BatWatch Review: Birds of Prey #23 - Dreams That Never Were

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Dreams That Never Were

If the preview is any indication, this issue is going to suck. It's always a bad sign when the thing DC puts out to make you want to buy the book has the opposite effect. I don't think the series really deserves a detailed analysis right now, so I'll make this quick. Black Canary and Condor are in silly romance mode, Basilisk is an uninteresting team, and there is nothing interesting currently happening with the series.

Does Birds of Prey crank things up a little with Birds of Prey #23 or is this a completely skippable issue?

In this issue, Basilisk loads up the defeated Birds as our heroes dream of realities that never were.

I Offer Up This Series for Sacrifice in the Place of Batwing

Take Birds and leave us Batwing, please! Batwing might not be perfect or deep, but at least it's fun. This is just...I don't know what this is. I was enjoying things just a few issues ago, but this series has gone down the crapper quickly.  

I just got done saying how comics overuse the head trip trope while reviewing Batwoman, and what do we have in this issue? Almost the whole issue is nothing but a head trip as the various members of the Birds of Prey relive their past with slight alterations, and as per usual, it's tired and boring.  

What sucked about this flashback in particular was that you really could not piece anything together if you didn't already know the stories. Batgirl's dream is to simply have a nice family life, but the significance of that would be completely lost if you didn't know what her real story. Even knowing it, it still was not interesting. It could have easily been told in two panels equally well as in the two pages allotted to it. Mary gets three pages which is kind of cool since we did not see much of her origin, but it really amounts to nothing more than a nice family moment with a bomb drifting down from the sky on a parachute. I've got to think that this would just raise questions if you did not already know her origin. Black Canary's was really a mess. We get three pages from Team 7 without any context. I'm guessing that this is the moment Kurt Lance "died," but since he lived in the dream, I'm not sure. Kurt then told Canary to move on which is of course the last thing that will happen after the events of this issue. Worst of all are the thoughts of Condor, the one member of the team without any real background. It would be cool to get some insight into his past, but instead we see him pining, lovesick over Black Canary, the woman he hardly knows. It would not be too bad if it were not so over the top cheesy. He actually pictures scenes where he says, "You are a beautiful woman. A woman I want to make happy." Is that...I mean, I have a really odd relationship, I suppose, in that I flirt with my girlfriend by saying mostly mean things about her in a way she knows is in jest, so maybe I'm not the best judge of sweet nothings, but don't those lines sound a bit robotic? I can only hear it in one of two ways, as a robot reading a line of dialogue or as a guy who is full of cheese who thinks he is a smooth talker and just wants to get a girl in bed. "Hey baby, you are a beautiful woman. A woman I want to make happy. (wink)" One of the follow up lines of sweet talk include, "Dinah, I need to be close to you," which isn't really winning any dialogue prizes either.

Really, amazingly, surprisingly, these "dreams" are most of the issue. There's not a lot else to it. The villains are horribly generic. The one action scene is also basic. The reveal at the end doesn't even make sense. It pretty much sucks.  

Conclusion 4/10

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My offer stands. Take Birds of Prey away and leave us with Batwing. Batwing has potential. I don't really see these versions of characters as ever amounting to anything unless DC puts some top shelf talent on the book or a very skilled newbie. If I were DC, I think I'd be calling up JimZub (former writer of Skullkickers and current writer of Image's Dark Skullkickers Dark and Dynamite's Pathfinder and UDON's Makeshift Miracle)and making some very tearful and heart felt pleas for him to return to the series.  

Recent Reviews:

Batman and Nightwing #23 - Acceptance  

Red Hood and the Outlaws #23 - All Fall Down 

Batwoman #23 - Veins 

Birds of Prey #23 - Dreams That Never Were 

Batman Beyond 2.0 - Nothing Lasts Forever 

Li'l Gotham #16 - Tropical Getaway!

BatWatch Review: Birds of Prey #22

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Operation Kaizen

Bird has not been the word at least not if the Birds in question are the members of the Birds of Prey. By doing weekly news searches on all the different Bat affiliated comic series, I get an unusually insightful view into what is on the minds of comic book fans, and Birds of Prey is practically a no man's land. Nobody much cares for our poor team of heroines. (and Condor) 

Luckily, Christy Marx (current writer of Birds of Prey) is here to save the day, or at least this is what we might hope. Despite the fact that Marx laid an egg last month with an underwhelming issue featuring an overly long fight between Strix and Talon and a nonsensical romantic moment between Black Canary and Condor, Marx has actually done quite a lot to improve the overall narrative quality throughout her brief run. Despite her worthwhile efforts, Marx has done little to stem the hemorrhaging of readers as sales numbers plummet. Though it is hard to imagine Marx truly saving the series, there is still hope as long as Marx can keep it afloat if she writes good stories.

Does Marx's new arc send the Birds soaring to new heights or are these Birds destined to fall?

In this issue, the Birds clean up after the insanity with Starling, Mr. Freeze and Talon and a new team of villains arrive under the control of Basilisk.

Oy Vey! 

Well, this is not going to save the series.  

I'll break this down Bat Droppings style in a minute, but I'll very quickly outline this issue's problems first. The Black Canary and Condor relationship does not work, the art is split between Romano Molenaar (current artist for Birds of Prey) and Robson Rocha (former penciler of DC Universe Presents and current penciler of Worlds' Finest and penciler for Birds of Prey) which gives the issue an inconsistent look, Dinah is reverting to her inept and whiny ways, and there are too many subplots in this single issue to make one satisfying story. 

Bat Droppings  

1. The covers for Birds of Prey tend to be cluttered and unimaginative. This issue is no exception. 

2. The first four pages could easily have been condensed into a quarter page via narration. I will admit that I enjoyed Strix being even more inscrutable than usual though.  

3. Though the base relocation could have been more condensed, it was oddly satisfying to see the heroes move locations for me. I suppose it was just nice to see a tiny logistical crisis of the sort that usually get ignored in the pages of comics.

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4. On page seven, Dinah and Babs look like they are about to kiss. Seriously, how much space is between their lips? Five inches? I think this is intentional too. I'm not saying that the girls are being portrayed as lesbian, but I think it was a "Let's put this in to make the teenage boys subconsciously become interested," kind of thing.  Perhaps I'm being overly cynical.

