Comics // Review // Black Canary #3

Concise //

Opening with an outstanding, mostly wordless, set piece this issue also finds time to drop in weighty revelations and hard-earned character development. This is easily the strongest issue yet of an already great book where the art, writing, characters, and setting all begin to click in exactly the right way – if you aren’t reading this yet then now is the perfect time to get involved.

Black Canary #3 Cover - Annie Wu

Spoilerful //

Dinah left Burnside having settled her differences with once-again friend Babs Gordon, but resolving little else – her crime fighting career, her husband, her direction in life all remained in a blurred and somewhat undisclosed state, in fact the only concrete information we did receive was that Dinah’s new band was about to go on tour. This band-on-tour format has continued to yield some exciting moments for the book, not to mention some insight into Dinah herself, but that broader knowledge of Dinah’s life remains somewhat elusive. Her new supporting cast are slowly being teased out a little more, and the central conflict regarding guitar-playing savant Ditto is gradually gaining focus (and bringing some of Dinah’s past along with it). This issue does a lot of great work to advance the various threads of this narrative, but what’s more amazing is that it does so even with half the issue dedicated to a frankly incredible action scene.

The very first page of this issue asks a bold question: is Dinah a superhero or the lead singer in a band? Of course there is nothing to say she shouldn’t be both, but there has always been a hint within this book that Dinah herself would rather chose one of those paths than live both, and the plot has so far positioned a superhero career in direct opposition of a musical one. Black Canary have been kicked out of venues, cancelled from some gigs and have nearly missed others (“if we’re not on stage by then we’re off the bill“) all because of battles with nefarious evil doers. Evil doers who have yet to be given a purpose or a name (or even a form half the time!) And yet at every turn Dinah has been committed to getting to the stage in time, as much for her own sanity as for the group’s success.

Writer Brendan Fletcher and artist Annie Wu work in concert perfectly through the opening pages of this issue, developing a wonderful panel structure and rhythm to the simultaneous presentation of a late afternoon fight and an evening gig. In fact the layouts throughout this issue are absolutely superb providing a perfect blend of grand action and intimate detail that tell the story without the need for extensive dialogue. The chase/gig/fight sequence is sublime, offering an insight into the emotional release that Dinah feels in both worlds, as well as providing a chance for other characters to shine, a genuine sense of danger, a fuller introduction for ex-husband Kurt Lance, and more detail on the core plot of the book, all at a tremendous tempo (as dictated by the musical directions!) This is a fusion of masterful comic writing and art that builds tension, provides laughs, and tells a story on every page.

The entire book has so far kept the supporting characters at arm’s-length, offering little in the way of background or extensive character development, but things have slowly been changing and this issue is the best evidence yet that these characters are becoming a team. That emotional distance has always gone two ways; it is a reflection of Dinah’s limited communication and her unwillingness to let people in to her world. But with Dinah having recently trained her band mates to protect themselves and opened up more about her own personal history, it is rewarding to see this paid off in the team work on display here. Dinah can now rely on her bands mates to look out for each other in a fight, and even lend a hand in her direction when it comes to inhuman monsters. That support also stretches to watching out for each other emotionally too, just look at the collective band glare when Kurt makes his appearance!

Black Canary is a book about Dinah Lance finding herself again, but it’s increasingly a book about her surrogate family too. There was always going to be a danger in taking Dinah out of a familiar environment with familiar friends, but it seems like we are now getting to a point where Black Canary (the band) are just as important in Dinah’s life as anything that came before them (a position that may yet be tested if Kurt isn’t the nice guy he seems to be). Even before this point the writing and art have done a wonderful job of making this a compelling book all the way along, but reaching a stage where we know these characters and how they care for one another brings with it a level of creative confidence. It’s a confidence that’s on display every page of this issue and it is well justified; this book is a brilliant success.

Black Canary #3 Panel - Annie Wu

Black Canary #3 // Writer – Brendan Fletcher / Art – Annie Wu / Colours – Lee Loughridge // DC

Notes //

– The simple yet meaningfully laid out/coloured flashback to Kurt watching footage of his life with Dinah before coma related amnesia smacked to me of an intelligence operative getting to know his enemy rather than a loved one rediscovering their past. It’s an expertly deployed moment that works well to cast as much doubt about Kurt’s motives as it does offer answers about them.

–  Someone at A&B Records has released evidence of Dinah’s secret past to the good journalists at Burnside Tofu – this may be some innocent PR work, but my money is definitely still on A&B being a front for something more sinister.

–  Fearing for his life Heathcliff begins a confession to old-flame Pomeline; seems like he still has feelings for his former classmate!

–  It looks like Lord Byron plants a kiss on one fan after the gig – they will definitely be happy based on their t-shirt quote, “I want Lord Byron’s mouth on my mouth“!

– The unfortunate race-lifting of Heathcliff (the character was clearly a POC in Gotham Academy, but appeared Caucasian in early Black Canary issues) has happily been corrected in this issue. The change was described at the time as simply a stylistic one, but it feels to me more like a miscommunication with colourist Lee Loughridge (whose colours elsewhere in this book have been excellent); I’ll be interested to see if the first two issues are re-coloured when released in trade paperback.

Gotham Academy #4 / Black Canary # 1 / Black Canary #3
Heathcliff Ray: Gotham Academy #4 / Black Canary # 1 / Black Canary #3

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