Birds in the Wild

Artist Travel Foreman reports back for duty with old ally Duane Swierczynski, and yes I have totally memorised his name by heart that’s just how professional I am, in Birds of Prey #10. Coming off his acclaimed run on Animal Man, we see a more subdued art style from Foreman here, perhaps because he has a different colourist in the form of Gabe Eltaeb. It makes for an interesting, if slightly off-kilter, introduction to the series.
At this point, the lineup for the book has solidified to Black Canary, Katana, Swierczynski original Starling, Poison Ivy and Batgirl, as they go off on varying spy missions. And it really is a spy book, for the most part, even though Swierczynskiu infuses the book with more pulp styling than before, and throws in a bit of wild adventure to the mix. The dialogue remains strong, even while the storytelling is deliberately obtuse and long-winded.
This issue sees the team fresh from their tie-in to ‘Night of the Owls’, with an injured Poison Ivy requesting to be taken to the Amazon in order to recuperate. So Starling arranges a lift from a local cocaine dealer, they get blown up by a mysterious plane, and then get attacked by bizarre plant creatures. Business as usual for one of the better team books in the New 52. It’s all an excuse for Foreman to have some fun with misshapen plant monsters, which he does with some aplomb. He was never much for perspective or attention to anatomy, and that pays off in the wild forests of the Amazon. Less so with the characters.
When drawing Animal Man, Foreman’s style was tripped-out and crazy – which doesn’t translate so well when the characters aren’t hallucinating, transforming their bodies into weird shapes, or monsters. Some of the artwork is particularly off in this issue, such as a scene in which Black Canary yells at Batman, and her head morphs a giant forehead. Little things like perspective are skewed, and it works on a 50/50 basis. This is also Foreman’s first time drawing superhero women in a while and the breasts are, in several cases, drawn larger than the faces. Which is also a little unsettling. Eltaeb tries to calm down some of the wilder missteps, but this does at times serve to accentuate them.
The writing continues to highlight the strengths of the characters, in a mismatched team. Batgirl is here portrayed as someone trying to follow in Batman’s footsteps, but not sure whether she wants to be drawn into his darkness or the darker side of her teammates. Starling continues to be a brilliant new addition to the New 52, while Black Canary gets a slight upgrade in her power set. Which, really, serves to make her into a DC version of Siryn from Peter David’s X-Factor series. The sound effects are the same and everything.
Birds of Prey #10 is a standard issue for the series. Poison Ivy, one of my favourite DC characters, sits this one out – well, she lies this one out, in a glass container until the last page – while the rest of the team muck around and are rather entertaining. It’s another decent story from Swierczynski, if a little lacking in any particular momentum at present. Birds of Prey needs a mission statement rather badly at the moment, but if the narrative keeps getting distracted by fun side-stories like this one, then I can wait a while longer.
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