Black Canary #1 is a title that I have been looking forward to ever since I saw the previews for it. I have always been a huge fan of Black Canary. Have I enjoyed how DC has proceeded to ruin what made Black Canary such a great character with their New 52 interpretation of her character? No. Not in the least bit. However, I am willing to give this title a try in hopes that the DCYOU direction gives us a much more interesting version of Dinah than what we have gotten during the New 52. Let’s hit this review and see what Black Canary #1 has in store for us!
Words: Brenden Fletcher
Pencils: Annie Wu
Colors: Lee Loughride
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the band Black Canary touring around the country. They are a new indie band trying to get a record deal. The only problem is that wherever they go trouble follows. And trouble follows because their lead singer, Dinah (known as D.D. in this issue), gets into fights during every single show. Music newspapers talk about how the violent fights involving Black Canary’s lead singer could lead this talented band to ruin before they are able to land a record deal.
We cut to a small concert venue where the venue owner tells Heathcliff, the guy in charge of merchandise and money for the band, that Dinah caused lots of damage to the venue with the fight that happened during the concert. Therefore, the venue owner does not want to pay Heathcliff anything. In fact, the venue owner wants Black Canary to reimburse for the damage to his venue. Heathcliff counters that Dinah was protecting three women who were being threatened by some thugs during the concert. Heathcliff says that Dinah saved the venue owner from a lawsuit for big damages. The venue owner then readily pays Heathcliff the band’s money.
We shift to the band on the tour bus. We meet the other band members. Paloma plays keyboard. Lord Byron (an androgynous black guy, or at least I think he is a guy.) plays the drums. Ditto (a young white girl who appears to be a pre-teen.) is an absolute prodigy on the guitar. And Ditto also does not talk. At all. Byron is upset with Dinah for all of the fighting at the concerts. That the violence associated with their band is killing their reputation and may cost them a chance at earning a record deal. Byron says that Dinah has to come clean about her past or the band needs to call it quits now before they get killed.
Byron asks what “D.D.” stands for. Byron says that it is obvious that Dinah has had combat and martial arts training in her past. Is she ex-military? Was she once married? (Wait, this is a hell of a lot of a past for someone who appears to be all of 24 years old. Max.) Dinah replies that she has lived hard. Some things she had to do to survive where not nice. That her past has put her in a tough spot and she has made a lot of enemies. Dinah explains that her Sensei used to tell her that she did not need to handle all of her problems by fighting. Her Sensei was a great man and was her family. He took her in when she had nobody.
Dinah then says that Byron needs to teach her how to move better on stage. How to be a better front woman for the band. Byron agrees to do so.
We slide over to the Black Canary tour bus pulling into another music venue. Outside of the venue, two men and a woman in black suits watch the tour bus. They say that they must move on the target tonight during the concert.
We shop to Dinah doing a mic check on the stage. Byron asks Dinah if she is ready to have a great concert free of any fighting. Dinah promises to do so.
We cut to Dinah ready to go on stage. She passes by Heathcliff who is backstage and getting some more t-shirts for the merchandise stand. Heathcliff asks Dinah if she is cool with him. That he is new with the band and he wants to make sure everything is ok. Dinah says that there is nothing to worry about. Dinah says that she signed a contract, she is going to finish the dates, make her money and rebuild her life, her dojo and her team. Dinah says she is good at being a singer for the band. Healthcliff asks if Dinah actually likes doing it, though. Dinah does not reply.
We shift to Black Canary putting on an awesome show. Dinah then sees the two men and one woman in black suits. As the concert light passes by them it is revealed that they are shadowy demon-like creatures. Dinah tells for the crowd to evacuate the venue. Dinah then begins battling the three creatures. Dinah then uses her sonic scream to shatter the roof and crush the three creatures.
Dinah asks what the creatures want. That she was only with the JLA for one mission. That aliens are the JLA’s problem. One of the creatures says that “He” will come for “her” and points to Ditto. That “He” knows. And when “He” does come the entire band will die.
We cut to Dinah talking to the rest of the band members. Dinah says that Ditto is in danger and can’t or won’t tell them why. Dinah tells the others that this is their chance to save their lives. To quit and let Dinah take care of protecting Ditto on her own. Byron says that Dinah will be penniless without a record contract. Byron says that the band is staying together. They will earn their contract and make their money and hopefully Ditto will open up along the way. That Dinah will be able to spot the creatures and when she does they will immediately bolt. Dinah agrees but says that the band members will have to be trained to know martial arts and use of weapons and that training begins tomorrow.
We see the tour bus rolling down the road with a couple of creatures on the roof of the bus. End of issue.
The Good: Black Canary #1 is the super hero version of Josie and the Pussycats. This is a rock and roll adventure that is not retro but certainly carries with it the heart of what made rock so special in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I adore the funky vibe that Fletcher brings to this title. It is a unique and cool vibe that helps Black Canary #1 stand out from the mass of super hero titles currently being published.
Black Canary #1 was a brilliant debut issue. Fletcher puts on a clinic as far as what a writer needs to accomplish in order to effectively get a brand new title over with readers. Seriously, I was not familiar at all with Fletcher prior to this issue, but I must admit that I am impressed. Fletcher effectively carries out all of the necessary requirements of a debut issue of a new title. And then some.
