“Birds of Prey” #12 brings the “blackmailed by Poison Ivy” story to an abrupt conclusion, and while I think that Duane Swierczynski and Cliff Richards did a good enough job, there’s no way around feeling that this is a story that could have used another issue.
This particular storyline, with Poison Ivy having deliberately let Black Canary, Starling, Katana, and Batgirl get infected a toxin that will not only kill them in six months but also start a chain reaction to kill the entire planet, has always felt a little out of the blue. In many ways it goes back to the “Night of the Owls” crossover a few months ago, with Poison Ivy saving the team but nearly dying in the process. Since then, the book’s been rambling down a strange path, with the team first struggling to save Poison Ivy and then to break free of her grasp. The idea behind the story is good, but the last two issues have felt ridiculously compressed.
That continues into this month, as the team struggles to find a way to free themselves of Poison Ivy’s grip. There’s a certain tipping point that is reached by the team due to a decision of Ivy, but the problem is that we’ve seen so little of the team going through her demands up until now that it’s not as shocking as it could have been with a little more lead-up. It’s hard to notice the difference in a person’s actions and decisions when you’ve got little to compare them against.
Richards fills in this month, before Romano Molenaar takes over in September as (presumably) the new regular artist. It’s not bad and feels a little more suited to “Birds of Prey” than the already-departed Travel Foreman (who is a good artist in his own right, but it wasn’t quite the right match for him), but it’s skimpy on details. The weakest point is when the team is in the plane that Starling is flying. The interior regularly shifts from a lush-but-narrow carpeted room full of furniture, to a wide hallway where the carpet has lost its pattern and furniture, to a grey and nondescript tornado/wind tunnel. It’s frustrating because there are things that Richards does well, like his tilting the entire page (panel borders and everything) in different directions depending on how the plane moves, and Starling’s grim look as she tells them to suit up is good. But details are continually variable, and other scenes are small and cramped and feel like they’re lacking in the moments that would make things easier to follow.
Still, the ideas in “Birds of Prey” #12 are sound, if rushed, and the decision of the team at the end of this issue promises for a fun next storyline as they have to deal with the consequences. It’s ultimately an enjoyable comic, but a tiny bit frustrating because it feels like the pacing isn’t where it normally is. I’m looking forward to seeing the book get past its #0 issue and shift into its old rhythm again. The glimpse I’ve seen of Molenaar’s art looks promising, and a new regular artist should help ease things back to normal.