5. Basilisk looks ridiculous and his troops do not look much better. 

6. None of Dinah and Condor's romantic lines to each other strike me as genuine.  

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(Spoilers until Conclusion) 

7. It's been a few issues so I'm not 100% sure, but I believe the woman in the cab was the same woman that Dinah consulted in the diner a while ago. Interesting. I wonder where this is going. 

8. Seriously, why wouldn't Uplink turn against her captors when they are already shown to be evenly matched with the Birds.Uplink could have been the deciding factor. Is Uplink expecting a better chance of escape to pop up or is she somehow evil as well? 

Conclusion 4/10

I could not sink my teeth into anything in this issue. It was not incoherent or terrible at any points, but there were lots and lots of little faults which just kept me from getting into it. If the Birds are looking for a miracle to save them from cancellation, they might need to keep looking beyond this current arc.  

More Recent Reviews:

Batman and Catwoman #22 

Batwoman #22 

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BatWatch Review: Birds of Prey #21

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Birds has been on the upswing ever since writer Christy Marx (current writer of Birds of Prey and Sword of Sorcery) took over the writing. Black Canary is not acting like a ditz. Strix is doing a little more than just wantonly attacking everyone. Batgirl is...well, still kind of generic, but even Condor has developed a little bit of a personality. Is it a perfect book? Not by a long shot, but it's been fun enough that I do not even mind too much that the best member of the team, Starling, is currently out of the picture having betrayed the team. Now, we seem to be past the Mr. Freeze arc, and we're moving to a crossover between Birds and my favorite new character, Talon. This will be readers first chance to see how Calvin Rose operates as an agent of the Court of Owls, so I'm eager to sink my teeth into this one.  

Does Birds of Prey #21 deliver a fresh version of the classic superhero team up or is this stale formula a transparent excuse for heroes to come to fisticuffs? 

In this issue, Batgirl and Strix face Talon while Black Canary and Condor lend support.

Since I have to start packing for a move, I'm going to make this review super short.  

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things!

Well, crap. This is why I usually wait several months before really praising a new creative team because once I start thinking well of writers and artists I get disappointed with them when they fail to live up to my expecations.

As I seem to be saying with every review this week, this was not bad as a whole, but it had some real problems.

The thing that really disappointed me was the hokey romantic scene inserted into the middle of this issue. It's a classic case of shoving romance in on the wrong moment just because you think people want to see romance. I have no problem with romance in comics, but only if the story sets the stage for it. All the events of this issue happen in crisis mode, yet two of our Birds, I'm sure you can guess which two, take time for that stupid, “I must tell you something! I have loved you from the first moment I saw you! Even though we barely know each other and we both seem like complete morons, I feel I know your soul, and I've already named our future kids and grandkids. Let us seal our love with a kiss even though we know we could be shot in the back at any moment for this danger only heightens the need for us to say what is true! (mock make out sounds)”  nonsense. It's really bad, and it is made worse by the fact that one of the characters says, “This is not the time for this,” yet goes along with it.

Also in the bad department, the entire issue feels very quick because the issue is battle heavy and substance light. Obviously, there is a formula for these team-ups/face offs, but unfortunately, we never got to the, “Let's talk,” part of the typical scenario, so it's mostly just action.

One more minor complaint, the artwork makes the location of the various Birds a little confusing, but I cannot elaborate under my time crunch.

However, I really loved parts of the issue especially the intro. We've seen scenes where heroes have thrown fights or at least failed to give it their all, but every move Calvin makes here indicates a guy who could be deadly but is trying to spare human life. The way he dealt with Batgirl made him an impressive combatant while showing he is still very torn on his new role, and I loved every moment of it. Sadly, the fight just goes on for too long, and by the time it wraps up, the issue is nearly over.

I will say that Strix, who was once my least favorite Bird, peaked my attention once more. Since she does not talk and rarely writes, (someone get that girl a tablet or a phone with texting) it can be pretty powerful when she takes the time to share a thought. She does so here, and it gives the impression that Strix is continuing to grow as a character.

Conclusion 7/10

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The fight, especially at the beginning, was a lot of fun, and the end was also solid peaking my interest for Talon #21 where I hope we will see some more personal interaction between Calvin and the Birds. Unfortunately, the middle section of the issue stretched the battle too thin and delved into horribly scripted drama. It's an issue you will want to read if you have been following Birds and have money for it, and you might want to pick it up if your a big Talon fan too. I suspect the next issue of Talon will get you up to speed, but it's still might be worth it just to see the new version of Talon in action for the first time. In the end though, this issue is just average.

BatWatch Review: BirdsofPrey #20

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The Cruelest Cut

This is an important issue for Birds at least in my mind. Birds of Prey has been lousy for quite some time, but this last issue was good. It wasn't great, but it was good, and for Birds of Prey, that is a major step up, so I'm a little anxious. I would love to love what the new writer Christy Marx (current writer of Birds of Prey and Sword of Sorcery) is doing with the series, but I know that one good issue does not prove a writer's skills. However, two good issues in a row, though not conclusive, at least carries some weight.

Does Birds of Prey finally have some solid writing talent or does this issue just clip the Birds wings?

In this issue, the Birds face off against Starling and Mr. Freeze.

Justifying the Betrayal

Last issue revealed that Starling was the traitor working with Mr. Freeze which was not terribly surprising but still a little confusing. On one hand, it has been clear that Starling has loyalties apart from the Birds for quite some time. On the other hand, those loyalties seemed to be to Amanda Waller and perhaps her Suicide Squad not Victor Fries. Why has Starling decided to join forces with Freeze?

Her betrayal is explained in this issue, but it makes no sense. There is a very good chance that Starling might have another agenda which she has not yet revealed, but her stated motivation is that she knew Freeze from way back, he wanted vengeance, and she figured that it was all good as long as it hurt the Court of Owls. That sort of makes sense, but there is no reason to keep this agenda secret from the rest of the Birds. They would have gladly fought to stop the Court of their own volition, and considering the Birds were teamed with Poison Ivy for the first twelve issues of this series, it is not hard to imagine that they would work willingly with Freeze given the lay of the land from the get go. No, the whole scenario doesn't make sense, and even if Starling is playing a different con than stated, acquiring Mr. Freeze's healing formula on Waller's behalf for instance, it still seems like she should have come up with a better excuse.

