This could have been the issue of Black Canary I’ve been waiting for—but it’s not. While I hate to spoil the end of a thousand-word review, I feel it my duty to spare you the suspense: don’t buy this book, even if you’ve enjoyed it up to this point.
And you didn’t miss a note of the song
Picking up soon after the events of Black Canary #8, Black Canary #10 finds Dinah back in Gotham, enlisting the help of the Batgirl of Burnside in her quest to find out the truth about her mother. There is some knocking of heads, the prerequisite “Black Canary: The Band” fangirling (and fanvillaining), and an appearance by Greyeyes and her band of tongue-wagging death ninjas (who are surprisingly easy to defeat for death ninjas). Of particular interest is the complete absence of the rest of the band.
Getting the band back…apart
I don’t like the band. Let me just get that out of the way. I don’t dislike the concept of Black Canary in a band, but Fletcher’s treatment of the concept irritates me far more than it entertains. So for me, having an issue without the band is very much welcome, and very much long overdue. While the conclusion of today’s tale all but guarantees that the band will be back for #11, I’m going to savor their absence for as long as I can (which is about two weeks, last I checked).
Astonishingly, though, this issue has more going for it than its lack of the band. Amidst many of the series’ characteristic flaws, there’s actually a pretty entertaining detective story happening here, and Batgirl–who I assumed would be a liability–proves to be a helpful addition. After dealing with all sorts of convoluted situations earlier in the series (and in other parts of this issue), it’s nice to go small and experience the simplicity of Dinah and Babs just tracking down clues, whether in a music studio or in Babs’ own memories. So before I go on–before I talk about the numerous problems still plaguing this book–I’ve got to give kudos to Fletcher for making me enjoy some of this, which is a lot more than I can say for any prior issue I’ve read from this title.
Tell and show
I’ve complained before that Fletcher has a tendency to tell the reader pretty much everything in dialogue. And this time, there’s still quite a bit of awkward exposition happening in the speech balloons. It’s bad enough when we’re being told backstory instead of seeing it; it’s even worse when we’re being told backstory that we’ve already read in prior issues; but it is almost unbearable when a character spews out a positively inhuman sentence with the sole purpose of drawing conclusions for us that we should be able to draw on our own.
And speaking of not being able to draw on one’s own, the artwork is, sadly, a bit of a mess. Pencils are shared by Moritat and Sandy Jarrell, and neither turns in especially good work. I’m not a huge fan of Moritat’s aesthetic, but I feel like his problems in this issue go beyond stylistic choices. His best page is the last one before Jarrell takes over, but it almost looks like it’s drawn by a completely different artist (and it’s clearly not Jarrell, whose Dinah is rather distinct).
Unfortunately, Jarrell fails to raise the bar. The same awkward poses that plagued Black Canary #8 are back, and there are panels in the page above where it looks like Jarrell wasn’t even trying–they’re far closer to rough sketches than finished work.
Even Lee Loughridge, whose colors I’ve praised as the one shining thing in this whole series, turns in his shoddiest work to date, including not one, but two panels in which he completely miscolors Dinah and Babs, at moments where their facial expressions are vastly different and inappropriate for expressing the other character’s present emotional state. I’m not sure who or what to blame here: Loughridge for failing to pay enough attention to the scene, editorial for letting such glaring mistakes go through, or the crunched timeframe the team is working with as they attempt to get back on track after serious delays. Regardless, it’s a big disappointment. Folks who don’t like the tone or content of this book can happily avoid it. But fans of the series who picked this up spent three bucks on something with glaring errors that never should have made it past Loughridge himself, let alone editorial.
And as if all of that weren’t enough, the artwork in the digital version of the book is noticeably low-resolution (your pixels are showing!). Even with Guided View disengaged, there are obvious, pixelated lines in several spots throughout the issue. I haven’t seen the paper copy to compare, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a problem there, as well.
Piling it on…
I’ve got a bunch more notes, but it just isn’t worth going through them all. Suffice it to say that, while adding some things that proved helpful–even entertaining–this installment carries on the legacy of heavy-handed scripting and maddening plot holes that have marked the series, and doubles down on the frustration by including a shockingly lazy showing in the art department.
- You want to pay three bucks for a few decent pages of story and a book full of unfinished, unchecked artwork.
- You feel like an issue of Black Canary without the band is an automatic win.
- You want the whole set?
I might have given this issue as high as a 5 based on the absence of the band and the effectiveness of the Babs and Dinah detective work. But unforgivable oversights in the artwork and Fletcher’s usual exposition-heavy dialogue hold this one way back. Stay away. Even if you’ve been reading the series, consider this as good a point as any to drop it.