I love the Birds of Prey. The old Birds of Prey, with Oracle and Black Canary, and occasionally Huntress, particularly in the later years. The one Power Girl hates. The one that never refer to themselves as the Birds of Prey. Chuck Dixon, Gail Simone, Birds of Prey.
This? Is definitely not that series. The only things they have in common are Black Canary and a predominately female cast. Well, and kick-ass action, but action is actually kind of passe in comics, so you need more than just action to get me all that interested. Let me preface this: the new Birds of Prey is not a bad series. It's got a lot going for it, not least of which is art by Jesus Saiz. This is a rather taut thriller, and it's got some cool concepts running around here.
But it's hard for me to distance myself from my love of the previous series, and this series . . . does not live up to that one. To be fair, it's only been 3 issues, and there's not much that could actually manage to match a series that ran over 140 issues. So I'm kind of cutting this one a lot of slack. Otherwise this would devolve into brainless fanranting and complaining that boils down almost completely to "Waah, it's not the old Birds waah!"
So for some reason, they actually call themselves the Birds of Prey as a group, instead of just being a collection of operatives brought together for their skills, and to be proxy to Oracle, who become friends. And yeah, I know at the tail end of the previous version, that happened a couple times, too, but I'm still marking that as the main difference between these versions: the old group never had an official name, and this new 52 version is the Birds of Prey.
Since Barbara Gordon isn't Oracle anymore, she's gone off to be Batgirl, so the other main member of the Birds, Black Canary, needs a new partner.
And so we're introduced to Starling, and I'm sorry, but she hits a lot of Mary Sue characterizations. We haven't learned how she and Black Canary met, so we don't know why she's considered a suitable team member, other than that she's female. Her visual design is more striking than BC, with her almost showing more skin than Canary and also the giant tattoo she shows off, and her unusual weapon choice (don't look at me like that, a simple pistol is an unusual weapon choice for a comic book character). Add to that everyone loving her (even though we the audience know almost nothing about this lady, so when the comic characters keep commenting on how wonderful, special, beautiful she is, it really stands out) and finding her amazingly competent (which, enh, okay, but at this level, of course she'd have to be amazingly competent), and getting most of the best lines in the early issues . . . she just feels like a lot like a Mary Sue. She is not, because a Mary Sue is a fan-created character who steals the plot away from the main character(s). Here, she is one of the main characters, and the story hasn't been about her at all. So, strangely, yes, I do think learning more about this woman will help reduce her looking like a near Mary Sue.
So what is the story about, if it's not about Starling? Well, for some reason the Birds are considered a group of outlaws--mainly because Black Canary is wanted by some group or organization. But that's not going to stop the Birds from doing what they do best, investigate the more seedy elements of the world and bring the bad guys to justice. And the bad guys here are particularly vile, blackmailing all sorts of figures to keep themselves secret and capable of using a strange nanobombs to kill key people to bring about their ends. Whatever those ends are.
Yes, it's another instance where I feel the introductory arc is dragging on too long. Even if we didn't learn the full motivation and secrets of the bad guys, some resolution would be nice.
Along the way, the Birds pick up Katana--a Japanese woman who carries a cursed katana that steals the souls of those it kills, in particular her husband--and for some reason Poison Ivy. Yeah, the bat rogue. I don't really get why, though. Supposedly, the nanobombs have something to do with plants, or a lead that will take them to the bad guys, I'm not entirely clear here. But . . . there are better ways to get this information that going to a known bat villain like Ivy. But maybe in this new 52, Ivy isn't as completely psychotic as she used to be?
The main draw of this series (aside from Jesus Saiz) is the character interaction, as these disparate personalities clash and mesh in interesting ways. Even as hesitant as I was, I did get sucked in, and I do want to see what happens next, so it turns out I recommend it.
Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; and did I mention Jesus Saiz does the art?