This week in Batgirl & the Birds of Prey, we learn that Gotham has TERRIBLE doctors! (No wonder our heroes tend to patch themselves up…)
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of this book. The Benson’s are lovely people, but their craft is dismal. I haven’t liked a single arc yet, and if I’m being honest, their stories and characterizations appear to be getting worse over time. The current arc, “Manslaughter” isn’t the exception either.
The story revolves around the fact that all of the men in Gotham are getting sick. No women, just men. I have no quarrel with this plot, but I want there to be some type of explanation to it – of which, there is none in the first two issues of the story. It’s frustrating, and in my opinion, lazy writing. If you want readers to believe your story, give them some type of substance to allow them the opportunity to believe it. Granted, I will admit that we do get an answer in this issue, but the concept feels hastily thrown together and isn’t thought out very well (almost as if it were added after the fact because people complained that there was no explanation).
Anyway, with all of the men sick in Gotham, the ladies of Gotham – as well as Wonder Woman, Amanda Waller, and Lois Lane – come together to… stand around and talk. Now, I’m certain some of you will fly off the handle and say that I’m taking a jab at the female sex, but I assure you, I’m not. I am, however, attacking the fact that the writers wanted to use all of these characters, and then had nothing for them to do throughout the story. Most of the arc has consisted of these incredible characters just standing and talking. It’s infuriating. If you have the privilege to use a chunk of DC’s heavy hitters, then actually do something with them.
We eventually learn that the virus attacking the men was man-made (or perhaps “woman-made” is more appropriate), and that the attack was initiated by Patient Zero and the Daughters of Gotham. This week’s chapter has our heroes (and villains) going toe to toe with these antagonists. The execution is sub-par.
The logic behind the story and motivation is, well… illogical. That should come as no surprise considering the history of this book. If there’s one thing that is certain, it’s that most of what the Benson’s have written for Batgirl & the Birds of Prey doesn’t stand up to logic. In addition, this issue contains an abundance of convenient plot points – another attribute the Benson’s are too often guilty of. By the end of the issue, we do get a resolve, but I can’t bring myself to care. Then again, every time I read an issue of this book, I feel like I waste twenty minutes of my life, so…
You know what the best thing about Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is? The covers. The main cover is drawn by Yanick Paquette, and as always, is really good. He draws our heroes well (much better than any internal artist has ever drawn them for this run), and I wish he was doing the internal art as well… But let’s be honest, his quality of work is too good for scripts that are this poor.
Kamome Shirahama provides the variant each month. I’m also a fan of her work. The style of her art appears to have more of a juvenile target audience, and a hint of anime/ cartoon stylization too it. I’d also love to see her cover internals for a light-hearted, fun book… Perhaps a book for one of DC’s future Young Readers line.
Roge Antonio continues his internal art. Overall, I think his execution is ok. He’s definitely gotten better, and I think a large portion of this is that he’s learned to work better under the publication schedule. At the end of the day though, I think he’s just a mediocre artists. He delivers the job and does so on time, so that’s a plus, but the details of his pencils could be improved… Mainly in that there really isn’t much detail. I’ve always expressed a dislike for his faces and the overuse of his deer-in-headlights expression. Beyond that, he’s not the greatest at crafting stories with his art. A really good artist would most likely be able to redeem some of the downfalls of the script – or at least be bold enough to work with the writers to correct some of these problems before they ever make it to publication – but Roge isn’t that guy.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
This is my last review of Batgirl & the Birds of Prey. I’ve covered a number of bad books during my tenure at Batman-News.com. I’ve covered Anne Nocenti’s Catwoman, Sean Ryan’s New Suicide Squad, Marc Andreyko’s Batwoman, the previous runs of Birds of Prey, and more… But this is the first book where I’ve literally sent out cries of help to the review team. For the sake of sanity, I need a break. Reading Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is painful enough, but then to spend an hour or couple of hours critically assessing the material, writing about it, dissecting it… It’s become a burden. Thankfully, Brian is stepping in to pick up the title next month. He’s now my favorite reviewer on the site (kidding… I love everyone I write with equally). But I do have immense gratitude to him for stepping in. Some of you will be overjoyed that the book is being passed on to another reviewer. Some of you will be sad that you won’t see my over-the-top rants every month. To both groups, all I can say is: “I’m sure there will be more in the future.”
