I’ve missed a few issues of “Birds of Prey,” but figured the issue following the “What the Fifty-Two?” month might be a great place to resume. Imagine my surprise and jilted disappointment when I found Starling dressed up like Mister Freeze on the cover of Christy Marx and Romano Molenaar’s “Birds of Prey” #20. The #0 issue dropped some hints that Starling might be more than just another teammate to Black Canary and Batgirl, but somehow this development makes her feel like much less.
One of the most interesting and, frankly, amusing new characters introduced in the New 52 relaunch, Starling is a character I enjoyed reading. She didn’t have a cookie-cutter voice or by-the-book reaction for anything. She was fresh and exciting, a promise of what the New 52 could be. Christy Marx, however, has dropped her down to a one-note character, pretending to be something she really wasn’t simply to be played for dramatic effect. I’m not sure if this is truly all on Marx or if this is simply an editorial mandate come to fruition, but the choice to have Starling team up with Mister Freeze against the Birds is just disappointing. Even worse, the events of the story reduce Black Canary to a despondent whiner who is suddenly mopey and filled with self-doubt, which makes a perfect invite for me to stop reading.
To further add to my disappointment, I find Molenaar’s art to simply be serviceable and not much more. For a comic with essentially one scene in a cramped underground room, there is a lot of running around, jumping and diving. The establishing spread makes the scrap seem like it’s in a small warehouse or big garage, but the dimensions shift, as the story requires. The artist has some decent framing choices, but some odd applications of speedlines and shadow. Chris Sotomayor helps out in some spots, but this isn’t a story driven by color, so there’s really only so much the colorist can do with the tools at his disposal. For the most part, Molenaar avoids samefacing the characters, with at least an assist from inker Jonathan Glapion, but their combined talents don’t do much to salvage the Liefeldian design of Condor.
I don’t remember the last issue of “Birds of Prey” I read before this, and it is pretty safe to say I’m not going to remember much about this one. I came into this issue with minimal expectations, but those dropped on the floor, largely thanks to flimsy characters and adequate artwork. Knowing that Starling is now working with Freeze is enough to top my disappointment sundae and “Birds of Prey” #20 is likely to be my last issue of this title for a little while.