Fletcher is able to introduce the main character in Dinah and also introduce the entire supporting cast of characters. And when there is a rather large core of supporting characters that is not easy to do. However, the reader is introduced to Ditto, Byron, Heathcliff and Paloma and gets a good sense for the general roles of each character. Fletcher also delivers a clear mission statement for this title. Black Canary is going to be a traveling hero story where the journey allow for the hero to experience plenty of character growth along the way until the eventual conclusion of the journey as our hero finally has an epic showdown with the main villain.
Fletcher gives the reader a clear taste of what type of story they can expect on this title. That Black Canary will be an offbeat adventure story with a cool rock n roll vibe to it. Fletcher also quickly unveils the debut story arc with the demonic creatures who are after Ditto. Fletcher ends with a hook ending with the mystery surrounding the main villain who is orchestrating the actions of the demonic creatures. Whew! What did I tell you? Fletcher absolutely performed every single task of an effective debut issue and did so in fine fashion.
Black Canary #1 is strongly plotted and paced. Fletcher kicks off this new title with a clear direction in mind. The debut story arc unfolds in an organic fashion. None of the plot points felt forced or awkward. The story definitely covers plenty of ground. Black Canary #1 is a delightfully condensed read. There is plenty of plot progression and meat to this story. And that is something that you do not get often these days of rampant decompression. Even though a ton of ground is covered in Black Canary #1, the story is not choppy at all. The scenes transition pleasantly into each other and the story is never too fast or too slow.
The vast majority of the character work in Black Canary #1 is reserved for Dinah and to a much lesser extent Byron and Heathcliff. Paloma and Ditto are left largely undeveloped. However, given the large number of characters that Fletcher is juggling on this title it is understandable that we will have to wait several issues for all of the characters to get the proper amount of character work needed to more fully flesh them out.
I love how Fletcher writes Dinah’s character. I dig that Dinah can be no-nonsense when it is time for action but can shift back into a more compassionate personality once the fighting has finished. I also thought it was important for Fletcher to show how Dinah is not supremely confident in everything that she does. Dinah’s trepidation about being Black Canary’s front woman and her desire to learn and fix her weaknesses was a nice touch. This made Dinah seem human. It made Dinah a more well-rounded character full of strengths and weaknesses.
I also like that despite her rough upbringing that Dinah is a more positive and compassionate character than many current heroes. The last thing we need is another Batman styled DC super hero. We certainly do not need anymore bitter and cynical or dark and gritty super heroes. I love that Fletcher seems committed to giving us a more positive and compassionate hero in Dinah. Another wonderful change of pace from what DC has been offering us the past several years.
Fletcher’s dialogue is well constructed. Dinah has a well-developed personality and external voice. Byron and Heathcliff also have nicely developed external voices. The dialogue had a good flow. Fletcher was also able to create a nice casual conversational tone between the band members that never seemed forced or stiff. Fletcher also has a nice send of humor that keeps the issue from becoming too serious.
Black Canary #1 was also a balanced read. Fletcher dials up a perfect mix of action and dialogue heavy scenes in this issue. There is honestly something in Black Canary #1 for a wide range of readers.
Annie Wu is flat-out fantastic. Her artwork is the perfect match for the tone and style of Fletcher’s story. I absolutely fell in love with Wu’s artwork in the preview pages that I saw for this issue. Wu draws a perfect Black Canary. Dinah is properly sexy without being over the top. Wu is able to capture the emotions of all the characters with her wonderful facial expressions. It is a real luxury for Fletcher to be blessed with an artist like Wu. Wu is able to convey emotions and generate chemistry between the characters with her artwork alone. This helps relieve the heavy burden on Fletcher of having to generate all the of chemistry and emotions just off of his script.
Oh yeah, and can Wu draw action scenes? Hell yeah, she can! Whether it is dialogue heavy dramatic scenes or bad-ass kung fu fighting Wu can do it all.
The Bad: My only complaint with this issue has nothing to do with the creative team of Fletcher and Wu. My only complaint goes to how DC’s editorial decision that no people over 30 are allowed to exist in the New 52. This editorial mandate is short-sighted and hamstrings writers like Fletcher. It was absolutely impossible for the reader to buy into how hard of a life Dinah has had and how much she has seen and gone through. Dinah appears to be all of 24 years old. Max. Giving a character a road weary outlook only works when that character is over the age of 35. Sorry, a character in their early 20’s has little life experience and it just is not believable for them to be so road weary. Or is it a realistic enough amount of time for them to have done so much. Been married and divorced, served in the military and trained with a sensei? That is a life time of experiences! This is a similar problem with the road weary way that Green Arrow was written in the DCYOU Sneak Peek for that title. If DC allowed writers to write heroes over the age of 30 then Fletcher could play up this aspect of Dinah’s personality.
Overall: Buy this issue! Run out to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of Black Canary #1! Unique and off-beat titles like Black Canary deserve strong fan support. It is so refreshing to get a title that presents the super hero genre in a different fashion than the 1990’s Image style that DC’s New 52 titles have consistently been giving readers over the past several years. Black Canary #1 is a fun issue. And fun is good. Support fun. We need more of it.