Patient Zero. First off, let’s start with the name. In medicine, “patient zero” refers to the first patient that is documented with a specific illness. So why would someone who is incapable of getting sick name herself Patient Zero? Maybe she feels she’s the first of a documented movement? Maybe she sees herself as “patient zero” of being immune to every illness? Who knows? Either way, she’s crazy and we learn that most of it stems from daddy issues. A chunk of it also stems from her hate for the various horrors in the world. Horrors that she associates to be caused by men, but the reality is she completely neglects the role that some women played during these same times and events. The character and her motivations are a mess – just like the book – but I guess she is the villain so it can be somewhat forgivable. Just write her off as crazy. (But for the love of God, stop making the Birds sympathize with/ for people like this.)
Removing Coms and Trackers. When the Daughters of Gotham kidnap Batgirl, Batwoman, and Harley, they remove their coms and trackers, but make a point to let them know they left their cowls on because they respect anonymity… Well, that’s convenient. You all know how I feel about convenient storytelling. Unfortunately, to make matters worse, they’re not smart enough to remove the tracker from Muir’s government issued vehicle, despite the fact the Muir revealed herself in front of the entire (female population of the) city. Again, that’s convenient. Also, I want to point out that the ONLY reason Babs, Kate, and Harley are kidnapped is so the bad guys can tell them their plan. Let that sink in a bit. You know what you call this? Bad writing!
Kill. Patient Zero makes the comment that getting the men sick is only Phase 1 of their attack. For Phase 2, they will kill them all. When she says this, Babs is shocked and can’t believe they’re going to kill all of the men. I don’t know why she’s shocked though, because Muir announced from the steps of City Hall that their intent was to rid Gotham of all men, and start fresh with women… It’s old news. And while we’re on the subject, why didn’t the Daughters of Gotham just start with Phase 2? I mean, that is their ultimate mission…
Standing around. Hey, look! It’s more panels and pages of our heroes standing around! If you remember, there were a number of these instances last month as well!
The Cure. This is probably what burns my butt the most… For two issues now, there’s been this big to-do to get Ivy samples of the virus, the blood of those infected, etc. so she can make a cure. In this issue, she meets up with Leslie Thompkins (who has red hair and looks like Barbara Gordon from Batman Beyond for some reason – come on editors) to create a cure. The writers make a point to have Ivy and Leslie describe that they’re using the “hermaphroditic nature of plants” to cure the illness. And then… And then… At the end of the book when they’re distributing the vaccine, the claim that it is estrogen. Are you !&%$#%& kidding me? Estrogen? Ok, if it’s estrogen, then why did you go through this whole convoluted process of testing plants’ hermaphroditic nature? Why not just use estrogen? In addition to this, are we really supposed to believe that we have an illness that only attacks men, and NONE of the medical staff in that city thought about, or tested, estrogen as a cure!?!?!? I can’t with this book.
That was easy. You have an army of women that are ready to kill all of the men in an entire city. How do you stop them? You punch their leader, shoot another person, and then shame everyone else with a stern finger shaking.
- You’re a glutton for punishment.
Overall: Batgirl & the Birds of Prey is like a broken record: month after month of poor plots, bad dialogue, and illogical reasoning. If you’re still reading this book hoping that it will get better… Please stop. There will be no change until a new creative team takes over. When will that happen? Not soon enough. At this point, I honestly don’t know what’s worse. Anne Nocenti’s Catwoman, or the Benson’s Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. And just to make sure I’m clear, prior to this book, I’d considered Nocenti’s Catwoman to be the worst comic run I’d ever read.