Battle of the Betrayer

Thankfully, the fight scene was pretty satisfying. The action seems to have taken a much more thought out approach under Marx's writing. Rather than plot convenient things just happening, it seems like each player is acting in a character specific way, and the outcomes of the battles all track because of that. It is also well rendered by the art team to led by penciler Romano Molenaar. (current artist for Birds of Prey)

Unfortunately, the battle seems to drag on a bit. In fact, the battle pretty much lasts the whole issue. My only real criticism of the fight is that Black Canary waits around for quite some time being indecisive, and though I know that is a well established characteristic of her at least post-Flashpoint, it gets a bit tiresome.

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(Spoilers) Another little detail that annoyed me was that Black Canary had plastique and thermite grenades, but she chose the wrong tool for the job of escaping the ice prison. Plastique is a powerful explosive that can be shaped to explode in certain directions or even cut out holes in walls if used properly. Grenades are a weapon designed to explode with concussive force in all directions. Thermite is an incredibly flammable compound which will burn at very hot temperatures once ignited. Instead of using the plastique which would explode in one direction, Canary chose the thermite which would explode in every direction bathing both herself and Condor in a painful coat of sticky fire. I'm guessing Marx consulted an expert but then failed to get all the details nailed down.

Bat Droppings

1. Black Canary and Batgirl working together to try and free Strix was clever. This is the more slow paced, intelligent action scene I mentioned earlier. Good work.

2. Condor bending bullets was pretty cool.

(Spoilers) 3. The appearance of Talon at the end was pretty cool though not entirely unexpected considering the next issue was solicited as costarring Calvin Rose. The timeline on this is important though. Something very big happened to Talon at the end of his last issue, and how that turns out might make this a very different version of the character. Sadly, Calvin is in shadows, so we cannot tell if his appearance has altered. This could happen before the events of Talon 7 or even during Talon 7 depending on how long this crossover takes.

Conclusion 7/10

Does Birds of Prey finally have a good writer in the driver's seat? Well, I'm still not ready to make that call, but I will say she is definitely more talented than the last driver. If you are a fan of Birds of Prey, you should consider buying this because it's a solid issue.

More Recent Reviews:

Nightwing #20

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Catwoman #20


BatWatch Review: Birds of Prey #19

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A Cold Day in Hell

I have mixed feeling preparing to read this book. On one hand, it's been bad for months, and the new writer Christy Marx (former writer of Epic's The Sisterhood of Steel and current writer of Birds of Prey and Sword of Sorcery) does not inspire much hope that she will revive the series. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine this issue possibly being worse than this week's Catwoman, and in comparison to that, Black Canary's foolish bumbling might seem charming and astute.

Still, I'm not feeling much in the way of high hopes. Mr. Freeze is the baddie, and he simply does not seem like a credible threat. Even a team carrying this much incompetence should be able to take out Freeze by virtue of their powerset and numbers alone. I am somewhat interested in seeing how Starling betrays the team if that is indeed what happens as is hinted on the cover and by all indications of the story thus far. Starling is by far the best member of the cast, and I would think she would be sticking around, but Swierczynski (former writer of Cable and Birds of Prey and current writer of Valiant's Bloodshot, IDW's Judge Dredd and Dark Horse's X) did write Poison Ivy off the team who was the only other interesting character, so maybe DC has just lost all sense of sanity.

Does this issue prove to be a cold day in Hell or a fun breezy jog with the Birds?

In this issue, the Birds prepare to take on Mr. Freeze at the secret base of the Court of Owls.

I Did Not Expect That

Much to my surprise, this issue threw me for several loops. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, it took an unexpected turn, and I love that. I truly believed this series was going to stay as predictable and dull as possible, but it appears that Marx might just surprise me by being an extremely talented writer.

Do not let me oversell it. None of the reveals in this issue were jaw dropping, but starting with Strix's emotional breakdown, I suddenly realized things were not going as I'd imagined. Having Strix act as nothing more than a rabid animal who attacks everyone foolish enough to try to pet her or, you know, look at her...did not do much to make Strix a lovable addition to the cast, but show this immortal assassin have an emotional breakdown? Okay, now I'm interested.

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(Spoilers) Bigger shocks were revealed later in the story. Even when it was clear that the team had been played, I found myself scrambling to come up with an explanation. I had actually concluded that Waller had decided to use the situation to get a bead on the Court of Owls, so I was surprised to see it was Freeze behind the trickery. Starling's alliance with Mr. Freeze would have come as a huge shock had it not been given away by the cover. I doubt very seriously that this is a real alliance. It is more likely that Starling is working an angle with Waller's forces, and if she was truly evil, I think she will soon defect for I doubt she will be leaving the team for long.

There were lots of little things that made the ride go more smoothly than usual too. When the Birds finally got to fighting, the action actually progressed logically rather than how things happened in previous issues where the winners and losers of battles seemed based on nothing more than the requirements of the plot. The dialogue, though not perfect, sounded pretty reasonable. All in all, the entire narrative structure was much better than previous issues.

Black Canary Womans Up

Black Canary has been a horribly inept leader. She has the loosest of grasps on her troops, she whines constantly, she lets people walk all over her, she inevitably makes the wrong decisions, and she occasionally engages in acts of terrorism both intentional and unintentional. (side note, I'm not sure which speaks worse of the character, the intentional or unintentional terrorism)

However, Black Canary actually stands up and starts making some sensible decisions in this issue. I'm not saying she deserves team leader of the year or anything, but she was worlds better than usual.

