A flu-like virus strikes the men in Gotham, and with it comes a horde of female superheroes to the rescue!
Commissioner Gordon is sick with the flu! Oh no! What on earth will happen? Who will save him? How can we expect the Gordon family to move past this tragedy?!?! Why is living so hard!?!?!?!?!?!?!
Alright, I’ll admit, I’m purposely being overdramatic, but that’s because the writing in this book is also quite dramatic. A virus is rampaging through Gotham, and it is only infecting men. If you read solicitations, then you know this already… So, you might find it a little irritating that you have to read through roughly half to three-fourths of the issue before the Birds pick up on this… It’s blatantly obvious that this is the situation (even without the assistance of the solicitation), but none-the-less, the Birds have to sit down and discuss everything out loud before they have that lightbulb moment.
After discovering that only men are getting infected, the Birds work to find out who’s behind all of this – a mission that turns into a tour of DC Comic’s female heroes and villains. This, admittedly, is quite fun! I always find it exciting to see heroes who don’t often cross paths, joining together to team up. Who doesn’t get a little excited when this happens, right? I mean, this is part of the reason why Metal is so fantastically fun to read! Unfortunately, the excitement is short lived here as it becomes clear that the characters aren’t written well at all – a problem that has plagued Batgirl & the Birds of Prey since its first issue.
The characterization isn’t the only problem here either. The dialogue is quite atrocious through most of the issue, and the team’s process of deduction is embarrassing considering how smart these women are supposed to be. Then there’s the endless pining as each character worries about their specific love interest. There doesn’t appear to be much general concern, just every character thinking of someone they love… and that’s about it. Babs stresses over her dad, Selina over Bruce, and Helena over Dick. Then there’s Dinah, who’s paranoid that Ollie will get sick. If you’re shooting to write strong, independent women, I don’t think this is how you accomplish that goal.
Let’s be honest, this book is bad. There’s no escaping that fact. It might surprise you to learn that this issue isn’t as bad as what we’ve come to expect from Batgirl & the Birds of Prey though. There are a number of factors play into this. For one, the Bensons’ scripts tend to fall apart once their stories start building to the climax – mostly because there’s no logic involved with their narratives – so considering this is only the first issue of “Manslaughter,” we haven’t endured that tragedy yet. Then there are the multiple characters who make an appearance. And yet, despite all of this, dreading the next issue before I even finish reading the current one.
The Art: I haven’t been the strongest supporter of Roge Antonio. I don’t think his art is that great, however, I will admit that he’s getting better. Compared to the blobby characters we initial saw, the work now is miles better! There are times when I see panels and pages, and I actually think it’s a different artist. There are a few pages here that look great, especially the splash page that serves as the final page of the story. So for this month, we’ll leave my critique of the art at this: The work is getting better – much better – within a very short amount of time, and that deserves to be recognized. Before long, I might find myself looking forward to Antonio’s work!
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: The Concept. I like half of this concept. The idea of a virus plaguing an entire city and sidelining heroes… That’s interesting! It’s kind of like a horror epidemic film that meets the DC Universe. It’s also reminiscent to Contagion, but focuses more on heroes who are impacted rather than regular citizens. What I don’t like, is the whole “only men are getting sick.” And no, I’m not saying that because I’m a guy. I’m saying that because I can’t see any potential explanation making sense or satisfying my curiosity when all is said and done.
A Plethora of Heroes. I think we can all agree that seeing multiple heroes together is fun. It’s almost like seeing a trailer for a film that contains dozens of your favorite actors! Unfortunately, also like the movies, a roster like this can sometimes be a sign of a poor story, and a desire to sell tickets (books) through marketing and sheer “star power.” I have a feeling “Manslaughter” will be the latter.
The Writing. Man, the dialogue makes me cringe. Between the puns, the lovey-dovey talk, unwarranted sass, poor characterization… There are so many moments that I feel like Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is the Keeping Up with the Kardashians of the DC Universe. Some of you might see this as a compliment, but I assure you, it isn’t.
Logic. The Benson’s have struggled to provide a logical plot for all of their stories to date. At the moment, we haven’t received any sort of explanation as to why this virus is only infecting men, but I’m certain the day will come, and when it does, most of us will hem and haw at the explanation. Despite this, we still get some illogical moments that are less critical to the plot – namely, the moment Barbara decides to just tell Bruce to get better, rather than sharing pertinent information that this virus is only infecting men. Maybe it’s just me, but if I had the direct line to the world’s greatest detective, I might just let him in on the fact that this virus is only attacking men. Bruce has worked through worse situations than this…. Just saying.
Convenient Plots. There’s a clear desire to bring as many female characters into this story as possible… I get it… But some of these “reasons” for bringing characters into the story is just laughable. I mean, Lois Lane comes to Gotham because the police commissioner, the mayor, and some city council members have the flu… Give me a break! The “recruitment” of Harley, Catwoman, and Ivy are just as bad.
Continuity. I urge the Bensons to familiarize themselves with current continuity. If they made that effort, then perhaps they’d know not to include Spoiler with the Detective Comics team. She hasn’t been part of that team for months. There’s really no excuse for minor mistakes such as this, and the editors – at the very least – should have called this out in the first draft of the script. And if they want to include Steph, then have her show up with Harper and Leslie Thompkins or something, but don’t have her show up with her former team – the same team she’s currently feuding with and trying to stop. And this is the second time in two months that they’ve done this… Then again, considering both Benson’s said, “Who?” when I mentioned “Harper Row… Blue Bird…” to them in a conversation in the past, I can’t say I’m surprised with this flub.
- You like the Kardashians and wish you could get a superhero version of their show.
- The plethora of DC females that guest star.
- Honestly, I really can’t give you an answer of substance because I don’t feel this book has any substance.
Overall: Another month, and another issue of Batgirl & the Birds of Prey. It’s exactly what you’ve come to expect: sloppy plot, poor logic, terrible dialogue, and crap characterization. The only difference with this issue is that there’s a ton of guest stars, and the initial excitement of these characters help give BatBoP a small jolt of energy and excitement. Just a teeny, little bit.