Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review: The “Birds of Prey” by Thompson & Romero

Birds of Prey #1
Birds of Prey #1 by Kelly Thompson & Leonardo Romero

DC’s Birds of Prey is one of the few superhero series that I’m extraordinarily territorial about. The initial Chuck Dixon run pulled me back into comics. I was disappointed in his two short-lived replacements (though both had done incredible work elsewhere) and worried for the future of the series.

I was even skeptical when Gail Simone began her definitive run, with art mostly by Ed Benes and then Nicola Scott. Fortunately, Simone’s run quickly became one of my favorite comic series ever.

So I hope Kelly Thompson will forgive me when I say I looked at the previews, the premise that Black Canary would put together a team and deliberately exclude Barbara Gordon, and was immediately skeptical. But I had to read it, of course. I’ve enjoyed Thompson’s other creative work, back to her Kickstarted novels, and a large part of me thought “Please prove me wrong.”

Birds of Prey #1-3 by  Thompson and artist Leonardo Romero absolutely proved me wrong. So much so that I will not be trade-waiting, as I usually do these days. No, I’ll have to eagerly await the next issue like the early days of my comic reading.

The Premise of Birds of Prey

The original Birds of Prey series began with the partnership, at first distant, then close, between Black Canary (Dinah Lance) and Oracle (Barbara Gordon.) Simone’s run added a third major character in Huntress (Helena Bertinelli version) and various guest stars. But the core was always Dinah and Babs and whenever that core changed, the stories never quite worked. The DC New 52 reboot was basically a disaster for Black Canary who initially lost much of her history. Babs, too, moved from her Oracle identity back to Batgirl, in the popular Batgirl of Burnside stories. It was a good series but didn’t feature the Barbara Gordon I’d grown to love.

Simone briefly returned to a new version of the series in 2010 but that was cut short by yet another DC reboot. (Yet another reason for me to loathe Flashpoint.)

I was thrilled when Thompson was announced as the new writer, thrilled with some of the announced additions to the team, but not happy with the absence of Barbara Gordon. Still, I bought the first three issues.

The Current Birds of Prey Arc

Black Canary gathers a team: Big Barda, Zealot, Cassandra Cain, and Harley Quinn. Spoiler: the last member of the team, Meridian, is, surprisingly, an older Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi from the Gotham Academy series. (Note: the Gotham Academy series is terrific, especially for the amazing painted-style artwork.)

Maps/Meridian is now a time traveler, it seems. It’s Meridian who insists that Barbara can’t know about this mission and that the fate of the world might very well rest on it.

Birds of Prey #1 interior page
Recruiting Cassandra Cain. Image copyright DC Comics

That mission: pull Dinah’s sister/adopted daughter Sin out of the Amazon island of Themiscyria under the nose of the Amazons, including Wonder Woman. Why? Because there’s apparently a monster/threat who intends to possess Sin, and the Amazons are unaware of the threat. Again, can’t tell them. Meridian says that could be disastrous.

The first issue mainly consists of putting together the team, the second is the plan to sneak onto Themiscyria, and the next issue moves onto finding Sin and running into problems on the island. I’m unfamiliar with Zealot, though intrigued, Barda is as great and odd as ever, and Cassandra Cain is perfect. I especially love that the story so far showcases Dinah’s leadership.

Harley is Harley but she does not take over the whole show, as I feared when she was announced as part of the team.

Birds of Prey #3 Wonder Woman
The problem? Wonder Woman. image copyright DC Comics

The Art of Birds of Prey

It is spectacular.

There’s no other word for the combination of Leonardo Romero’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s colors. This is the first series I’ve read by Romero and it is going to send me down a rabbit hole for his previous work. It rivals Nicola Scott’s work for the best artwork this series has ever had, in any incarnation. Ed Benes, who was the primary artist during Simone’s run, had a number of strengths: his page flow, the fight scenes, and the close-ups. Benes is an excellent sequential artist. But he’s also a cheesecake artist and while I can enjoy that, there were times when the emphasis on cheesecake undercut the story being told.

Scott’s work, of course, is always excellent. I’ve loved everything she’s done, especially on Wonder Woman with Greg Rucka. Romero’s work, though, reminds me of Darwyn Cooke. The body types are similar, and there’s a throwback look to the series. And the action sequences

Birds of Prey interior page
Double page spread by Leonardo Romero on Birds of Prey. Image copyright DC Comics

….well, rather than describe them, I’ll just share this double-page spread.

Verdict: BUY

I’m happy to be wrong, enjoying the series immensely, and cannot wait for the next issue. Looks like Birds of Prey has, once again, pulled me back into reading a superhero series.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.