This month's "Birds of Prey" feels a little scattered, even though a thorough look at the comic shows that it's fairly focused between two scenes; Oracle in the Batcave, and the rest of the crew holed up with the Penguin. So what's going on, then?
I can't help but think that it's a little deliberate on Gail Simone's part; this is an issue of "Birds of Prey" where all of the heroes are being taken down for the count. Both Black Canary and Oracle note at various points that none of this feels right, that they're sloppy and nothing is working the way it should. It makes me think this is part of a sequence where Simone is going to break down the team in a way that lets them rise back up stronger and better because of their earlier defeat.
In order to achieve that, though, it's a lot of sequences and scenes where everything feels a bit jumpy and moving faster than the characters can keep up. Nothing works quite the way it should, and while it doesn't go quite as far as a "everything you know is wrong" moment, it's not that far off. Simone tries to defuse some of that general gloom and chaos with some humor here and there (the Penguin's hallucinations of am City SWAT have a tank?"), but on the whole it's an issue that is deliberately feeling a little out of control.
Ed Benes once again splits the pencil duties with Adriana Melo, and I must admit that at this point I find myself wishing that Melo would just take over the pencils full time. Her pages always seem much more crisp and clean, while Benes' pencils somehow seem slightly compressed and scrunched when he draws the team. And while Simone gives Benes an out-and-out T&A scene to draw, it doesn't seem to have entirely gotten it out of his system. The difference between how Melo versus Benes draw attractive characters could best be characterized as curvy versus sexual, and I think the former rather than the latter is a better choice for the title.
This is an issue of "Birds of Prey" that seems deliberately trying to undercut the reader's expectations. Half of what we learned last issue is already undone, and it's hard to not feel like we're in store for another fake-out with the conclusion next month. At this point, rather than jumping to conclusions, it seems like the safer thing to do is just sit back and wait, instead of getting worked up over a storyline that delights in telling us that everything we know is wrong.
Oh, most importantly, Cliff Chiang's cover for "Birds of Prey" this month? Gorgeous. Any time he wants to draw another cover for the comic, I'm all for it. (Hint hint, DC.)