The moment I first noticed the change in her character was at the end of the opening scene. Black Canary tries to make a plan but gets caught up putting Condor in his place. During the exchange with Condor, Strix sneaks off, and then, without waiting for her orders or even consulting Black Canary, Condor and Batgirl takeoff and Dinah is left alone. At this point, I could nearly hear the words in my head as Dinah started whining in inner monologue about how she doesn't seem to have any control over her team and nobody listens to her. If she could work it in, she would probably complain about math being too hard and not having a date yet for prom. However, this new Black Canary breaks free of the nagging, incompetent, whiny stereotype she used to be in this series. Instead of complaining, Dinah roles with the instincts of her teammates and works the plan around their actions. When the gang comes back together, she directs them sensibly. I'm not saying every call she made was ideal, but she kept them focused and alive instead of letting everybody do their own thing. This was miles and miles better than Dinah was in the last issue, and I hope it continues.

Bat Droppings

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1. I've never been crazy about Romano Molenaar's (current artist for Birds of Prey) art. It's not bad, but it's not especially good either, and I think his style might better fit another series. In scenes where things should have been serious, I found myself feeling a disconnect between the situation and the art conveying it. Molenaar's style is so smooth and light that it somehow just does not make things feel real or serious.

2. I like Batgirl's climbing attachments.

3. The flashback appears as if it is setting up for the return of Kurt Lance, but I'm wondering if it might actually be prep for the return of Amanda Waller. A writer, I don't remember which, said there would be a crossover between the Birds and the Suicide Squad at some point, but I've not heard a peep about that since. Could that be on its way?

4. Strix getting her anger back and kicking the door in was also pretty cool. I would love to have seen that scene in live action.

5. I found it odd at first that the Court officials were wearing masks around a dead body, but then I figured they are probably trying to hide their identities from each other.

6. I think Molenaar adjusted Freeze's costume between the last issue and the current issue a little. I like this new one much more.

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Conclusion 8/10

I still can't quite believe I'm giving Birds of Prey a eight out of ten. I don't think they've earned anything that high in the last six months. Nonetheless, it is deserved. I'm not sold on her yet, but Christy Marx has just made a solid case for being a top notch comic book writer. Let's hope she can deliver again next month.

More Recent Reviews:

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Review: Birds of Prey #18

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Burning Cold

Birds of Prey has been a very rough book of recent, and by rough, I mean bad. Duane Swierczynski (former writer of Birds of Prey and Cable) has been writing some really bad adventures for the Birds of recent, and I am delighted that the book is finally getting some new talent. However, I'm not sure if Christy Marx (former writer of Epic's The Sisterhood of Steel and current writer of Birds of Prey and Sword of Sorcery) is really the booster shot the Birds need to make them a major player once more. After all, Marx's book Sword of Sorcery, got canceled in nearly record time for the DCNU, so why should we hold our breath that she will be the savior of Birds of Prey? Also, her name is Marx, and people named Marx have a habit of creating horrible things like Socialism and Communism. Does Christy Marx prove to be the best comrade the Birds could ever desire, or does she drop the hammer and sickle on this feeble series?

In this issue, Black Canary further proves her incompetence in leadership while Mr. Freeze targets the Court of Owls.

To Marx or Not To Marx?

The big question of this issue, at least to me, is whether or not Christy Marx is better than Duane Swierczynski, and I am happy to say she is. However, she's not a big step up.

The dialogue feels stronger. All the characters seemed to have distinct voices though there was one line from Starling which struck me as a bit off, but other than that, good stuff. The overall story feels like it actually has a focus. It appears that Mr. Freeze has a definite goal which will be revealed and explained, and though no real mission statement for the team has been given, Marx did spend some more time focusing on the home base and the characters interactions which should hopefully lead to the team developing a real identity and purpose. Marx also acknowledged that Black Canary has pretty well screwed everything up, and it appears as if Dinah might have been given a sort of spiritual guide to help her in her quest to be less incompetent.

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On the flip side, Black Canary is still wildly incompetent. She lets her team walk all over her, and I despise that about her. I was hoping that in this issue, she would really put Strix in her place, but no luck on that front. Portraying Strix as a psycho is only making her unlovable in my eyes. The members of Birds of Prey should have been able to deal with Mr. Freeze much more efficiently, and the poor showing just makes the cast look weak. Finally, the call to arms at the end of the issue is quite reminiscent of the general, “Let's kick some butt,” attitude which is the most typical thing that could ever be included in a team superhero book.

Altogether, it does feel like Birds has a better direction, and it probably has some more fully realized characters, and this will help if it can continues in this direction, but as a first showing, its only one step up from Swierczynski, and it has a lot of improving to do before it becomes a good series once more.

Bat Droppings

1. Out of the last four covers of Birds of Prey, they have all featured multiple members of the cast crammed into one image in a chaotic fight scene with BC using her Canary Cry. None of the covers have been particularly good because they are all too busy.

2. I am interested in seeing what Mr. Freeze has planned. I also want to know who his partner is.

3. Strix once more goes crazy. This girl should so be locked up.

4. Condor gets thrown around like a rag doll. Apparently, he forgets he is telekinetic and can fly.

5. This series might improve to the point that I really like it, but until Dinah kicks Mary's butt, I kind of doubt it.

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6. Condor showed a side of himself which made him more than an egotistical moron. This is the kind of character fleshing out which gives me some hope for the series.

7. Seriously, why wouldn't Dinah confide in Ev. What a ditz!

8. Miss Ettie might be a fun character.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

9. If Mr. Freeze just wanted Strix, then why did he page Batgirl and Starling? Also, how did he get their numbers? Perhaps it will be explained next issue.

10. The two page spread of Mr. Freeze is fairly cool, but it seems like a lot of waste of real estate for a image which is only fairly cool.

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11. Speaking of art work, Romano Molenaar (current penciler for Birds of Prey) does a good job for the most part, but if you look closely at a lot of panels, you'll notice a supreme lack of details in the everything that is not the main focus of the panel.

12. Again, Condor seems to forget he is telekinetic. Why can't he just yank away Freeze's gun?

13. You would think that after getting a major beat down from Batwoman this week, Mr. Freeze would be staying away from heroines, but I guess some villains never learn. On that note, Batwoman and Hawkfire are apparently vastly better fighters than all five members of Birds of Prey combined since the duo managed to subdue Freeze soundly while the Birds got their butts kicked.

14. Mr. Freeze's gun seems to have a variety of functions which is kind of cool. Notice how he sprayed a cloud of freezing fog at one point.

