Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birds of Prey #13

Katana isn't going to get much work done holding her sword like that.

Last issue, Katana had chopped off Poison Ivy's saddle bag vines. Everybody freaked out, assuming that Katana had just killed Ivy. But I know how comic books work! I'm super smart about them! I know that was just a cliffhanger to set up some drama and get the fans excited about the next issue so they can see how Poison Ivy survives. The only problem is that the Zero Issue came out last month and everyone has forgotten how last issue ended. I had forgotten until I reread my commentary on Issue #12! See? That's why I'm doing these commentaries! They aren't for people to read. They're just for me to remember what the fuck was going on in the previous month's comic. Remembering shit is hard.

I wish I was better at explaining why I hate some Narration Boxing and why I don't mind others. It really comes down to the level of the writing and the skill of the writer. But that explanation really just leaves me open to attacks of Fanboyism since bad writers generally write poorly and good writers usually write well. So if Lobdell or DeFalco or Krul or Nocenti begin their comic book with a bunch of Narration by the main character, it's usually annoying and inane. But if Snyder or Morrison or Milligan or Lemire do it, it usually fits within the story. But now my cards are on the table and people will just assume I come to a book already biased one way or the other when it comes to the writers I just mentioned.

And, well, I probably am! One year on and I expect bad writing from the writers that have made me wade through shit month after month. I think each of them will have to write a really exceptional story before I stop nitpicking the fuck out of their work. What I'm trying to say is, I don't like the way Duane Swierczynski writes.

Normally I would just say, "Fuck me!" after reading this but I guess I should put my feelings through their paces to help explain my dislike for certain writing methods in this New 52.

First let's examine the situation. The Birds of Prey are holed up somewhere taking it easy and recovering from the poison that Ivy injected into them. I'm assuming Batman provided them with a cure since that was the plan and there's really no reason to spend any panels on the Birds dealing with that. So they're recuperating and decide they want some food. Katana volunteers so she does what any normal person would do. Dress up in a garish costume and run across the rooftops to get to the take-out place.

Because I'm reading a writer that I'm negatively biased towards, I assume this is just bad writing. Perhaps I should give him the benefit of the doubt and realize that perhaps Katana had some business to attend to that she didn't want the others to know about. So she volunteered to do something for them so that they wouldn't ask questions when she leaves. But Duane needs to prove that he's capable of this kind of forethought before I jump to a positive conclusion. Instead, I roll my eyes and say, "Fuck me! Put on a hoodie and call a fucking cab, Katana! Or just order delivery."

The second thing that bugs me is the attitude expressed in the Narration Boxing. Oh, ha ha! Isn't it funny that Starling is a big drunk? It is funny to me because it explains why she can't hit anything she tries to shoot. So Black Canary drops a little joke that I didn't find amusing. I can't really hold that against the writer and the comic. I write shit that isn't funny all the time. But that last box (and the follow-up which I didn't scan) bugs me the most. "Katana left hours ago. And I was starting to fear the worst." Hours ago for a food run and you're just now getting paranoid? Black Canary is a way bigger micro-manager than this. She would have known where Katana was going to get food and known exactly how long it would take to get there and back, plus or minus some time to deal with the actual purchasing and waiting for the food. Just casually losing track of time and Katana? Not Dinah's style.

The last thing that irritates me is the usual thing about the Narration Boxes. Who the fuck is Dinah telling this too? Is she on the phone with her mom? Maybe Dinah has a diary just like Batgirl! How come I only suggest the female heroes have diaries? Damn, I'm a sexist jerk.

Back to the comic, Katana has been attacked by a gang of ninjas with red crosses (or daggers! Remember the cover?!) on their foreheads. They obviously don't want her picking up her Little Caeser's Pizza! Pizza! and free Crazy Bread. Katana leaves a trail of dead ninjas behind her until she's cut up a bit and falls off of a roof. She has the wind knocked out of her and loses consciousness. While she's out, the Ninjas steal Black Razor (her sword! That's not the real name! But it's how I'll refer to it until the end of time!) but allow her to live so that she'll suffer. At least they have that much right! You can't suffer if you don't exist. When she wakes up, she drags her ass back to her friends, pizzaless.

Oh Starling! You nutty bitch with your bon mots and projectile vomiting!

