“Birds of Prey," despite being a book I was most excited about in 2010, has been plagued with problems, most of them easily solvable. And every time I think those problems are being solved, I’m wrong. Though Gail Simone is obviously my preferred writer for “Birds of Prey,” I like Marc Andreyko’s work and initially thought it would be fun to see him take a spin with the birds. I also tend to like Billy Tucci’s work, so the two of them together seemed like a recipe for success, despite the frustration I’ve had over the constantly shifting art teams on “Birds of Prey.” Of course, a fun two-issue arc from Andreyko and Tucci is less fun knowing that Simone’s last issue was #13, but still, I had high hopes for an enjoyable issue at the very least.
Sadly, the same problems that have plagued this book all along, continue their stubborn dominance in this issue.
The story, which begins with Black Canary (Dinah Lance), Lady Blackhawk (Zinda), and Phantom Lady (Sandra Knight) attending a Veteran’s Charity Auction feels a bit filler, but is at least charming as the ladies mingle with the vets and vamp it up. We then flashback in time to a mission that Black Canary (Dinah Drake/Lance), Lady Blackhawk (Zinda), and a young Phantom Lady (Sandra Knight) went on during the war to take down a Nazi doctor. The plot twist that one of the men at the veterans auction is a man from that mission, is not revolutionary storytelling, but it works nicely. Andreyko has a nice feel for the character voices overall (it’s the most I’ve ever liked Zinda, as Andreyko has a softer hand with her) and he throws in a few fun jokes that fit in nicely with the almost campy vibe of their mission. Although, why someone saying “Da” in answer to a question is a tip to our heroes that Nazis are afoot will forever be a mystery to me. "Ja"? Maybe I guess, at a stretch, but "Da"?
Unfortunately, the art is an utter trainwreck. Like many issues of “Birds of Prey” over the last year, this was solicited as one thing and delivered as another, much to its peril. This issue is about half Tucci (not at his best) and half Adriana Melo. The differences are not only dramatic, but also very poorly organized. We get two pages of Tucci (with one inker… I’m unsure if it’s Tucci or JP Mayer) and then one of Melo. Then back to Tucci by the same inker, and then a page of Tucci inked by a different inker, and then I’m not entirely sure for two pages (but whoever it is, they’re not bringing their A game) and then back to Tucci for a few pages and then finishing out the book with Melo. It’s an utter mess. The styles are drastically, painfully different. It’s a particular shame because, while I personally do not care for Melo’s art, having a story that jumps back and forth in time is a no-brainer when assigning multiple artists to a book. Someone gets the present story, someone gets the past. Done. Of course, it’s likely that Melo was brought to fill-in due to extenuating circumstances, but the result is a terrible looking comic book. To add insult to injury, at no time can you tell the difference between Dinah Lance and her mother, and except for Zinda’s flight cap, you can’t tell the difference between Zinda and Dinah, or Zinda and Dinah’s mom… also Dinah. Kate Spencer is absolutely unrecognizable. I had to re-read the book to even recognize that it was Kate Spencer. And thank heavens that Huntress has long hair when she shows up, or you wouldn’t be able to tell her apart from Kate Spencer.
Though it’s the least of the art’s problems, it’s also not particularly well paced or interesting, with some shocking inconsistencies and sloppiness even beyond the art style changes.
There’s probably a good story in here somewhere, but a complete misfire on the art makes it impossible to find.