Conclusion 6/10

It's a step in the right direction, but it is not a monumental daddy step. If you are a huge Birds of Prey or Christy Marx fan, go ahead and pick this issue up, but everybody else might want to wait for a couple more issues to come out to see if this series is truly on the upswing.

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Review: Birds of Prey #17

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Heartstopper

I'm running behind on reviews, and I kind of hate this series, so don't be surprised if I cut this review short. Birds has been massively disappointing recently, and I've already read the preview for this issue, and I know I have no reason to expect things to get better. Is Birds of Prey a scream, or is it for the birds? (yep, I just made both those puns. Suck it class!)

In this issue, the Birds are attacked by killer Russian robots, private security, and each other.

DC, Please Cancel This Series

I really hate this series. I am extremely thankful that the current writer, Duane Swierczynski, is finishing up his run and leaving the series. If Marx does not turn it around, then I am calling for its cancellations because my money and time is worth more than this crap! Honestly, it's not the truly bad series that tick me off, its the ones that just so clearly are phoning it in every month. I could make up plots like these in a couple hours. It's just frustrating to no end.

Anyway, I do not have anything but concentrated rage to say in any organized way, so we will do this with...

Bat Droppings

1. I'll give credit where credit is due, the art looked very nice in this issue. It was not jaw dropping, but it was good.

2. Batgirl says that their goal should be to, “Restore power.” How? Black Canary, the Bombastic, Blond Bimbo, just wiped out the entire station. It is rubble. What could you possibly do to restore power you nitwit!

3. I don't actually think Babs is a nitwit, but the writing seems...I'm editing myself mentally right not before I saw something impolite. At least Babs had a course of action. Black Canary, in contrast, does nothing remotely useful all issue. (except, arguably, give in to a death threat)

4. We managed to make it a whole two pages before the team ended up fighting itself. Lazy writing.

5. Stryx's handstand kick on page four it pretty cool.

6. If you have robotic probes, why wouldnt' you just arm them with lasers of firearms instead of making them have to attach and shock a target for extended periods? This is a massive villain fail.

7. The robo-vision effect on many panels is pretty neat looking.

8. I can't get used to Amanda Waller being thin. Anybody else having that problem?

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9. This is a minor gripe, but don't you think a security force would try to peacefully secure suspicious persons at a crime scene rather than light them up with gunfire?

10. Why is Strix the only one trying to take out these machines?

11. Strix almost certainly did know the device had been deactivated. If it had not been deactivated, she would have felt the pull of the machine's movement.

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12. I like Condor's helmet, I've decided. I don't like the rest of the costume, but if you just look at the helmet itself, it looks pretty cool. It looks kind of modern medieval.

13. After completely inadvertently killing all the workers at the power plant, failing to defend themselves against a moderate threat, and attempting to kill one another, the team walks in to the sunset in an epic line.

Conclusion 4/10

This book soooooo does not deserve your money.

Birds of Prey #16

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Lights Out.

“Crap, is it time to read Birds of Prey again?” That was my thought just a few short minutes ago when I realized I only had one comic left to review today. The beginning of the DCNU Birds of Prey was pretty good, but the Birds have been in a slump for at least half a year now. The last arch was especially boring removing Katana in a pointless three part arch and adding new member Strix. Further adding to my dread of reading this book is the preview I already saw which made it clear that this issue starts off with an emotional and creative fizzle by creating a convoluted and unlikely fight. I'm also a little bummed that I don't have JimZub's run on the series as a light at the end of the tunnel since his placement on the series was changed to make room for the writer of Sword of Sorcery. Anyway, at this point I am just continuing to type whatever comes to mind in order to avoid the mediocrity that I know I will find in this issue. Time to bite the bullet and read the issue. Is Birds of Prey #16 as bad as I fear, or is it surprisingly pleasant?

In this issue, the Birds are just getting to know Strix when Condor shows up and starts a fight.

Grit and Bear It

Was this issue as bad as I feared? Pretty much.

The first half of the issue is bad, and I'm very tempted not to say another word about it, but I guess I will elaborate a little.

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Condor, the characterless character from the previous crappy arch shows up and starts a fight with the talon Strix because apparently she looked like she was threatening the Birds what with her standing in their general vicinity and all. I'm not sure if this is stupid writing or just a stupid character, but either way, that was a really dumb reason for Condor to start a fight. Batgirl tries to calm Strix down, but Strix decides to attack Black Canary even though she has done nothing to provoke Mary. Starling hitches a ride with Condor and disables his suit causing the fighting duo to plummet to the city streets and die with their body splattered on the ground since Starling can't fly. JK, lol, they just happen to land on a roof without so much as a bruise. Lucky them.

Anyway, the extremely poor judgment on Condor's part and the assault and battery from Strix convinces Black Canary that these two would be perfect for the team.

The Second Half

The second half is actually somewhat entertaining. It's still pretty standard and fails to make up for the failings of the first half, but as a standalone story, its not too bad.

(Spoilers) Starling and Strix strike up a fun back and forth as Starling tries to make friends with the new team member without knowing that she is mute. It is kind of like Bugs Bunny trying to carry on a conversation with Willey Coyote. There is a very satisfying action scene where the Birds do a quick and brutal series of attacks on a group of guards before they can call in a warning to those inside the building, and watching the Birds try to find a route inside the building is also an interesting sort of logistical problem which is rarely shown in comics. Finally, I saw Dinah's mistake coming, but that did not make it any less amusing. I am actually interested to see how this will play out next issue.

Conclusion 5/10

An average back half does not make up for a lousy first half. It looks to me as if the next issue will be mostly self-contained, so I would not suggest buying this issue at all. Even if the next issue is good, you will not be missing much by letting this one go.

More Recent Reviews:

Nightwing #16

Catwoman #16

Batwoman #16

Red Hood and the Outlaws #16

Legends of the Dark Knight #34

Birds of Prey #15

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Sayonara, Katana

Due to my computer crashing, I may or may not be able to attach pictures to this week's reviews. I'll get them up as soon as I can, but I will need to take time to wipe and rebuild my computer soon which might cause a brief interruption on BatWatch. Your patience is appreciated.

