If you’d told me a year ago that a new “Black Canary” #1 would feature Dinah Lance as the lead singer of a rock band called Black Canary, I would have laughed and shaken my head. Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge have the last laugh, though; spinning out of the pages of “Batgirl,” the new “Black Canary” delivers just that, and it’s great.
“Black Canary” #1 follows the foursome and their manager through the eyes of not only the main characters, but also critics and club owners, as we get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a band on the road. It’s nice to have the little details — like how a critic can pick apart things they don’t understand, or a reminder that Dinah forfeits the money per her contract if she leaves the tour early — mixed in among the superheroics that have followed Dinah despite her best efforts. It gives Fletcher opportunities to tell all sorts of stories here.
It helps that Fletcher doesn’t stop to spell everything out with huge blocks of exposition. While he works some basic facts in thanks to the review of the Black Canary concert, we meet the rest of the band slowly and naturally; there’s still a lot we don’t know about them, because Fletcher’s letting the information come out as it is raised. I also love the little moments as the characters start to learn from one another, with Dinah needing to be taught how to move on the stage, while her own skills in combat are something that only she possesses within the band. Even the fact that Dinah’s a new member of an already-existing band is played out well here; there are bonds between Lord Byron and Paloma (as well as an overall protective nature towards Ditto) that Dinah is still trying to place herself within and, while it’s not friction, it’s not effortless either.
“Black Canary” #1 doesn’t look like anything else on the market right now. Wu and Loughridge’s pages are carefully constructed, using not just inks but also colors to set up what’s happening when. Look at pages 4 and 5, which begin and end with Heathcliff in the present day, and have a flashback sequence in the middle showing Dinah going up against local toughs. The present day panels use a deep, rich purple as the central color in the panels, giving a slightly shadowy look to the club that’s been trashed as the consequence of a fight. In comparison, the panels from the fight use bright oranges to set them off from the present-day sequence; those panels pop off of the page, so — even if the reader misses Fletcher’s indication that we’re about to flash back — the visual cue makes it very apparent.
The characters themselves are drawn with sharp, sometimes jagged lines. I love all of the little details that make them stand out from one another, like Heathcliff’s pompadour or Lord Byron’s narrow cheekbones. They all come across as realistic in Wu’s style, because there’s consistency and everyone moves and dresses like real people. When the alien menace appears later in the issue, the way that they ooze and flow through the panels stands out that much more because of the contrast to the sharper forms of the rest of the characters on the page. As they arc up and around Dinah in the club, her apologetic expression in the “I’m so sorry” moment is perfectly framed for maximum effect, right before she pulls out the ace up her sleeve.
“Black Canary” #1 is fun, through and through. It’s a distinctly different tactic for a superhero comic, and its melding of genres and styles makes me think of some of the more offbeat manga published over the years, where the creators have had the freedom to mix and match ideas and concepts. Fletcher, Wu and Loughridge have quite possibly done what I thought impossible: they’ve created a “Black Canary” comic which has the potential to stick around for a long time to come. This comic has a hugely wide appeal and, if there’s any justice, it’ll find the big audience it deserves.