In the last few years, Kelly Thompson has asserted herself as one of the best writers at Marvel, spearheading projects like 2019’s Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. Though she has a unique touch, the characters always felt real and like a natural progression of both what we’d seen before and what Kelly herself had written them undergoing. When she was announced on Birds of Prey, it was like a dream come true for many longtime Birds fans such as myself; she seemed like such a natural fit. In issue #1 of the series she introduced a far different team than what we’re used to and in issue #2, the distance between the concept of this book and what Birds typically is continues to widen. It’s Leonardo Romero who steals the show on this book, producing what may be some of the most visually appealing art of his already impressive career.
I said it before but I’ll say it again: this book shouldn’t be called Birds of Prey and if it had a different title, I probably would like it more. But to take what was a sisterhood operation between two women (later three) that became a genuine home to each other and helped each other grow and to make it an emotionally distant special ops team is certainly a choice that feels jarring. The Birds of Prey can’t exist without Oracle and at this point in time, it can’t exist without Huntress either. But beyond the team changes, the spirit of the book just could not feel farther from what Birds is even when their own lineup changed.
Dinah and Sin’s relationship being revisited is certainly welcome, but I find it odd how they’ve changed entirely overnight. They certainly had a mother/daughter relationship in the original run, though Dinah never used those words specifically to describe it. But even from the characters around her interacting with Dinah at the time or Sin, it was obvious that’s what it was. Seeing Dinah refer to Sin as her sister and to do it so aggressively (if Sin is mentioned ever in this book, the word “sister” will come up next in the speech bubble) it just feels unnatural. It’s not the change itself that’s so jarring as how the characters (especially Dinah) just talk about her in such a heavy-handed way. It doesn’t feel like natural human dialogue.
The concept of this special ops team to rescue Sin is an interesting idea, but once again I find myself wishing this title was named something else. Because it’s not the Birds — it’s Dinah assembling a team that has a specific job and means something specific to her. Harley Quinn’s inclusion is still obnoxious and at times feels like a slap in the face to the Birds of Prey. This character practically inserted herself into their lore to market them for a movie and it’s like we’ve been held hostage ever since. We know Oracle couldn’t be in this operation because of Dinah and Oliver’s conversation in issue #1, but to see her get top billing in anything involving Sin Lance over Huntress, who almost died once to ensure Sin and Dinah could stay together, feels like extra proof that this book just wasn’t written for fans of the team.
Even if the lineup was going to change, I feel as though the book itself should still embody and feel like it’s spiritually a Birds of Prey title. But instead it feels like it was just given the Birds of Prey title because this team was comprised solely of women and the marketing was convenient because of that.
The random team ups that happen in this issue certainly feel like fun hijinks, but it does little to add much flavor to the title on its own. I’m apathetic reading Birds of Prey, which is something I can’t say I ever felt reading this team’s original two runs.
The shining star of this book is Leonardo Romero, who does an absolute bang up job making these pages come to life. I’m such a sucker for pages like the one above, where the panel constrictions themselves become an element that the artist can play with. The visual contrast between the X-ray segment and the comic panels themselves just makes for a stunning visual. There isn’t a single page in this book that one could describe as ugly or lacking, because Romero has such consistency and every page is flawless. The characters are expressive and the set pieces are beautiful. Romero has always been a wonderful artist, but his work in Birds of Prey has surprised me even still.
I don’t like the fact that I can read a Kelly Thompson book and say I don’t see the vision or that it’s an ill fit; she’s been one of my favorite authors of the most recent Marvel era, but the writing choices here definitely don’t feel geared towards anyone with any familiarity or love for the team at hand. I can certainly see why a book like this would be fun for someone with little to no familiarity of the team and this being their introduction, but the way it feels alienating to the existing reader base is disappointing. With a different lineup I would have still liked to read the book feeling like a Birds of Prey title in its story and dynamic, but this feels more like if the ’90s X-Force team had an all-women DC equivalent. It’s certainly an interesting choice.
To pack my own confusion aside, however, I have enough faith and good will for Kelly Thompson to say I will continue to give the book a shot at least through its first arc.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
❌ Remove all ads on the website💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT📗 Access to our monthly book club📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month💥 And more!
Stunning artwork aside, I’m still having a hard time seeing the vision. Read More