I really enjoyed the beginning of DCNU Birds of Prey, so what happened? Duane Swierczynski is the same guy who has been writing Birds from the beginning, so how did the series manage to go from pretty good to barely tolerable? I can’t answer that question, but I can say that this recent story arc has been anything but thrilling. With generic ninjas and a new menace in Condor, I can’t decide which is worse, the generic nature of the threats or the threats unexplained motivations. Does Birds of Prey #15 redeem the last two issues and make an arc worth reading, or does this story prove to be completely without honor.

In this issue, Condor does some crime fighting, Katana fights for her freedom, and the Birds mount a rescue operation.

Unsolved Mystery

There has been so much in the last two issues which has remained mysterious. What is Katana’s tie to the Daggers? Who are the Daggers and what do they want? Who is the Condor and what does he want? What has been counting down in the last several issues?

Get ready to have none of your questions answered. When the question about her past comes up towards the end of the issue, Katana says the equivalent of, “it’s a secret lol.” Glad I held on through three lackluster issues for that. What about the Daggers? Apparently, they are a suicide cult. Why are they a suicide cult? I have no idea. Who is Condor? A good guy apparently. What was counting down? A bomb, so we sort of have an answer to one question, and yet when this bomb is opened up, we see glowing junk on the inside, so what does that mean?

This issue is completely unsatisfying from a narrative standpoint.

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Worst. Suicide Cult. Ever.

These oh so creatively named and pointless cult of Daggers carry a lot of daggers on them, but I would like you to take note of where they holster these daggers. Now pretend that you are going from a state of rest to a state of defending yourself with a dagger strapped in any of these positions. You will immediately notice that your arms get twisted in extremely awkward positions. I know many artists draw things to look cool, but I happen to find beauty in the utilitarian. If it looks awesome but doesn’t work, it is not awesome.

The reason police officers and just about everybody else keeps weapons strapped to their hip is because it makes them easy to access. Your arms naturally dangle at about your hip so you can easily reach down and grab a gun, knife, baton, pepper spray, or any other weapon with ease. You also see people have weapons strapped so they are easy to draw across the chest, but if you look at the cultist leader’s center dagger, it is easy to see it is a horrible location for a weapon. To use it, he would have to twist his arm around, draw his dagger straight up past his face, and then twist his arm back around to get into fighting position. It’s stupid.

There are other issues with the cultists. This is the night of the cult’s suicide, yet they are wearing masks. Whatever for?

At the end of the conflict between the Birds and the cultists, Katana keeps the cult leader from giving orders to his men by holding her sword to his throat. Why does this work? Is the leader of the suicide cult afraid to die?

Artist Inconsistencies

There is a new penciler on this issue, Juan Jose Ryp, and his work is very inconsistent. On one hand, there are beautiful panels like the full page spread of Katana holding her sword that was just rescued from the smelting pot. At the other extremity, we have Black Canary’s first appearance in the issue which looks terrible.

Another artist problem is the liberal use of blood splatter. In general, there is just too much, but one scene in particular struck me as odd when Batgirl kicked two bad guys in the chest, and there was blood splatter pouring from the wounds. Did she kick through their chests? Of course not. It is just bad coloring.

The One Redeeming Quality

The one redeeming quality which has saved Birds of Prey from being truly bad of recent is the great chemistry between the characters, and that remains intact here. The girls seem to bounce off each other in a genuine way, and I’ve grown some attachment to all the girls which is no small task when so many series these days are constantly pushing for action focused stories.

Conclusion 6/10

I was really tempted to give this an even worse grade, but the chemistry saves it. You’ll notice I didn’t put spoiler warnings on this whole review. That is because the plot of this issue is immaterial, but despite the throwaway plot, the action is enjoyable as are the character interactions. If you are a big Birds of Prey fan or you are eagerly awaiting Katana’s solo title, pick this up. Everybody else should save their money. 

Review: Birds of Prey #14

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Three Hours of the Condor

Just over the past week, I read the first volume of DCNU Birds of Prey, and I was surprised because it was good. The recent issues of Birds have averaged out to be okay, but it is really nothing special. The writer is the same, so how has this series managed to go from being high quality to its meh inducing current quality?

At the moment, I have no answers, but I can say that I go into this issue without particularly high hopes. Birds of Prey #13 was a bit confusing in parts with the ill defined character of Condor, and generic at other points with the ninja hoards which are beginning to become a really stale trope in the Batman universe. There is a hint of something going on in Katana’s past with the Daggers which could be interesting, and this plot element could very well be the springboard for her upcoming ongoing comic, but beyond that, there is little to last month’s issue worth praising other than a fairly good team dynamic. Does this issue move beyond good chemistry and provide a good plot, or is this just another tale of generic ninjas?

In this issue, Condor faces the wrath of the Birds of Prey, and the Daggers plot something evil.

Generic Ninjas Are Generic

There is not much in this issue that is truly bad, but there is even less which is particularly good. The Daggers are still a completely unknown quantity. They are evil ninjas that have some grudge against Katana, and (yawn) that’s just not doing anything for me.

The actions scenes actually have some clever elements, but they are not drawn well. Condor is apparently telekinetic, but this would be difficult to put together from the action sequences. I think part of it is that his powers are sketched as emanating from his face like ripples in a pond whereas when I think of telekinesis, I think of an invisible wall or fist. The way they drew Condor’s metahuman ability suggested telepathy to me. When Condor uses his telekinesis against people, it is very difficult to figure out how they are moving since there is no indication of how he used his telekinesis other than its effects, and the effect it has on people is not always clear. For instance, Batgirl is knocked off a building at one point, but due to the odd angle, I thought she had been simply knocked to her knees on the roof of the building. There were several more moments in the action which caused me to puzzle over what happened, and that is never a good thing.

Watch Your Step

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In the fight with Condor, both Batgirl and Starling get knocked off the roof of the building, yet nobody comes to their aid. Instead, Black Canary dives off a building to save Condor, the guy they were fighting with wings on his back. Furthering the confusion, she saves him by grabbing hold of him and releasing her Canary Cry at the ground presumably slowing their decent. My brain is trying to ponder the metaphysics of that, and it cannot quite make it compute.

