Monday, August 22, 2011

Birds of Prey #15

Cover by Billy Tucci

Birds of Prey #15 (August 8, 2011)
Writer: Marc Andreyko
Penciller: Billy Tucci, Adriana Melo
Inker: JP Mayer, Eber Ferreira
Colorist: Nei Ruffino
Letterer: Travis Lanham

Why is it so hard to write women?

I was plagued by this question as I read through Birds of Prey #15. What is it about female characters in comic books that seem to throw so many (typically but definitely not always) male writers? Is it because they’re resentful that they’re not writing a Batman comic instead? Is it a complete lack of understanding of how women talk and interact with one another? Is it because women are still an anomaly in the comic book world? Are we still going to think that’s true?

I honestly don’t know what it is. I will be the first to admit that there are some writers who just can’t do dialogue very well, regardless of the characters’ genders. Perhaps that’s Andreyko here. I also was unimpressed by his work in the last Birds of Prey issue, but this time I was actually annoyed by his handling of these characters.

The plot, just as in the previous issue, was wafer thin at best. It was a cliché and a poorly rendered one at that. It had an abrupt ending, a lack of a distinct resolution and no suspense. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I would try to write mysteries but because of my own lack of skills in narrative and pacing, the mysteries were transparent and totally conflict-free.

Also while reading this comic, I kept losing sight of who was who. I am familiar with the current Birds of Prey line-up and I even count several of these characters as some of my all-time favorite comic book heroes. Andreyko, however, completely stripped each woman of her distinct personality and left me with relying completely on Tucci and Melo’s unimpressive artwork to determine just who was doing what. In comic books, it’s a melding of the writing and the art that makes a strong issue and memorable characters. Birds of Prey #15 totally lacked this.

Furthermore, I suspect that Andreyko draws all of his knowledge of female dialogue from terrible female-centered romantic comedies. One of the reasons why I love the Birds of Prey series is that it focuses on a group of dynamic, strong women who rely on and truly respect one another. When Gail Simone (who has done wonders with this series and God bless her for it), tackles Birds of Prey, it’s refreshing and very real sounding. When someone else does, sadly, it almost always pales in comparison. Yet I am normally not as insulted as I was when reading #15.

The dialogue of these strong female superheroes was filled with lame jokes, sexual innuendos, catty remarks and no sense of cohesive teamwork. It was like I was reading a random group of stereotypical women thrown together in a room to fight Nazis and by fight Nazis, I mean kick them in the groin because that’s how women fight, right? Forget the fact that these are specially trained, deadly vigilantes with a myriad of fighting skills between them: women fighting = kicking dudes in the groin.

Once again, I closed a comic book exhausted and disappointed. I know we can do better than this and I know, more than anything that the women who comprise the Birds of Prey and the fans who read them deserve better.

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