This book is not for me. I’ll do my best to remain objective, but I can’t guarantee that my feelings about its general premise won’t spill out at least a little. Feel free to take what follows with a grain of salt.
A long way from Gotham
Black Canary #8 picks up at some point soon (ish?) after the events of last issue. The band has a chat with some detectives, Dinah gets by with a little help from her friends (not those friends, different friends), and everyone passes like ships in the night. In Berlin. Like ships in Berlin. At night.
Looks like we’re going back on tour
Any hope that the “band aspect” of this book would recede into the shadows can be put in a box and thrown in the ocean. While this issue is pleasantly devoid of any actual musical performances, the band itself is still very much a part of it, complete with Maeve drama. The plot sets up a future gig overseas, and there is every indication that we’ll be “enjoying” said gig at some point during #9.
As I’m reading and rereading, I’m trying really hard to give the band a fair shake. Unfortunately, the dialogue makes it difficult to invest in any of its members. So much of what the characters say aims to bring us up to speed, but Fletcher presents it in such a heavy-handed way that it feels unnatural. Lord Byron, in particular, seems to be little more than a tool for exposition. On several occasions, she shares information with people that already know those details, and while Fletcher attempts to craft phrases that seem appropriate for the occasion, I can see through it. Worst of all, all of this information dumping does little to make this book easier for a newcomer. I would much rather have Fletcher drop us in and let us catch up along the way, either through more organic callbacks or by directing us to earlier issues for clarification.
That’s when we’ll strike
One of Josh’s complaints about the last issue was that Fletcher’s attention to the band can come at the expense of Dinah as a character. This time around, the band is separated, with Canary in Germany and the rest of the crew trying to track her down. What represents a golden opportunity for Fletcher to add some depth to his title character ends up squandered by limited dialogue and predictable conflict resolution. Held captive by the mysterious Greyeyes, Dinah find herself unable to speak (or, more importantly, scream), an inhibitor collar fastened around her neck. She eventually gets free of it, but quips and battlefield posturing crowd most of the subsequent dialogue, making for pretty shallow reading.
Sandy Jarrell fills in for Annie Wu on this issue, and while his pencils serve as a perfect tonal match for Fletcher’s storytelling, his fight sequences leave quite a bit to be desired. Most of the time, the poses are awkward and feel more staged than candid. Dinah’s piercing scream may be the one bright spot in these scuffle scenes, but most of the credit for that goes to Lee Loughridge, whose vibrant colors especially distinguish these panels from the rest of the page.
The whole “in captivity” portion of the story is undermined by Greyeyes’ ninja crew: a group of horn-headed, dead-eyed drones with tongues drooping from the mouths of their masks. How could Dinah not beat the mess out of these clowns?
Was Greyeyes wearing my totem necklace?
Dinah is joined in captivity by Mari McCabe, also known as Vixen, who tells Canary that her “totem allows [her] to call upon the power of any animal on the planet”–presumably not because Dinah is unaware of this, but rather because we, the reader, might be unfamiliar with Vixen and her abilities. While I have heard of Vixen prior to reading this issue, I was indeed not privy to the particulars of her powers; yet I once again have to complain about Fletcher’s clogging up dialogue with exposition. It flattens Mari as a character, and it’s completely unnecessary, as her power becomes plain only a few pages later when the two women bring the fight to Greyeyes and her motley band of droopy-tongued drone ninjas.
In the abstract, Greyeyes seems like a good blueprint for a villain, capturing skilled fighters and attempting to unlock and steal their skills. Sadly, Fletcher has us picking up right near the end of Dinah’s captivity, making her captor seem more lame than formidable, particularly because she is introduced, outsmarted, and subdued within half of the issue’s pages. Also, she has a weird “enabling sound”–think of it as an aural totem necklace, if you will–that she utters before unleashing her own power:
KW-UHNX-WA means ZZAKK in Greyeyes. Translation by Brian Warshaw.
Aside from being embarrassingly goofy and removing any residual intimidation left behind by the floppy tongue ninjas, these magic words send my mind straight to Justice League United #0 and the introduction of Equinox, one of my favorite characters from that series:
Equinox is way cooler
Dinah’s captivity ultimately comes off as one big missed opportunity. Fletcher has the chance to show her depth in a dire situation, but instead feeds us one-liners and an underwhelming escape from a silly villain who never seems like much of a match for Black Canary in the first place.
- You have enjoyed keeping up with Black Canary.
- You don’t mind stories with everything on the surface.
- You aren’t bothered by overly-telly dialogue.
- You feel like it isn’t fair to DC that you get 22 pages for $2.99, so you’d like to make it up to them by settling for 19 or 20 (I’m on the fence about counting the first page of this as content–it’s more like a “while you were away” page).
I make no attempt at hiding my biases, and I’d be lying if I said I had high hopes for this book before reading it. Even so, I genuinely gave this my best shot. While I can appreciate some of Jarrell’s work, and Loughridge’s colors are quite good throughout, Fletcher’s script gets so bogged down by expository dialogue and puffed-chest posturing that the art is asked to carry a weight that it cannot bear. Weak villains and wasted opportunities for character development overshadow the few bright spots in the script, making Black Canary #8 a difficult book to recommend.