Back to Dinah allowing her teammates to plummet to their death, I get that Batgirl has a utility belt, so in all likelihood, she should be able to save herself, but Starling has not been demonstrated to have such gear, so letting her fall on her own is a pretty big oversight.

Thankfully, Starling is seen in a later scene, so we can all rest easy.

Eight Hours until Nobody Cares?

In both this issue in the last, readers are treated with an occasional countdown which warns of something dire about to happen, but I find it difficult to care when it is not clear what dreaded thing is supposed to happen when the timer reaches zero. Perhaps if the heroines were aware of the threat, it would add a sense of tension and urgency to the story, but they do not know, and the countdown is just intrusive.

Conclusion 6/10

This book was kind of boring. Diehard Birds of Prey fans should go ahead and pick it up because it has enough good things going for it to make it a worthwhile purchase for them, but everybody else should steer clear. 

Review: Birds of Prey #13

Transient

Swear by My Eyes

Having only read Birds of Preys since August, I am not yet sure what to make of the series. It’s zero issue was very good providing an interesting story regarding how Black Canary, Batgirl, and Starling first met. On the other hand, issue twelve was painfully stupid and abysmally constructed. By the numbers, these two issues should have cancelled each other out, but in my heart of hearts, I still hold a deep grudge against this series for making me suffer though issue twelve. The last thing readers witnessed in the regular timeline of this series was the death of Poison Ivy. How will the Birds react to this death of a teammate? Does this issue provide another tale soaked in an unhealthy dose of stupid, or was issue twelve merely one dark spot in a mostly bright series?

In this issue, the Birds recover from their fight with Ivy, and Katana loses her blade in a fight with a group of ninjas. While the Birds decide their course of action, a mysterious character named Condor enters the picture. Also, only twenty-four hours remain until something explodes.

Where Is Ivy?

You might think that killing off a character who has been on the team since issue one might involve some fallout, but according to this series, you would be wrong. Pamela Isley does not make a single appearance in this issue either living or dead.

In issue twelve, Katana killed Ivy in self defense slicing her back open to be exposed to the corruption of the sewers. An environmental whacko who was working with Ivy was also knocked unconscious. What happened to them? Nobody knows. The vagueness regarding the follow up to Ivy’s death is made even more conspicuous by Ivy’s scheduled appearance in the Death of a Family story arc. I will be interested to see how Ivy remains in the land of the living. Are we going to find out later that the Birds only mistakenly thought she had died?

Can I Get Some Consideration?

Transient

I started reading eighteen new series in August, and Birds of Prey is the only one that I still do not understand. Swierczynski really needs to do something to catch new readers up on the plotline. I am a fairly astute reader and well versed in DC characters and happenings, but I still want to know:

Why did the Birds of Prey came together or how do they function?

Why was Poison Ivy was on the team in the first place?

Why is Katana’s husband’s soul trapped in a sword?

What is about to explode?

Who are these ninjas?

What is the deal with Black Canary’s husband?

What is Kanata’s relationship to the Japanese gang?

Granted, people who have followed this series from the beginning can probably answer these questions, but there are plenty of ways to get new readers up to speed.

As if there were not enough unanswered questions, this issue throws a new character into the mix, Condor. What’s his game? We have no idea. In one either mysterious or poorly written scene, he says that people always underestimate him, but then he hits them, “With the thing they never see coming,” yet as he says this, he does not seem to do anything, yet the ninjas start falling. I do not know what he does which is so unexpected. Is he supposed to be psychically attacking them? The last thing this series needs is more unanswered questions.

Two Saving Graces

Despite my major complaints, there are two factors which make this issue work fairly well. The first is the art. The art in the last two issues was good, but it did not really pop to me. The fight at the beginning of this issue most definitely did pop. Katana’s battle with the Ninjas was dynamic and exciting, and the rest of the issue was equally well done though I cannot compliment it quite as highly since Black Canary’s costume is a constant eyesore.

The second thing that saves this issue is Starling. She has consistently been my favorite character in this series since my first issue, and issue thirteen did nothing but solidify that opinion. Considering team dynamics, Katana plays the straight man of the group, and Barbara seems best described as feisty. Dinah seemed a little dense in issue twelve, but she does do a much better job this time around and she seems like a capable leader, but she is still somewhat flat. All together, this is a fairly bland cast until you get to Starling who brings enough charisma, wit, and grit to nearly make up for the duller characters.

Conclusion 7/10

This issue is worth picking up if you are a fan of any of the main characters, but I am still underwhelmed by the series as a whole. It needs to catch up new fans and do a better job of resolving old conflicts before creating new ones.

Review: Birds of Prey #0

First Flight

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; Birds of Prey #12 was an unmitigated disaster. Of the thirty plus comics I read over the past month, it was definitely the worst (although Arkham Unhinged certainly makes a good run for that prize). Though Birds of Prey has never been one of my favorite series, I did enjoy the old title, but Birds of Prey #12 was such a mess of ridiculous plot points wrapped in a lackluster presentation that it pained me to read it. The idea of even having an eco-terrorist on the team is ridiculous from the get go, and helping Poison Ivy commit her nut job attacks is even worse. Still, one bad issue does not a trend make, so I tried to read the zero issue with an open mind. Did this issue add to the dirt on Birds of Prey’s casket, or does it redeem the series to some degree?

In this issue, we see Black Canary working undercover at the Iceberg Lounge one year ago. Dinah is looking to stop a terrorist organization from selling a powerful bomb, but before she can make a move on the buyer, Batgirl shows up to ruin the party.

What a Transformation!

It is not an exaggeration to say that this issue is light years better than the last. Unlike the ridiculous multistage conflict with Poison Ivy in the last issue, the conflict in this issue actually makes perfect sense. Furthermore, Dinah comes off as a likable character rather than as the incompetent boob she appeared in issue twelve. There are several surprises throughout the story which I did not see coming, and I am very eager to see how things develop. Even minor complaints I had with the last issue like the awkward rendering of Dinah’s canary cry have been improved via this story. Dinah’s cry now looks like a wave rather than like some sort of bizarre mouth laser. This issue was such an immense improvement over the last that I was surprised to see that it was the same writer as the last issue, Duane Swierczynski. Perhaps I underestimated you Mr. Swierczynski. I will be delighted if you continue to prove me wrong.

