"Birds of Prey" #13 is the second time that Gail Simone has had a final issue on board the series. With this one, though, it's not quite as graceful a departure, but not for reasons that are hers.
In terms of script, this is probably her best issue yet. The two part story that began last month is tense, it's using the new set-up of characters well (with one exception we'll get to shortly), and it's a smart sequel to a "Secret Six" storyline from a few years ago, in that you don't need to have read the earlier story to appreciate this one.
So as the team fights Junior's minions, you begin to get the distinct feeling that things are rapidly shifting from bad to worse for each of them, and that for the first time in a while they're up against a truly dangerous enemy. So when the team finally does pull a partial victory out of their hat, it makes you appreciate it that much more because it wasn't easy. It's tense, it's exciting, it's exactly what you want from this sort of book.
It also helps that most of the issues of this run have felt like set-up, first for pulling the new team together, then for shifting Oracle's status quo in faking her death. So it's nice to just see them on a mission rather than more shuffling of characters across the board to get them into their new positions. I'm still a little baffled on why Hawk is on the team—he's the only one who still doesn't have much to do and doesn't quite click—but perhaps if Simone had more time on the title, we'd have finally gotten that last piece of the puzzle clicking into place.
But in general, that's one of the two big problems with this book. This issue is setting up a much larger story, one that will now be untold as the current incarnation of "Birds of Prey" comes to a close in August. (Issues #14-15 will be written by the talented Marc Andreyko.) So when you get to the end of the issue, it's frustrating and annoying to see the run having come abruptly to an end in mid-stream. Hopefully other comics at DC will get some more closure before the end of August, but this doesn't bode well.
The other problem is that instead of Jesus Saiz's art, we get what looks like a rush job from Diego Olmos. (No doubt Saiz was pulled to get working on the "Birds of Prey" revamp in September, of which he's the artist.) The characters are all lacking in detail, to the point that several pages (like Black Canary and Dove fighting Junior) look like we're getting colored pages of sketches and breakdowns rather than actual pencils or inks. At first it doesn't look good, but by the end of the issue it actually looks bad. Hawk's transformation reminds me of old Malibu Comics publications from the late '80s and early '90s (and that's not a compliment), and the poses on the final page are laughable. (Is Zinda preparing for a fashion magazine shoot? And why do she and Black Canary look almost identical?) The art here drags down the issue overall, and big time.
So farewell, Simone. These 13 issues were a little up and down, but your final two knocked them out of the park. I just wish you'd had an artist worthy of the script drawing the comic, and that we'd gotten to see what you'd planned next. I suspect it would have been a blast.