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Birds of Prey #5

A comic review article by: Ray Tate

Bizarre things occur in Birds of Prey. First, the Birds finds themselves back at the starting point, with no explanation as to how they got there. Second, Batgirl, not amongst them, has no recollection of their rooftop meeting. Third, duplicity abounds among the team, and some may not be aware of their betrayal. If I didn't know any better, I might think the Silence from Doctor Who was out and about in the DC Universe.

Double Cross?

Writer Duane Swierczynski offers the reader an enigma wrapped in the rhizomes of Poison Ivy. Did she have something to do with the team's memory loss? Possible, but how do you explain Starling's healed hand? Ivy might have sprayed a mind-altering pollen to wipe out the memories of her teammates, but how does she create a plant to heal Starling's bones, which were broken last issue when she knocked out Canary?

Starling in Action

Swiercynski's creation is nothing short of remarkable. We get a lot of background about her this issue. She for example has an Uncle Earl, and I don't recall any heroes with that name. So, it doesn't look like she's a legacy character. What she is however is hunted by an agency that prefers black. CIA? DEO? Tim Gunn? Swiercynski's not saying. He does however suggest that Starling may be bisexual or a lesbian.

Subtext

If so, this would make Starling DC's fourth worthwhile lesbian character. Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass would be the first two. Maggie Sawyer would be third. Donner and Blitzen belonged to the Milestone Universe. So as awesome as they were, they don't count in this tally. Thunder and Grace didn't last long enough to create any ripples, and Batwoman is joke. Starling would also be the second worthwhile original lesbian character. John Byrne's Maggie Sawyer takes first prize there, with Toby Raynes, an incidental player, coming in third. 

Notice though how Swierczynski introduced Starling. First, he showed her as an outrageous action gal. Then, he established her partnership with the Canary. Next, he suggested she already had a history in the New 52 Universe. All through the first four issues, he wrote spectacular, unique dialogue for the character, framing her as fun-loving, and now, only now, after he's done the groundwork, now, he offers the possibility that Starling is bi or gay. He also demonstrates her taste for whiskey, but that's merely sauce for the goose. The point is that you don't create a character to satisfy a demographic. You create a character that you like and put that character out there for the audience. They'll make their own decisions.

While revealing elements present in his own characters, Swierczynski strengthens the ones core to the New 52. Although Batgirl genuinely doesn't know what the Black Canary's talking about...

Memories Be Gone

...she trusts her enough to meet again, and rather than give the reader a repeat, Swierczynski instead changes things, with some bonus friction between Batgirl and Ivy; this could also be a sly hint as to why Ivy joined the Birds. Perhaps, it's a simple identity-gathering mission.

Who are you? Who-Who-Who-Who?

Jesus Saiz and June Chung aid and abet Swierczynski. Their warm, realistic tactile illustration makes Swierczynski's want to create a new, affable character easier, and their subtle expression of connections grants even greater credibility to the scenes. Not just the subtextual ones but also moments in which Canary and Katana share a laugh.

Needless to say, Saiz and Chung are no slouches when it comes to the action department, and all the Birds enjoy a spotlight of dynamics. Perfect issue.

 


 

Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups, where he reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.

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