With her piercing Canary Cry and finely honed martial-arts skills, Black Canary is beloved mainstay of the DC Universe. Between her big-screen debut next year in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) and her continued presence in The CW's Arrowverse -- and a spinoff on the way -- the character has never been more visible in her 72-year history. Now Dinah Lance stars in DC Zoom's latest original graphic novel, Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot and Cara McGee, in an adventure for middle-grade readers that reimagines the character outside of DC continuity.
Ignite follows Dinah as a precocious teen in Gotham City fronting her own rock band with her friends while navigating the day-to-day drama of junior high. She quickly discovers she has her own version of the Canary Cry, which often manifests at the most inopportune times, while uncovering tightly held family secrets. As Dinah comes to terms with her powers, she encounters familiar DC faces, as a shadowy figure stalks her and menaces her family.
As the author of the bestselling Princess Diaries, Cabot is no stranger to crafting bubbly teenage interplay and protagonists discovering fantastical secrets about themselves and their family without compromising honest emotional content. Despite this being Cabot's first major foray in superhero fiction, she takes to the world with aplomb, inserting plenty of nods to the DC Universe and to Black Canary's history that will reward longtime fans without being obtrusive or distracting to younger, uninitiated readers.
The Gotham of this story isn't necessarily readily identifiable as such -- apart from the occasional reference to a classic DC villain associated with the city on the loose -- but that was never really the goal. Cabot keeps the focus on Dinah as she weaves an allegory about a girl on the prepuce of adulthood learning about her own, seemingly uncontrollable, potential all while she discovers herself through her family and powers. In doing so, Cabot has crafted a tale that's timeless, and uses Gotham more as a backdrop; the story was always only ever about Dinah Lance claiming her eventual destiny as the heroic Black Canary.
The artwork, by penciler Cara McGee and colorist Caitlin Quirk, has a vaguely manga-inspired sensibility without straying too far from the more traditional, Western-style superhero comics. Given the age of the majority of the characters, and the primary setting to the story, the superhero action is relatively downplayed in favor of grounding the tale and visuals on the raging emotions of its protagonist. Given this apparent manga influence, the emotions are readily worn on the sleeves of the characters, without coming across as overly melodramatic, with McGee and Quirk delivering the visual content in some of DC Zoom's most standout artwork.
With a steadily growing library of titles, it is becoming increasingly evident that the more effective DC Zoom titles are the ones that don't dumb down their content and for middle-grade audiences. Cabot and McGee's Black Canary: Ignite certainly avoids those pitfalls, as it focuses on telling a gripping new take on the titular superhero while weaving in plenty of references and allusions to other DC properties and mainstays. With a freewheeling sense of swagger matched with the constant vulnerability in one's teenage years, Ignite is among the more impressive efforts to emerge from DC's middle-grade publishing imprint.