Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birds of Prey #0: Christian Takes on these Kick-Ass Birds

Birds of Prey #0
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Romano Molenarr
Inker: Vicente Cifuentes

I have to fess up: I've never read an issue of Birds of Prey before. I know, I know. I've heard great things, especially about Gail Simone's run on the series, but at the time she was writing it I just wasn't reading DC Comics. I never saw the ill-fated WB series either.

When DC launched the New 52 last September, Birds of Prey just wasn't one of the comics I picked up. I didn't have the budget for it, I hadn't read any of Duane Swierczynski's work (prior to his current run on Bloodshot), and I wasn't previously a fan of any of the characters in the series. Therefore, it went unread by me, until Courtney picked this book up today because it had a cameo appearance by Batgirl.

As a single issue comic, I have to say I really enjoyed it, even though I don't really know more about the Birds of Prey and their team members than when I first started reading.

This is sort of the problem with these #0 origin issues. They're meant to act as a jumping on point for new readers, but they're also interrupting the regular schedule of the books, forcing fans to wait another month while the storyline goes back in time to show how everything began. That's what this issue does, it shows the series of events that lead to Black Canary and Starling to team up with Batgirl and form the Birds of Prey.

Still, as a new reader to this book, I don't really know anything about these characters other than Black Canary has sonic powers and Starling likes to slap her on the bum occasionally.

Swierczyski is a very underrated writer in my opinion, and his storytelling in this issue reminds me of Gail Simone's work on Batgirl. It's really refreshing to actually spend some time reading a comic book, rather than just speeding through large-scale decompressed action scenes like in so many mainstream comics. The story is narrated through Black Canary's inner monologue, and while some might find this to be an outdated storytelling method, I think it's great. Even if I don't know much about Black Canary's history, I know what's going on inside her head, and I love that.

I'm not familiar with any of Romano Molenaar's previous artwork, and while I wasn't really wowed by the art in this issue, I thought it served the story fairly well. The structuring of the panels is odd. It seems to be house style lately at DC to fragment the panels on the page with no rhyme or reason except to emphasize whatever actions seem appropriate at the time, but it's not nearly as all over the place as say, Red Hood and the Outlaws.Molenaar's character work is pretty good though. The women in this comic manage to be both muscular and sexy without being objectified, with the sole exception being one "pause for the camera" pose near the end of the issue.

I can see how this issue might not be effective in bringing in new readers to Birds of Prey, but I enjoyed it. Birds of Prey is a comic that deliberately mixes high octane action with sex positive feminism, and I can get behind that.

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