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Behold: a really good issue of Black Canary! If you’ve been reading my reviews, you may think that I love to hate this book, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It gives me nothing but joy to sing its praises now that we have a solid installment.

A master martial artist and a ninja death cult walk into a German nightclub…

When we left Dinah at the end of Black Canary #10, she was headed to Berlin to save the band from the clutches of Izak Orato–a mysterious, dangerous musician with links to Dinah’s past. #11 picks up in Germany, as D.D. prepares to storm a club and save her friends from Orato, who proves to be quite the formidable villain.

A formidable villain is what this book has needed, isn’t it? I’ve been reading since issue #7, and whether it was the Quietus, or the lazy-tongued death ninjas, or Greyeyes, the villains have generally been non-threatening and easily dispatched. Prior to today, I’ve been repeatedly frustrated by an excess of exposition and a lack of gravity, but this time around Fletcher keeps the catch-up to a minimum, instead focusing on the present conflict–a conflict that is scripted quite well, and that has real consequences (seriously, don’t look at the spoiler unless you’ve read this).

Spoiler

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The band is back after taking last issue off, but to my delight, Fletcher refrains from including a performance. In fact, their presence is minimal, and they function more as Dinah’s reason for fighting than anything else. I could probably find a way to enjoy the musical aspects of this book with some tweaking; nevertheless, I’m grateful that “the band” as a central plot point is missing this time.

Turn it down, turn it up

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I have no history with Dinah Lance, so I’m not bringing any expectations or baggage into reading Black Canary. Even so, I’ve been waiting for her to live up to her reputation, and I think she’s finally doing it. I almost wonder whether the above panel is Fletcher consciously giving us what we want–setting the expectation right up front that we’re in for something we haven’t yet had in this book.

The fight with Orato is indeed like nothing we’ve seen from Fletcher and company. It is certainly physical, but it is also psychological. Fletcher handles it well, too, other than a few quirky lines. Orato himself is a little goofy (what do you expect from the leader of the Lick Ninjas?), but he manages to project creepy just as ably, and his ability to get into Dinah’s head poses just as great a threat as his hand-to-hand (to tail?) skills.

All in all, Fletcher’s script is very well done, and for the first time ever, I’m actually looking forward to the next (and alas, final) installment.

Performing arts

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Sandy Jarrell will never be one of my favorite artists, but I’m less bothered by his work this time around, and some of his panels are actually quite good. Like so many of his colleagues, faces are his kryptonite, but he nonetheless manages a few successes on that front–moments when subtle emotions are captured perfectly (like when Ditto breaks Orato’s spell in the club).

Even Jarrell’s fight scenes show improvement over his work on #8. He’s choosing his poses better, and the action feels more fluid than it did before. Inks for most of that fighting are handled by Wayne Faucher, who seems to make Jarrell’s work a bit cleaner and more polished-looking (but just a bit).

Lee Loughridge’s colors again remain a high point for Black Canary. His variety keeps things interesting, and I especially love his work on panels without much (or any) background detail. I was rough on #10 in part because of a pretty big gaffe by Loughridge (and especially his editors), so it’s nice to be singing his praises again, because he really is quite good at what he does.

Artistically, Black Canary #11 does not reach as high as it does in its script, but improvements by Jarrell and a return to form for Loughridge make a success in my book. I enjoyed reading and looking at this one.

Recommended if…

  • You kept the faith, ignored my recommendation about dropping the book after the last issue, and want to see what happens to Dinah and her friends.
  • You’re willing to give this book a shot in spite of its prior failures.
  • You want to see The Order of the Raspberry get its tongue handed to it by Dinah one more time.

Overall

I liked it! I genuinely detested what came before, but I’m thrilled that it seems like we might end things on a high note. Fletcher stops pelting his reader with accounts of what happened elsewhere and elsewhen, and instead hones in on a captivating conflict and some genuine shockers at the end. I’m actually excited about the next one. Well done, Team Black Canary.

SCORE: 7.5/10