Please pardon my lateness. I’ve held off on reviewing the last several issues of Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey because I was keen to judge the story as a whole, not just as individual parts. It seemed like the fairest way, because early on there seemed to be so many problems with it and the story seemed weak, and I didn’t want to judge it too harshly for that. But now it’s done, I can give you my honest opinion of the whole thing: It stinks.
Before I tell you why, I’ll hand out some deserved credit to artist Roge Antonio, whose work on this book has improved. It isn’t perfect by any means, and some of the same flaws still persist, such as weak visual pacing and an inability or unwillingness to add more detail to the background – including the faces of some characters, who still look as blank-faced as The Question. However, it has improved and greatly so, to the point where it’s easily the best thing the Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey series has going for it.
The final instalment of what can only be described as the Man-’Flu storyline picks up with Batgirl, Harley Quinn and Batwoman captured by Patient Zero. Patient Zero explains her motivation for creating the virus which is infecting all of Gotham’s men, and… well, it’s because she hates men. It seems that there’s also a second phase to her plan to rid Gotham of its male population, which is… well, to kill them. It’s Patient Zero’s birthday present to herself.
Thankfully, the detective skills of DC’s best and brightest women come to the fore as they find a way to track a vehicle’s GPS system in order to find the villain’s hideout. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy and Dr Thompkins work tirelessly to create an antidote to the virus.
The heroines infiltrate Zero’s organization, but head henchwoman Muir escapes with the second phase virus. Batgirl and Batwoman use this as the perfect opportunity to escape and follow Patient Zero to Seaside Coliseum where she plans to unleash the virus on the 200 000 sick men of Gotham who have gathered there. But can Batgirl and her team prevent the disaster about to be caused by Patient Zero, as well as Amanda Walller who plans on wiping out everybody with an airstrike?
Now for the part I hate having to say all the time, but which keeps needing to be stated. The writing on this title is dreadful as always and, as a storyline, Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #17 was just as weak as previous issues. As a title, it’s gone from having plot holes to plot chasms – gaping bottomless pits which swallow up all logic and banish it into the void forever. As usual, Julie and Shawna Benson have managed to take a flawed (albeit intriguing) idea and turned it into a farce, one which features some of DC’s best characters but sadly doesn’t know how to use them.
You’d imagine that with the likes of Batgirl, Black Canary, Huntress, Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Amanda Waller and more all in the available roster for a three-issue storyline, that they’d all get a chance to shine. Instead, their combined abilities seem to consist of standing around and talking, sitting down and listening, and staring at things. On the rare occasion where they do get into a fight, they appear to be outmatched by a group of inept, untrained henchwomen.
Seriously, think about this for a second. They have at least two genuine super-powered heavy hitters on their team, as well as a master strategist like Amanda Waller, and they’re worried because they’re up against a small group of incompetent zealots who are armed with little more than knockout gas. Also, we’re supposed to believe that a smart detective like Renee Montoya doesn’t ever consider tracking the vehicle. When she does, she doesn’t actually do it herself but rather just puts in a call so that the cops do it for her. Wow, she really brings a lot to the team.
Simply put, this is a dismal display of their abilities. And the villains fare equally poorly.
The stupidly-named Patient Zero’s grand plan is to kill all men, because men create nothing but death and destruction. All women, according to her mentality, are blameless. Yeah. Try telling that to the victims of characters like Cheshire, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and many others. She also doesn’t consider the massive ramifications her actions will have on society, or how she’s forcing her crazy ideology on a majority of women who actually don’t want it. But, in her own mind and the minds of her ridiculous followers, it still makes perfect sense – as does her ridiculous two-part scheme and how it’s to be executed. Forget common sense, because it has no place in this story or this series as a whole. Plus, Patient Zero falls into Doctor Evil mode by giving a monologue explaining her plan to Batgirl and company.
Why would anybody even follow this crazy old hag?
Well, one of her henchwomen was once mugged. BY A MAN! So, yeah, killing every other man in Gotham – including their own loved ones, family members and kids – that makes perfect sense. Sure. Thankfully, they’re defeated by little more than being told that they’ve all been very naughty. With this sort of character motivation, development and plotting, it makes you wonder if DC cares at all about how this series is being mishandled.
The happy-happy-joy-joy ending is particularly weak, explaining that all people regardless of gender should appreciate each other. Oh, and as a last-minute afterthought at filling in one of the story’s plot chasms, they suddenly devote a panel – just one single panel – to explaining that, yes, the villain’s scheme also affected people with other gender identities beyond those of basic male and female. Gee, it’s good that the writers clearly put so much thought and effort into showing that aspect.
This three-issue storyline of Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey didn’t exactly start out strong anyway but, by the end of it, the whole thing resembles a train wreck of bad writing and poorly developed ideas. If you’re considering buying it, the old expression “avoid like the plague” seems like the right – and most apt – advice.