Dinah Lance, previously known best for wearing fishnets and screaming with supersonic ferocity, stars in her own series where she…wears fishnets and sings with crowd-pleasing ferocity! Hey, she’s a touring rock star, the wardrobe makes sense now. However, her band frequently comes under attack by forces that require a superhero to keep them safe; from secret agents trying to kidnap their young, mute roadie Ditto to a rival band who takes their new success personally to a monster representing the silencing of all sound on Earth. (The monster is kind of a last-minute development, and does not represent the book as well as a scene in which Dinah pummels a carjacker at a gas station and makes him apologize to the woman he was robbing.)
Can I skip to my favorite thing about this book right off the bat? Black Canary fights to protect her band, and often does so using musical equipment and visual references unique to music. She swings a microphone like a mace, holds up cymbals as shields, uses the mic stand like a pole staff, and wields her sonic scream with a snarl. There are panels in which her punches are visualized as fist icons on a fret board, and her movements are mapped like notes across a score. During a “battle of the bands” scene, the bands fight with their instruments, including a flamethrower guitar and guitar string whips. Action and movement are handled as fluid sequences, and are always the highlight of each chapter. Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, and Sandy Jarrell make this book look unlike anything else coming from DC, and Lee Loughridge bathes each setting in its own palette, amplifying the dynamics of every scene. For example, during one showdown between bands, each half of the stage is separately lit in red and blue, making for easy distinction between the bands and their interactions.
This is a book dripping in style, both on the page and in the characters’ wardrobes. Bo Maeve, self-appointed rival to Dinah, gets a chapter to explain her origins as an impeccably trained dancer and singer, over the course of which she is drawn in over a dozen outfits, for album covers, dance recitals, and stage rehearsals. Watching Bo teach Ditto how to dance on hotel beds is a wonderful moment that takes the focus of the book away from “here’s a look at the Big Bad” and toward a unique, fun angle. Watching Dinah’s band find its footing also has dashes of humanity and realism, such as Dinah learning to move to the music and not just stand in place while performing. The band has several reactions to the madness and violence that follows them, and Brenden Fletcher pulls off the cool-kids-road-trip vibe with a mixture of personal moments and behind-the-scenes style interactions between the band and its fans. Story elements involving secret experiments on humans, Dinah’s ex-husband, and a mysterious ninja clad in white almost overcrowd the overall arc, but watching the Black Canary crew bounce between disasters on their way to the next show never gets old.
Fans of Batgirl’s visual reboot will find a natural match in this book, and not just because Black Canary had a couple of cameos there. This comic is full of kick-ass women who love to express themselves, on stage and with their bandmates. Their confidence is not automatic, as they find their strength through moments of bonding and understanding with one another. Readers who wish this comic came with a soundtrack are in luck, as DC has released a three track EP..
Black Canary, vol. 1: Kicking and Screaming
by Brenden Fletcher
Art by Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, Sandy Jarrell
Publisher Age Rating: T (12+)