Review: Birds of Prey #6
[Editor’s Note: This review CONTAINS spoilers]
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Leonardo Romero
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Dinah’s team “saves” Sin and Dinah learns more about Maps’ mysterious methods for contacting Dinah to begin with.
Starting at the end of Birds of Prey #6, Thompson’s big surprise reveal (we’ll get to it) DOES make this title seem more like an actual Birds of Prey comic instead of simply being one in name only. It’s not a lot but it does feel like the possibility is there that it might eventually become a Birds of Prey comic. Romero’s art is still enjoyable, even if the script doesn’t give him room to show off his layouts and action bits. His faces and what he communicates with them are wonderful and do the job in telling that aspect of the story.
What really stands out about Birds of Prey #6 when Thompson hits the reader with the big reveal in the sequence with Maps and Dinah is that this story was told completely out of order. It contributes greatly to the feeling that this series has never really felt like a Birds of Prey comic. Barbara Gordon finally makes an appearance to talk to Dinah at the end, and while it’s great she’s there, Dinah’s inability to give her a real reason for not including her on the mission (I mean, BoP IS Barbara’s after all) is awkward and unnecessary. Dinah and Barbara have a more open/ honest friendship. Dinah’s pulling a Batman, here. This leads to another conversation, this time between Dinah and Maps.
Maps reveals (spoilers now) that Dinah tried eleven previous times to save Sin and in every attempt with Barbara included, both she and Sin died. We also learn that Dinah told Maps not to let her have Barbara on the team for this final mission that succeeded. From a storytelling perspective, if the reader had known all this ahead of time, everything Dinah does or doesn’t do would’ve been much more interesting. Understanding there’s something larger at stake that actually relates to the core concept of BoP ( relationship between Babs, Dinah and Helena). It would’ve felt like something approaching a BoP comic, and it would’ve been much more interesting and engaging. Furthermore, Maps reveals that she thinks that someone from the future is trying to kills the Birds of Prey (despite the fact that they’ve never been a team that calls themselves that). Thompson’s decisions continue to indicate that she doesn’t really understand the Birds of Prey concept, though at least tangentially she seems to understand Barbara’s importance to it.
If this arc had begun with seeing Dinah’s failures and then her telling Maps to make sure Barbara wasn’t included, then this whole mission would’ve felt very different for the reader. It would’ve been clear there was more at stake, and heightened the intensity of the drama.
Unfortunately, this idea that Thompson introduces of a time traveling attack on the Birds of Prey feels derivative of the first arc in the current Justice Society comic. Helena Wayne travels back in time chasing the as yet to be revealed Per Degaton in his attempt to kill the JSA in ALL time periods. Helena’s already failed in some time periods and her final stop is the present day DC Universe. Going forward, it appears that this will be a subplot that will play out in this title after Birds of Prey #6.
I normally wouldn’t critique a lot of standing around talking if the talking is good, but a lot of the talking in this issue could’ve been handled differently if the story arc had included some of the info dump as part of the plot instead of dialogue. Had we known all about their 11 previous attempts to save Sin, the conversations at the end would not have been necessary. There’s a rushed quality to finish things up and part of it is seen in all the talking.
Additionally, the actual finale was also rushed and anti-climactic, and it didn’t really resolve the issue. Sin and Megaera are not actually separated. Megaera has ceded control of Sin’s body back to her so that she can “just live in the world.” This creates a couple of inconsistencies. First, as the team is trying to draw Megaera out with this magic jar, they feel like it’s working and Megaera is being pulled into the jar. It’s not clear why the team stop trying to recapture Megeara in the jar. It just seems like they stop…because. Secondly, if Dinah had the foreknowledge to keep Barbara out of the mission, why didn’t she have the foreknowledge to have magic users on the team to fight a mystical magic based adversary? Since she didn’t, Sin is not completely saved, but instead running around with Megaera inside her. This comes off as contrived and not a genuine result of simply not being able to separate them. Dinah had eleven other tries…and she didn’t think to also have Maps tell her to bring magic users? The real reason is that Thompson has other plans down the line…that’s obvious. However, for the internal logic of the story, this could’ve been set up better, as this mission still has the feeling of bringing a knife to a gun fight. The finale isn’t unsatisfying in a “wow, it’s unresolved because of cool plot points,” but rather, “it’s unresolved because the characters were stupid!” It falls into that category of storytelling in which the more one thinks about it the less it makes sense. If the reader just read it and didn’t think about it, it would be better.
While the ending of Birds of Prey #6 indicates there may be some hope for this title in future issues, the finale of this first arc reinforces the notion that Thompson isn’t all that interested in the Birds of Prey concept. It’s a disappointing first arc for the relaunch of a Birds of Prey title. The magic, mystical and time travel elements push the title further away from that core concept of the grounded, hand-to-hand combat, espionage, undercover mission that is central to the Birds of Prey concept. It would be better for Thompson to create a new team without damaging the Birds of Prey. A complete restart is the best option for this series, either as a proper Birds of Prey title, or a new team concept that fits what Thompson actually wants to write about.