Who Watches the Batmen?

Whoever is editing Batman comics seems to be doing a terrible job for there is yet another apparent continuity error in this issue. My understanding was that Barbara had just recently recovered from her gunshot wound and once again donned the Batgirl outfit at the beginning of her DCNU series, but this issue clearly shows that Batgirl was mobile and kicking one year earlier. What the h***, DC?

Mr. Bat Editor, MAKE A FREAKING TIMELINE FOR EVENTS!!! The mistakes are beginning to become embarrassingly frequent.

Ect.

I really cannot find much else wrong with this issue. Perhaps Black Canary had a bit too much exposition, but that is perfectly forgivable. Also, all the women in this series still seem to peculiarly possess the exact same measurements, but again, this is a minor complaint.

Starling continues to be by far the most compelling character in my eyes, and I look forward to getting to know her better.

Conclusion    9/10

Birds of Prey went from being the worst comic I read last month to being one of the best I’ve read this month. I have no idea what to expect from the future, but I would recommend this month’s Birds of Prey to anybody who loves comics.

Birds of Prey #12

Heartbreak and Vine

I've never been a huge Birds of Prey fan. I like the concept, I like Barbara Gordon, I'm generally up for anything that centers around Batman, and I know Birds of Prey has had some excellent writers over the years, but I guess I have never picked it up at the right point.

It appears that all of that is irrelevant because the history of the Birds of Prey seems to have been wiped out in the reboot. Instead of being a team formed by Oracle and Black Canary a few years ago, Black Canary founded the team by herself only a couple of months ago, and recruited all the members of the team. Batgirl, Katana, Poison Ivy, and Starling are certainly an eclectic team of...heroines, but has the writer been able to make this team into something worth reading?

In this issue, Poison Ivy begins to go rogue and pursue her own goals of environmental terror rather than help the team fight to save lives.

The Unknowns

There are too many unknowns in this comic for me to fully understand what is happening. Good writers catch their readers up to what is going on in every issue, but though some background information is provided, Swierczyski definitely left new readers partially in the dark. At the beginning of the issue, Starling shoots some corporate executive in the throat with a sedative dart, yet it seems the team is upset with Poison Ivy. What happened right before the issue started and why the team was even there is left a complete mystery. At many points, a plague of some sort is referenced, but other than the fact that they are trying to stop the plague, nothing about this is explained. It is clear throughout the issue that the Birds have struck a deal with Poison Ivy to get her aid in stopping the plague in exchange for helping her with her terrorist activities, but no explanation is given for how Poison Ivy's help is so invaluable. I assume they need her due to Poison Ivy's immunity to toxins, but who knows?

The Stupids

Did you catch what I said a moment ago? Our team of heroines is helping Poison Ivy complete terrorist activities. How stupid is that? I can see this 24-esque style deal with the devil if there were an immediate worldwide threat which would kill millions. Though

it would still leave a sour taste in my mouth, I can understand destroying an off-shore drilling facility in exchange for stopping that. However, Poison Ivy has been on the team from issue one which leads me to believe that this plague threat has been going on for quite awhile. Furthermore, if they even have time to help a terrorist attack, the plague is obviously not an immediate threat. With all the heroes and resources available to members of this team, I'm sure they could find someone to help them who would not require acts of terrorism.

After getting upset with Ivy in the CEO's office, Black Canary realizes that alliance with Ivy is over, yet she waits until they are about to jump from a plane on the mission to destroy the oil rig before confronting her. After battling in the air with each other for several minutes, the girls decided to go ahead and complete their mission, and they only continue the feud with Ivy after the attack is over. If you knew the alliance was over, why did you complete the attack wiping out millions of dollars of assets, endangering lives, creating an oil spill, driving up the price of gas, eliminating the livelihood of the oil workers, and wasting precious time , dumb-a***? I like Black Canary, but her leadership in this issue was horrible, and the error falls with the writer who apparently thought this arrangement was remotely sensible, and then tried to keep Dinah from looking like a complete fool when things turned south. Well, you failed Swierczynski.

Fashion Faux Pas

I've heard a lot of criticism for the costume design work on Birds of Prey, and I'm afraid the criticisms are well deserved. Black Canary looks like she is wearing a workout uniform that a nine year old girl would put together if she really loved comic books, while Starling's outfit looks pretty good except it is a little generic and it leaves an impractically large amount of her boobs exposed. I cannot decide what I think of Katana's outfit. It does look kind of cool, but at the same time, it feels a bit excessive, and it seems like she would have trouble breathing. Batgirl's outfit actually looks good, and contrary to most people's opinion, I actually like Poison Ivy with the black leotard and the green leaf design, but beyond these two exceptions, the outfits are bad.

While on the subject of visuals, the art bugged me in a few ways. In general, it is just mediocre, but I was annoyed by Dinah's Canary Cry. It should be sound waves, but the way it was rendered reminded me of the internet meme "ima firin mah lazer." Also, all the boobs in this issue were improbably large and all exactly the same size. Obviously, women's frames are often exaggerated in comics, but I was surprised by the fact that all the girls seemed to be the same cup size. It know it is odd, but it actually drew me out of the issue when I noticed this.

Ect.

Poison Ivy apparently died at the end of this issue, and I can't say I much care. I like her as a villain, but the idea that these other heroines would go along with her environmental wacko ideas really bugged me. Good riddance to her...for at least an issue or two until someone brings her back.In one last note, wasn't Katana a lesbian? In this issue, she makes reference to her dead husband. I assume this was a change of the reboot, but it seems odd when DC has obviously been courting the homosexual population by creating more gay characters. Why change the sexuality of an already gay character?

I did enjoy Starling. She had an attitude that I really enjoyed at least in this issue, and I hope she continues to be a compelling character.

Also, when did Poison Ivy begin to grow plants out of her back?

Conclusion 5/10

I do not recommend this issue to anyone. It is not worth three bucks.