Review: Birds of Prey #13 by Duane Swierczynski and Romano Molenaar

Birds of Prey #13
Written by Duane Swierczynski
Art by Romano Molenaar, Vicente Cifuentes, and Chris Sotomayor

The short of it:

The team, still recovering from the after effects of the toxin Poison Ivy pumped them full of, is laying low, and Katana is out on a food run. A food run interrupted by ninjas! She does her best, but not at full strength and severely outnumbered? The evil ninja best her and steal her sword, leaving Tatsu in even worse shape than simply beating her up and throwing her off of a building would do. So when she manages to crawl back to the Birds current secret hideout, she figures she can get her friends to help her reclaim her sword from the Dagger Clan…and she gets rejected. Now, she’s not going to give up on her sword because of something as petty as a lack of back up, so she goes seeking the Dagger Clan…and winds up a prisoner.

Her former clan isn’t too thrilled with her actions, and when she assumes too much…they capture her. They plan to torture her, leaving her alive long enough for them to use her sword to poison her homeland. Unfortunately, they monologue long enough for Dinah, Babs, and Starling to show up and raise hell. The element of surprise works in their favor and the team manages to secure Tatsu and a hostage for interrogation, all in an effort to find the magical sword. Starling does her thing, but does the man feed them accurate information?

And just how will Tatsu’s sword destroy Japan in less than twelve hours?

What I liked:

  • The more time Tatsu gets on panel the better, there’s a lot of good to enjoy about her character and when she gets short changed it tends to just revolve around “Is she crazy?”
  • Starling grows on me more every issue, as I hated her initially and now I’ve grown to like the surly gun blazer. It really didn’t hurt that last issue finally gave us a little depth to see just where she came from. The tabula rasa new character eventually needs some depth.
  • I also like how her cockyness is her potential undoing thanks to the end of the issue
  • I loved Ivy but I do not miss her at all. I think Duane went as far as he could with everyone’s favorite eco-terrorist, and her story ended strongly. Now the team just needs a replacement badass.

What I didn’t like:

  • Batgirl is probably the biggest waste of a character spot in this book as she really just feels like her presence is to push the Bat ties. Catwoman would have been a more natural fit, given the nature of the team itself. The bottom line is that Dinah, Tatsu, and Starling all kill without issue, and then you have a Bat. It just doesn’t mesh.
  • Dinah is pretty up or down as far as it pertains to her leadership ability. One page she’ll be aces with a grasp on everything, and the next she feels like a rookie again. She’s the lead, but when she gets inconsistent it just gets painful.
  • We’ve been beaten over the head with “Is Tatsu crazy” for a little bit too long. I mean, we get the point, she talks to her sword and thinks her husband is inside of it. I expect some real resolution on the matter in the next few issues, but a little less “remind the reader exposition” would be nice.

Final thoughts:

I know this is a check in review, since I can’t remember (and am not planning on checking) whether or not I’ve reviewed any issues of this run of the book, but I’ve actually bought every issue. Is it the best book DC puts out monthly? No, that honor belongs to Wonder Woman (sorry Batman and Green Lantern), but Birds is easily one of the most consistent. Duane Swierczynski took a book that could have just been some phoned in cheesecake excuse and has turned in one of the most compelling plot lines of the New 52.

I have never been a fan of Katana, and while I’ll admit that this book opened up with a bit too much of her talking to her dead husband in her sword, but she’s really grown on me. I’m obviously not the only one, however, as Geoff Johns has poached her for his upcoming Justice League of America as well.

Women who could replace Batgirl? Catwoman, Rose/Thorn, Gypsy, Manhunter, hell, dig into the WIldstorm stable and dig someone out. It’s just really hard to have a team where you’ve got a katana wielding ninja killer, a gun slinging ex-bodyguard that doesn’t mind getting bloody hands, and a former black ops freelancer and then you make their fourth into someone with a creed of no killing. Brand new Dinah doesn’t really seem like the kind of person that Babs would be BFF’s with.

I first started reading Duane’s work when he wrote Cable for Marvel, and while I felt that the book was extremely hot or cold, I always placed the blame for that on having to drag the Bishop plot out for two years and still work a crossover into the middle. Plus, I really enjoyed his Iron Fist run (and had to double check a few times that it was a new writer), so he was on the short list of writers that I desperately wanted to give more chances to, but feared them being given books that didn’t suit them. I bought this book figuring I’d maybe get through the first arc, but I’ve been hooked since about four issues in. He’s doing some really compelling story telling here, and I can only imagine that it can only get better so long as DC doesn’t break up a good thing and find a new writer.

So we’re getting Tatsu’s origin just in time for her to leave the book, Dinah’s origin is being covered in Team 7, so I’m guessing we’re going to get a lot more Starling to figure out where she was before working with Penguin? Yeah, I’m okay with that.

Overall: 8/10

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