One of the things I like about serial comics is when a writer uses the format for a storytelling advantage. Take, for example, “Birds of Prey” #4 and #5. On the last page of “Birds of Prey” #4, the team is about to confront the bad guys when everything goes dark. The last panel of the page has the team, minus one member, standing outside and looking slightly confused with no memory of what just happened.
One month later, “Birds of Prey” #5 opens with the main characters even more confused than before. They all have varying degrees of memory about the previous issue’s events, down to Starling not even able to remember having a broken hand (which is now mysteriously fixed). And of course, with a month between issues, the chances of the readers also having a slightly foggy memory is high. The end result? Duane Swierczynski has used something that occurs naturally (needing a slight recap of the previous month’s adventure) and exploited it for the purpose of his comic. I love it.
Once we get past that cleverness, the rest of the issue is business as usual. Swierczynski lets us get glimpses into the characters’ personal lives, and get to know them a bit better. It’s a natural breaking point (with the memory wipes and all) and just when the book threatens to drag, Swierczynski starts pushing the main storyline back up to speed. And in typical Swierczynski fashion, just when you think you know what’s going on, there’s a little curveball waiting for you at the cliffhanger. (Even as, if I suspect we’ll find out next month, the groundwork was laid at the beginning of the issue for why this particular betrayal happened.) To be continued, indeed.
Jesus Saiz provides layouts this month instead of full pencils and inks, with Javier Pina providing finishes. Considering that Pina was Saiz’s replacement on “Manhunter” back in the day, it’s an apt pairing of artists. The Saiz and Pina collaboration is an attractive one; we still get the same overall figures, but there’s an additional smooth, almost slick look to the pages here. The opening panel in particular reminds me of early Adam Hughes art, with the soft features and graceful locks of hair. If Saiz needs some additional help from Pina down the line, I suspect the audience (myself included) will be just fine with that choice of pinch-hitter.
“Birds of Prey” is a reliably fun comic, and this one is no exception. It’s nice to see Swierczynski use the medium of comics to his advantage, and it re-affirms my feeling that reading “Birds of Prey” monthly is worth it (instead of waiting for inevitable collections). This is the most fun I’ve had with “Birds of Prey” in a while.