Review: BIRDS OF PREY #12

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Cliff Richards
Release Date: August 15, 2012

It’s been somewhat painful to read Birds of Prey for the past few months, as a title that started out as one of the freshest, most pitch-perfect relaunches of the New 52 seemed increasingly to have lost its way. It’s difficult even to locate the exact moment that things went wrong — was it the last panel of issue #7 when the team’s final, decisive confrontation with their first new villain was revealed by a talking sword to have all been a big mistake? Was it the random, stand-alone battle in issue #8 that still doesn’t seem to have any actual connection to any sort of ongoing story? ($2.99, totally down the tube.) Was it the halfhearted Night of the Owls tie-in issue #9 in which Swierczynski seemed to be so out of ideas that he had a character drive a car through the door of the very same church she had crashed through in issue #1? Was it the departure of artist Jesus Saiz in favor of Travel Foreman, whose gift for the strange and wiggly had been so perfect for Animal Man, but just wasn’t a good fit for Birds?

Or is it the fact that more and more of the title seems to be predicated on the outcomes of Black Canary’s poor judgement? A flawed leader is a fascinating place to start a team story, but when all a leader’s decisions are bad, it’s increasingly difficult to stay invested as a reader or to believe that the team wouldn’t collapse or coalesce around someone else.

While issue #12 is clearly the culmination of all these problems, it does at least offer the possibility that change is on the way. After spending two months as reluctant eco-terrorists under Poison Ivy’s duress, Black Canary finally takes the first step toward recovery by admitting that she has a problem and reaching out for help. There is a wordless exchange between Canary and Batgirl that is actually a really great moment, and a welcome reminder that Swierczynski and guest artist Cliff Richards really do know what they’re doing.

At the end, we’re left with Black Canary, Starling, and Katana standing over a grievously wounded Poison Ivy, trying to figure out what to do next. In another title, that moment might be a breaking point, a sign that the end has finally come, but in Birds of Prey, maybe, just maybe, it means that the team (and the title) has finally hit rock bottom, and that better things are on the way.

Verdict: 5.0/10


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