Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Leonardo Romero
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Leonardo Romero & Jordie Bellaire
Variant Covers: Chris Bachalo & Jaime Mendoza; Stanley “Art Germ” Lau; Nick Bradshaw & Jim Charalampidis; Chris Bachalo & Jaime Mendoza; Leonardo Romero
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: September 5, 2023
A new series needs a defining, gripping first issue, and BIRDS OF PREY gets one. Dawn of DC’s latest big launch starts strong with a new team, a mission statement, and a visual style unlike anything DC has on the rack. BIRDS OF PREY #1 is something different.
Dinah Lance’s sister Sin needs help, and Dinah can’t do it alone. BIRDS OF PREY #1 tracks Dinah as she recruits a team for the mission. First up is Batgirl. Dinah worries that Cassandra Cain will be a hard sell, but she signs up with no argument. What’s more important than a sister, after all? The two women split up from there. Cass tracks down Dinah’s next choice–Big Barda. At first Big Barda is resistant, but when Cass tells her that the team is coming together to save Dinah’s sister, Big Barda signs up. Meanwhile, Dinah meets up with Zealot, recruiting her with ease. But even after signing up everyone on her list, Dinah thinks the team needs one more. Enter Harley Quinn.
BIRDS OF PREY #1 is just what you want in the first issue of a team book. The story introduces the new team’s goal. It also tells us why each member is chosen. Each character gets a brief moment that supports why Dinah has selected them. Perhaps the most important part of the issue is that it’s never a foregone conclusion that the Birds of Prey need to be reformed. Thompson doesn’t treat the team in the same way the Titans and Justice League usually are–that their existence is a foregone conclusion and they don’t need a particular reason to form or stay together. This is a new team for a new purpose (at least to start–it will no doubt continue together afterward). It makes the first issue especially compelling.
The issue’s pacing is good. It is a big recruitment drive. But action is interspersed along the way, and it keeps the story moving nicely. The issue builds to a moment of strong but understated tension at the end. Readers who are skeptical of the team composition going in will see that there is a story based reason for everyone who’s on it. Further, a few lines of dialogue suggest that Barbara’s absence–which some fans of the original run were upset over–might be a plot point or part of a character arc down the line rather than an arbitrary choice. BIRDS OF PREY #1 is playing the series’ cards close to the vest.
The Art & Letters
The art in BIRDS OF PREY #1 immediately calls to mind old pulp comics. It’s easy to recognize similarities to artists such as Max Plaisted, Jack Binder, and many others. His shading is relatively light. The linework is at a minimum–the barest necessary for the characters to convey clear emotions. This success with emotional displays is especially effective during the many character closeups as the issue goes on. Romero pays close attention to the characters’ eyes and eyebrows. Emotions run the gamut from anger to elation, covering everything in between. There is never a misunderstanding. At one point Harley looks on the verge of tears. It’s very effective, and Romero achieves it without overselling.
Bellaire’s coloring fits Romero’s style for the book perfectly. As with the art, the colors again call to mind pulp comics, in this case the brightest varieties. The coloring is high contrast. Shadows are always black, never gray. Settings often contain vivid elements but are never vivid in their entirety. When walls are muted, furniture is bright and pops off the page. There is a measure of eye candy to Bellaire’s coloring that adds a kind of timeless excitement. Action sequences are not exaggerated per se, but the poses are always high energy. They focus on moments of impact in the fights. Accordingly, Cowles’ use of sound effects, emanating from those very specific points, often come across as exclamation points.
BIRDS OF PREY #1 is an absolute winner as a first issue. Thompson lays out all the groundwork for why Dinah gathers the team and who’s on it. Romero, Bellaire, and Cowles create a particularly distinct visual look for the series. This is a first issue that offers the possibility of an altogether different experience than almost every other team superhero book on the stands.