets her live.  I don't know why.  Maybe she understands something about not having control and feeling like you've been co-opted to kill everything.

But that doesn't change the fact that Dinah is still, by her own admission, a "walking weapon of mass destruction".  By her own admission, she cannot control this destructive power, and even suspects she might be going crazy.  Shouldn't something be done about this?

During this scene where Dinah reveals her secret to the conveniently mute woman who can't repeat it to the others, we learn that Batgirl and Condor stopped the Basilisk guy--off panel--and Starling got Amanda Waller to call off the authorities--also off panel.

Then it's time for levity.

Gotham City is still in a blackout.  Stores are being looted.  Crimes are being committed.  People are being robbed, raped, murdered.  That's all on Dinah.  And she and the rest of the Birds are walking off together, smiling, talking about getting a drink.  Why don't they go help?  Why don't they try to save somebody?

**** you, that's why!

This is how "the writer" concludes his run on the book, with the characters ambivalently ignoring the giant cluster**** they created.  How fitting. 

The Characters

At the beginning of this series, Black Canary was a fugitive, wanted for murdering her husband, Kurt Lance.  Later, she as much as admitted to her friends that she was guilty.  She killed her husband.  She believed he was dead and she was at fault, but she never surrendered to the authorities or accepted any form of punishment.  Instead, she dressed up in a costume with her vigilante girlfriends and fought crime-ish.

Now, a year and a half later, Black Canary is responsible for a disaster that will doubtless cost many innocent lives.  Dinah knows it's her fault, but she never surrenders to the authorities or accepts any form of punishment.  She lies to protect her own ass, keeping it a secret even from her teammates.

Black Canary: liar, coward, killer.

Oh yeah, she also trusted Poison Ivy.  Add dumbass to the list above.


I have had dozens of questions about this book since the first issue of the New 52.  I have even more today because "the writer" never answered any of them.  I won't bother restating the questions now because there isn't a point.

But the lack of answers and the offensive characterization are only some of the problems with this issue.  Here's another one:

Dinah calls herself a "walking weapon of mass destruction" because she cannot control her powers.  That might have been interesting sixteen months earlier, but now it has no meaning, no effect, no danger because we have seen it before.  Twice.

The first story arc of this series saw people, including Dinah, being used as biological weapons of mass destruction.  Living bombs.  The second arc had Poison Ivy betray her team, turning them into biological weapons of mass destruction.  Living chemical bombs.  And now we're left with Dinah incapable of controlling her Canary Cry, making her a self-proclaimed biological weapon of mass destruction.  Living sonic bomb.

That's not a recurring theme.  That's "the writer" literally having no other ideas, just using the same plot device over and over and over again.

Duane Swierczynski, you suck.  Your writing on this book was horrible and you should be ashamed of it forever.

Grade: Why bother even giving it a grade?

**** you, that's why!


  1. I want to like a BoP book and gave the New 52 version a long leash. But this was my last issue.

  2. Wise move. The book didn't get much better when Christy Marx took over, though in fairness, she was just scripting over plots that were handed down by the editor for the first couple months.

    Today's issue #25 is my last issue. At least until I see or hear of some radical changes.

  3. I still buy this comic but I don't know why [oh that's it - I have an idea it will improve, and I love BoP, even tho this seems to be an alternate universe team, the way its going].
    The dialogue is so awful - the characters contradict not only each other but themselves, sometimes within the same page! Its almost as if theres no editor to catch these things out. Dinah's personality is all over the place, why do these women stay together?
    Only Strix impresses so far - and she doesn't talk! Might be a habit the others should pick up, could improve the story.
    I rather liked those floating robot thingies, and thought they looked cool, but given your review, youre right they made no sense at all in the context of the tale.
    Gotham's had so much damage done to it - the Clench virus, the earthquake etc that a blackout would hardly rate, I should think. And I thought from the 'plot' it suggested only a small area was affected, not a city-wide blackout. Still, as you say, poor writing.
    Maybe [heres a suggestion[ instead of the current comic you could go back to reviewing the original BoP run. After all you covered the one-off issues, now you can do the regular series from issue 1 onwards, it did have a healthy run [about 126 issues, iirc] and return to this new run at a later date.

  4. Thanks, karl!

    Going back to the old BoP series is definitely on my agenda for after New Year's. I'm going to try to pound out the reviews of Dinah's Action Comics Weekly appearances, then the "New Wings" miniseries and her 12 issue ongoing series. Hopefully, more than one per week. And after that, I'm going to hit Birds of Prey #1 and go from there.