With this issue, "Birds of Prey" finally feels like the book I've been waiting for it to be for the past year. Issue #12 is full of promise and intrigue, jokes and badassery, not to mention solid consistent art to match Gail Simone's always strong writing.
In this issue most of the ladies (and Hawk) infiltrate a corporate office building, set up like a puzzle and run by a "Mister J" who's looking for assistants that can handle a "particular humor," although all is not what it seems. Meanwhile, the Huntress tries to add The Question to the Birds of Prey team and ends up doing a mini team-up to take down some dirty cops.
Simone is back in fighting form here, and in typical Simone style had me chuckling mightily before the end of page one. Simone's particular ability to tickle your funny bone and then immediately go for the jugular is in fine form here as she terrifies and entertains. She's still juggling a too large cast that can feel frustrating as a reader, but she's got a better handle on all the pieces in this issue and the book feels less chaotic and rushed, more controlled. The appearance of Renee Montoya as The Question is a welcome addition, even though the cast is already overcrowded. In truth, I'd happily switch out Renee for several of the other regulars (Hawk, Dove, or Lady Blackhawk instantly spring to mind). But regardless of overcrowding, Simone does good things with the Renee/Helena friendship, building nicely on their excellent 2009 "Detective Comics" storyline from Greg Rucka and Cully Hamner. The chemistry between them is alive on the page and is easily the best part of this issue.
The art here by Jesus Saiz is a welcome change. It's the first time I've enjoyed the art on "Birds of Prey" since it was rebooted in 2010. Saiz renders the ladies beautifully, but with a restraint that never feels overly sexualized or unnecessarily cheesecake. His storytelling is crisp and clear, and he juggles the massive cast with seeming ease. Saiz pays particular attention to hair and clothing, which is refreshing, and somewhat necessary in a book filled with no less than nine beautiful women (six "regulars" and a few "guest stars"). Saiz's attention to detail across the board raises the book up a subtle but important notch in quality that it has been lacking and finally helps make it a contender for one of DC's better books.
Nei Ruffino's colors are still far too slick and glossy for my tastes. They continue to give the book an antiseptic plastic feel that I don't enjoy and distracts me more than I'd like. However, on Saiz's pencils they're infinitely more tolerable than they have been in the past.
"Birds of Prey" #12 is a huge step in the right direction, and almost feels like the "real" launch of the series. This issue has a much stronger and a more appropriate creative team, a smart terribly creepy storyline that's still full of humor and personality, and a cover that announces itself to the world in full badass mode.