Do you guys remember the Birds of Prey movie? It didn’t do incredibly well commercially, but it was a critical darling and beloved by viewers around the nation. It was praised for its depiction of women and feminism, and for being unapologetically critical of the patriarchal society that’s been constructed around all of us.
This would be a perfect point to synergize with the comics and bring the Birds of Prey back into the comics since their last book ended with a female creative team to really tell a strong story. But DC Comics, in their infinite (read: seemingly nonexistent) wisdom, chose instead to bring Brian Azzarello, famed for his Wonder Woman run where he undercut everything the character had been up to that point, on as the writer for this all-female team. Brian Azzarello, who for my money has never written a book that didn’t feel laced with at least a bit of misogyny.
This book went through a weird solicit period, beginning as an all-new ongoing before being switched over to a Black Label limited series, before again being downsized to an 80-page one-shot. All I can say is that I’m glad they decided to cut this book off, because I cannot find a single positive thing to say about it.
Right off the bat, it’s really evident that none of the characters are talking in any sort of recognizable or natural cadence. The dialogue feels like it’s trying to be punchy, but is instead stiff without any flow. Right from the beginning, it starts off with a phone call between some random person who dies five pages in and Black Canary. It doesn’t feel like a conversation, though — neither of them are really talking to each other, rather they feel like they’re having independent monologues that sometimes intersect.
This is how the entire book feels, not just this one scene. At no point does the dialogue improve, nor do the characters feel like characters — they all just spout nonsense monologues at one another. The book is more enamored with the idea of Harley Quinn saying “sh*t” and “f*ck” without being censored than it is with having any of its characters talk like people.
If there’s one thing I can safely say about Azzarello, it’s that he doesn’t actually know anything about the characters he’s writing beyond what you could find in a Wikipedia article. There are references to some of Harley Quinn’s time with the Suicide Squad and her former relationship with the Joker, but the book doesn’t actually acknowledge anything the character has been in the last decade. Black Canary is in a band, but there’s no actual interest in what Brendan Fletcher did with the character. The same goes for Huntress and Renee Montoya — they do things that feel wildly out of character, with only vague references to anything established about the characters.
I’m sure you could argue that because this is Black Label the book doesn’t need to adhere to existing DC continuity, but from what I can tell it’s not actually trying to have any continuity at all. Azzarello just makes things up and pretends that this is some history we should all be familiar with. It leads to the plot being jumbled nonsense with no cohesive thread to connect things. Events just happen.
Emanuela Lupacchino is an artist whose work is almost always gorgeous. She draws fantastic covers and does a great job making characters look distinct and attractive. Her biggest weakness, though, is that her art is not well-suited for sequential storytelling. Layouts and action sequences don’t flow together well; they just feel like static images with no connection to previous and subsequent panels and pages.
It’s not just layouts, though — Lupacchino is not the best at drawing expressive faces, which results in a pretty jarring moment where Black Canary finds her friend’s dead body and looks up to grieve, but instead looks like she’s in the middle of having sex. While the entire book looks pretty, I can’t actually compliment the art because it doesn’t fit what’s going on at all.
I genuinely have nothing positive to say about this book. It’s a terrible attempt at synergy with a movie that’s remarkably feminist, going all the way in the opposite direction to wind up feeling misogynistic. The dialogue is terrible, the plot is awful, the art does not do its job well, and this doesn’t do anything interesting. For the price point, I’d already be hesitant to buy this issue regardless of how good it was. But based on its quality, I don’t think anyone should spend even a dollar on it. There are far better things to do with that money than buy this terrible comic.