Review: BLACK CANARY #1

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BLACK CANARY #1
Written by Brenden Fletcher
Art by Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: June 17, 2015

Dinah Lance has lived the kind of rough life where danger follows her around everywhere she goes. Even as she sets off into a new life on tour with her band, Black Canary, she can’t help but be found by the worst of what humanity has to offer. So what happens when something inhuman comes knocking?

It’s fair to say if you haven’t been paying attention so far, that Black Canary #1 is a significant departure from the character’s role at DC Comics for the past 4 years, if not ever. One of the company’s longest-lasting female heroes, Dinah Drake Lance has had her ups and downs, been a leading lady, a replacement Leaguer, a sidekick girlfriend, a recovering partner, and yes — the #1 kickass martial artist in the entire universe. Of these, you can expect to see only one going forward. Can you guess which one?

What Fletcher and Wu are attempting here is very ambitious, but in a sense it couldn’t be more perfect for Black Canary. There’s something about the character that’s always screamed punk, demanded the limelight, but been denied for one reason or another. No more.

Fletcher has repositioned Dinah as “D.D.”, lead singer of the newly christened band Black Canary, a group of women who seem ready to hold their own like any Bird of Prey has in the past. This first issue gives us quite a bit of the personalities at play here, with Lord Byron being the even-handed, rational leader to play off of Dinah’s hot-headed personality (and somewhat guilty conscience). For all the trappings surrounding the Black Canary that feel new and different, her characterization is right on and completely captures the essence of the character from the past twenty years, and better, in fact, that the last few to be sure.

The real jump here is the visuals, as Annie Wu has not only transformed the character of Black Canary into a Bowie-inspired 2015 version of Siouxsie Sioux, but taken the traditional super-hero comic and turned it on its head. The book as a whole feels like a pastiche of newspaper clippings, indie rock posters, and film stills from a 1970s underground concert, with the concert scenes as choreographed and styled as any martial arts film could be.

Dinah in particular is given a much more somber appearance at times than we’re used to seeing her, but it fits the tone of the book, as she is searching deeply for a retreat from the wild of her life, all the while working her way back to reclaiming it. It’s a beautiful balance of her not knowing what she wants, and not coming off as less than intelligent or played out emotionally at all. If anything, Wu gives us a woman with complex emotions who is in full control of herself, if not her surroundings. And best of all, there’s no sense that the male gaze drives any sort of action here, with women dominating the entire narrative save Heathcliff, runaway Gotham Academy student and new road manager for the band.

It would be impossible to reflect accurately on the book without wrapping yourself in the color palette Lee Loughridge provides. With its neon influence and beautiful contrasting color styles that keep the narrative flowing across the page visually all on their own, Loughridge has upped the ante for mainstream books in a way we rarely see. Experimental and yet absolutely perfectly administered, the colors make Black Canary the visual delight that it is.

A brilliant new start for a heroine whose spent a good part of her career in the shadows, Black Canary #1 gives us our venue to cheer loudly, flick our lighters, and hope we don’t get kicked in the face by the end of the issue. A book that stands out among everything that DC or Marvel are publishing today, Black Canary is a wonderful addition to the ever-growing diverse look of super-hero comics, and an inaugural piece in what could easily become a genre all its own: the punk rock music book with its side of kickass action.

The Verdict: 10/10

 

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