Black Canary #1
Written by: Brenden Fletcher
Art By: Annie Wu, Lee Loughridge
Oh what a long way Black Canary has come since her early days in New 52. Used to be a time that when someone complained about no female representation that DC would pull Black Canary and her Birds of Prey out from the pile and show them off like a rare Pokemon card. And by the way that book wasn’t half bad—and by that book I mean that one individual comic book because everything after that went downhill like a bobsled made of lead and grease. But now a new age has come for the Femme Fatale, after getting a revamp in the pages of “Batgirl”, Dinah Lance is out on her own in her quest to be a lead singer in a quirky college band that for some weird reason is the Gorillaz—No it’s true! There’s a small Asian girl prodigy on the guitar, the drummer is a black guy who is way too ominous, and the other member is caustic and rude musician who just wants to make it big while keeping things kind of dark.
We join the band on the road as they bounce around from venue to venue. But the strangest thing has been happening. At every performance, the band’s lead singer always seems to get in a fight that wrecks the joint thus damaging the band’s reputation and cash flow. This continues as a sinister plot unfolds and threatens the group with danger from beyond the mystical pale. Okay, so it’s Gorillaz meet the Scooby gang with a dash of Jem. This isn’t a bad thing, the book is a lot of fun if a tad formulaic. There is a bit of a twist but it’s not major and doesn’t change the direction of the book so it’s more like flavoring than actual story sustenance. But I’m okay with a book keeping it simple on the first issue so it can set up the world we’re about to delve into. Plus it allows me to take in the gorgeous artwork.
When I say gorgeous artwork I might be being unclear. Sure, the artwork isn’t a Rembrandt on every page. But what it is is a perfect balance of stylization and animation. The style is so unique and stands out so well while the solid colors and thick line work lends itself to kickass fight scenes that are neither cluttered nor static. In the panel, Black Canary really looks like she is doing a flying jump kick, knocking out some teeth and some brain cells. And there’s something about the art—it’s brutal, the hits are bone shattering, and yet there’s this cartoon-y adventure to them like I’m watching the G.I. Joes take out Cobra. Nothing is so severe as to reel in the fun. Yes, the story tries to raise the stakes but think of the story as the plate that holds your birthday cake: it has to be there, you definitely need it but it’s not the source of all the joy.
The story is a bit flimsy, I’ll be the first to admit. But Brenden Fletcher really excels at building the world and people this story will weave through in the foreseeable future. Black Canary’s band is a prime example of great characters. On drums is Lord Byron, a huge presence that keeps the band grounded and is kind of the defacto leader. There’s Paloma, the voice of cynicism, the one who doesn’t like the idea of fighting a new bunch of people every night. One interesting member is Ditto, a silent guitar prodigy. Now here’s where it gets interesting because it turns out Ditto is actually hiding a pretty big and dangerous secret and since she’s practically mute it’s not like she can help out that much. This bunch of people manages to work, they balance out the stoic and aggressive nature Black Canary exudes on stage and in fights. This in no way makes them weak or timid, Lord Byron has more command of situations than a Batman Terminator but it fits the narrative to bring Black Canary’s crazy world back to a more normal place.
I’m gonna do something a little bit different this week. Since “Black Canary” is a book about a band and fighting I thought I would give “Invincible” the week off and invite in a guest comparison. So everybody pull out your quarters and press Player One because here comes “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I think the main comparison to make is music and fighting which is a big theme in both books. The way Bryan Lee O’Malley interchanges playing music with fighting is incredibly riveting because after a point they almost become interchangeable. After all, in “Black Canary”, Dinah would often jump from the stage she was singing on in order to lay a wallop on some bad guys. And another thing these books hold in common is that these aren’t fights to save the known universe—quite the opposite, these are very personal fights, fights that have no consequences beyond the lives of these characters. There’s still peril and suspense over whether or not they will succeed but the difference here is that these characters have to be much more identifiable in order for the audience to care about the outcome and I think “Black Canary” pulls this off.