Review: Birds of Prey #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Leonardo Romero
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Dinah and Co. make it onto Themiscyra and find Sin, though not without some help from Oliver Queen back in America who tries to delay Wonder Woman’s arrival on the island.
Leonardo Romero continues to be the bright spot for this series. Romero has a fun style that lends itself to the tone of the book. While the script for Birds of Prey #3 doesn’t have the action sequences we’ve seen in the previous two issues, Oliver Queen’s “distraction” allows Romero to show what he can do. The weathered look on the cover is a cool touch. There’s no reason to think this issue is old and beaten up. It’s not an homage cover or throwback to classic Birds of Prey, but it is still a nice effect.
If we were to pretend that this comic was Harley and Friends #3, then we could skip this first section of the review. However, this comic is Birds of Prey #3, and a comic with that title should be significantly different than what we get. Even if we take the premise that Dinah had to use a team made up of these characters it could still feel like Birds of Prey. However, Thompson seems to be revealing that her real interest is not Birds of Prey, but rather Harley Quinn and change suspicious readers’ minds that Harley is just the best thing. Now, that’s great stuff for a Harley Quinn comic. I mean that’s MAIN STREET. But for a comic whose core concept has absolutely nothing to do with Harley Quinn, then it’s quite bad. It doesn’t matter what the cover says, the substance of this comic is Harley Quinn and Tenuous Alliances.
Harley’s influence on the tone can be seen almost from the very beginning as they have to ride inside the belly of a megalodon in order to get to Themiscyra. It’s silly, it’s weird and definitely feel like Harley. It does not have the same grounded feel that Birds of Prey is known for with clandestine, undercover, espionage vibes. This trick Harley pulls off with King Shark’s help also gives her a chance to get compliments from Dinah and the others on how great an idea she had to get on Themiscyra undetected. This sequence feel out of place like the magic bits from Birds of Prey #2 with John Constantine.
We see “how great” Harley is near the end of the issue when Dinah thinks to herself that Harley wouldn’t be a bad role model for Sin…let’s see: crazy, former sidekick of the Joker, mentally, physically and emotionally traumatized by him, groomed to act like him and despite claiming to have “moved on” she still dresses and acts like he developed her to be…sounds healthy to me! Thompson is bending the logical to the ridiculous to push Harley. It’s fine if you want to do that, but don’t do it at the expense of other characters and concepts. Harley doesn’t belong here and it’s frustrating to see her pushed so hard. It’s all Harley all the time! The tone that she brings is diametrically opposed to what has made Birds of Prey comics great in the past. The decision to include Harley at all and exclude Barbara Gordon demonstrates that Thompson doesn’t really understand the core concept of Birds of Prey. For her it seems like her definition is that Birds of Prey is simply a group of female characters. This is a massive dilution of the concept. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s how Birds of Prey has been rebranded since the horrific Birds of Prey (And the Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) film from 2020.
For the longest time the “team” never referenced themselves because they weren’t that kind of team. They were what Barbara Gordon did as Oracle, Birds of Prey was the manifestation of overcoming her own mental, emotional and physical trauma and getting back her agency. She not only healed, but reinvented herself. Birds of Prey was the title of the comic…but, they group never referred to themselves as such. In this current issue, twice it’s used as a team name for Harley and Friends.
So, even if you’re enjoying this series and you like Harley and Friends and you think Harley is the greatest, there’s a plot point that just doesn’t make a bit of sense. And, it’s not something ridiculous like riding in the belly of a megalodon. It’s something that seems to be at the crux of the plot itself. Since issue #1, it’s been suggested that Dinah couldn’t contact Wonder Woman for help in rescuing Sin because of the events going on in her own book. The understanding has been that Diana is too tied up in those events and would be unavailable to help Dinah. However, this issue presents something altogether different.
Apparently, they were worried about Diana interfering with Sin’s extraction. This comes off like Thompson forgot what she had already written. Would it make any sense at all that Diana under any circumstances wouldn’t help Dinah? If that’s the conflict then that’s the real story and we’ve wasted three issues on mostly Harliness to get to the point where Diana escapes Oliver Queen’s distraction and teleports? (yes it’s that fast) to Themiscyra to confront Dinah and Co. That’s a huge story if that’s the play…Diana is apart of what’s going on. There’s no way, no matter what’s going on with Diana that she wouldn’t help Dinah in some way, even if she couldn’t physically be a part of it. Yet, she’s willing and able to get to Themiscyra to apparently help stop Dinah and Co. From what we’ve seen so far, this doesn’t make any sense either plot wise or in the characterization of Diana.
This isn’t the only characterization problem in Birds of Prey #3 either. We’ve already seen Dinah’s lack of judgement in considering Harley a role model for Sin, but for whatever reason Thompson doubles down on this idea that Zealot believes Dinah wants her to kill Amazons. The question isn’t really answered satisfactorily in a manner that demonstrates whether it’s Thompson or Zealot that doesn’t understand Black Canary’s character. Dinah’s not a killer. Sure seems like Zealot is though, and she almost makes my wish come true when she runs Harley through with her sword. However, it’s not all it seems.
This could be a “positive” for this issue, but the neat aspect of it is undermined by that Harely-tone that is pervading the series. Zealot performs a ritual when they arrive on Themiscyra that prevents her from being killed OR killing. It helps her stay alive but it also prevents her from killing anyone for Dinah. (That’s such a strange take on Dinah). In order to show that this ritual is in play she runs Harley through, YAY! Alas, she doesn’t die. This could be a really cool element to develop, a character who has killed, but now doesn’t want to. That’s pretty cool and interesting, but by stabbing Harley and making a joke out of it the deeper psychological aspect is overwhelmed by the tone that permeatesthe book with Harley’s inclusion. Harley Quinn ruins everything.
Birds of Prey #3 is not a good Birds of Prey comic, however, it is a pretty good Harley Quinn comic. If you’re here for Harley and how great she is then you will flip that score around, probably. If you’re a fan of the Birds of Prey, this isn’t it. Whith each successive issue this title feels less and less like a Birds of Prey comic. Additionally, the issue with Wonder Woman throws the whole thing off. Tonally it flips back and forth between serious and silly and it just doesn’t seem like it knows what it wants to be besides an argument for how great Harley Quinn is- which she’s not. It feels like Thompson is auditioning to write the Harley Quinn animated series on MAX. Romero’s art can only do so much to make this book enjoyable.