Review by Karl Verhoven
“I need a real workout. Give me one authentic super villain to thump on, and I promise not to ask for anything else until Christmas”. It’s a statement Tim Drake rapidly comes to regret on returning to Bludhaven to run into new super villains who have him in their sights, predictably enough all in the pay of the Penguin.
Bill Willingham begins To Kill a Bird by recapping recent events in Tim Drake’s life, several tragic, before setting a cracking pace over the first half of this collection. The chase and fight scenes are only briefly interrupted by conversations. There are decisions to be taken about Tim’s future with his father dead and his stepmother unable to fulfil any caring duties, so who’s going to look after him? It would seem Bruce Wayne’s the obvious choice, but just as he does with the superhero action, Willingham keeps throwing in complications.
Superhero comics thrive on repetition, so when originally serialised in 2005 a thrilling aspect of these stories was Willingham constructing one fascinating supervillain after another. The opening archer isn’t the height of novelty, but is differentiated from other bow and arrow characters, while the other people introduced all have something about them that’s not only marks them as different from other villains you’ve seen, but something of the dark. That doesn’t apply to Tim’s new guardian, but there’s an interesting story behind his uncle as well. It’s all very clever, and still stands up all these years later.
The primary artist is Damion Scott, a fantastic find at the time with an innate sense for design, every page of his looking as if it’s been sprayed on a wall somewhere, vivid and memorable montages with detail and imagination. Sadly Scott only draws three of the six episodes, and it’s interesting to see Scott McDaniel attempting to imitate his layouts on the final chapter. Pop Mhan and Giuseppe Camuncoli fill out the artistic roster, each working in their own style, and both very good, but it’s Scott whose pages are definitive.
A weird ending leads directly into Days of Fire and Madness, and the creators have done more than enough to ensure we want to follow them there.