Apparently recuperating is best done in their super duds. I was picturing them in sweat pants and t-shirts sitting around watching romantic action comedies. Black Canary explains through her narration that Batman did give them the antidote. Hopefully it didn't involve him peeing in the faces of crying children. They're also concerned about Katana's missing blade. And nobody has mentioned Poison Ivy yet.

Notice also that no mention has been made about Katana fully-costumed, across-the-roofs food run. She had not other agenda or mission. It was just dumb. See? Previous evidence has shown that Duane Swierczynski doesn't give a fuck if his stories make any sense. Until he does give a fuck, I will continue to assume his writing is shit.

Katana would like the Birds of Prey to help her retrieve her Katana.

Another cycle? So their menses helps clear the poison?

If they won't help her, Katana will go on her own. But she may already have help in Japan! A man named Condor (too bad he's a man or he could join the Birds!) is busy ambushing the Dagger Clan as they arrive with Black Razor. As he retrieves the sword, he spouts off, sounding as dumb as Starling usually sounds.

This is not good dialogue! Protagonist makes an assumption that the antagonist wants to die for some reason. Then the protagonist kills the antagonist. Then the protagonist acts as if the assumption he made earlier really was a desire of the antagonist. This is not writing. This is just bullshitting words to fill space during the action scene.

Later, Katana arrives in Yokohama alone to retrieve her sword. The last scene ended with her pushing Starling away so that the reader would think the Birds would abandon her on her mission simply because they weren't quite up to strength. So the scene in Japan begins with Tatsu on her own meeting representatives of the Dagger Clan and proclaiming that she's no longer with her new clan (the Birds!). The Dagger Clan guys throw a bag over her head and sedate and shock her.

Obviously her friends wouldn't have abandoned her. Duane at least knows that much about the characters he's writing. So they were probably on a roof somewhere watching the exchange, knowing that Tatsu would be kidnapped. They've probably followed everyone back to some warehouse or temple and are now waiting for the right moment to rescue Tatsu and kick some ninja ass. That's just the way comic books work!

Why do comic book writers employ this fucking cliche so often? "Oh look! The team members are fighting! And now one member went off on their own and got caught! What's going to happen next?!" Super villains are even dumber since they always seem to think the heroes have really broken up.

Oh look! The warehouse I mentioned! And guess what happens next?

Surprise! Wait. Why is Starling standing in a hole? That's the kind of shit I used to draw in elementary school when I fucked up perspective and positioning.

Batgirl looks like she crashed through a skylight since that's her modus operandi. Black Canary screamed her way through the wall. That's her typical entrance. So I guess Starling is trying to establish her method of surprise entry: rocket launcher up through the floor!

The Birds rescue Katana but have to retreat since there are 100 times as many Ninjas as their are Birds. During the fight, Black Canary feels a "buzzing in her blood," "something that should be impossible to feel." Is Kurt here? Is Kurt the Condor? Is that what she's feeling? Some kind of connection?

After kidnapping the Dagger Ninja, Starling sets to work torturing him to find out where the blade is. Forget the language difference, Starling seems to know enough bad Japanese to learn whatever she needs to learn, otherwise the comic couldn't continue. Or Katana could just have been in the room during the torture? Katana tells the Birds that the Dagger Clan do not tell secrets. They would rather die than speak.

So when this member of the Clan (possibly the leader?) speaks, nobody thinks twice. They just assume that Starling is that good at what she does. But the tortured guy sits there grinning because he's just sent one enemy to recover the sword from another enemy. And while they all fight over Black Razor, a poison bomb is set to go off under Yokohama in a matter of hours.

Birds of Prey #13 Rating: No change. This is a mediocre story poorly told. If it were the same story but written well, I'd probably really enjoy it. But I just can't immerse myself in a comic book when the fucking protagonist narrates the thing like a DVD Commentary and Starling (and Condor!) go around speaking just for the sake of having a speech bubble in her mouth. Maybe Starling and Roy Harper should get their own comic book. It would have the dumbest dialogue of any comic book ever (including all those weird fifties stories where the Narrator would say, "Lois Lane drove off a cliff!" while the art showed Lois Lane driving off of a cliff and Lois was thinking to herself, "I'm driving off of a cliff!").

And I guess Poison Ivy really is dead* since she wasn't mentioned at all! Ha ha!

*Of course I don't believe this. Sheesh.

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