I was sorry to see Duane Swierczynski depart "Birds of Prey" a couple of months ago, having re-launched the title as part of DC's New 52. Now that Christy Marx has settled in with penciler Romano Molenaar, though, I need to give credit where it's due; Marx is doing just fine as a replacement.
For now, at least, Marx has kept the set-up that she's inherited, and makes it work. Relatively new members Condor and Strix are given things to do alongside Black Canary, Batgirl and Starling, and I like how Marx handles the mix. There's just the right level of cautiousness when dealing with the two new faces, and it doesn't feel like Marx plays favorites either. It's a good juggling of the cast, and since the character interactions have always been the core of "Birds of Prey" in all of its incarnations, it's nice to see that preserved.
Marx also keeps the plot moving. She takes an existing element -- Strix's identity as a former Talon -- and uses it in a way to springboard in a new enemy. She also continues some of the plot threads from previous issues, to the point that I suspect that some readers may not have even noticed the switch from Swierczynski to Marx. Add in just the right mixture of exposition and action, and I feel like "Birds of Prey" is plugging along just fine.
Molenaar's pencils, likewise, look good. He and Vicente Cifuentes turn out consistently nice pages; I love the lush coiffed hair on Black Canary, for instance, which looks attractive without being over the top. There's also nice body language here; when Batgirl finds Strix, for example, her body is tucked and huddled in a way that makes you understand Strix's frame of mind. I also appreciate that Molenaar has put Strix into the corner of the panel for that moment; it's a good usage of sequential art to help frame the scene. It's also worth noting that Cifuentes's contributions shouldn't be discounted. Julio Ferreira inks the last two pages of "Birds of Prey" #19 and at first I thought it was an entirely different penciler. It's a rougher, less refined look, and a reminder on what a difference an inker can make to a comic.
"Birds of Prey" #19 isn't revolutionary but it's pleasantly fun. "Birds of Prey" over time became my default kick-back-and-relax superhero comic, and I appreciate that Marx and Molenaar have continued that tradition here. If you're looking for something to fit that bill, look no further than here.