Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Two Canaries in GREEN ARROW ANNUAL #2

A little less than three years before Sarah Byam launched Black Canary's first solo miniseries, she got to script a short story called "Do Black Canaries Sing?" in Green Arrow Annual #2 published in January, 1989.  Dick Giordano, one of comics' most prolific artists and editors of the Bronze Age, and a man who drew some damn fine images of Black Canary over the years, provided pencil art for Byam's story.  Mike Gold, the editor on Green Arrow who also oversaw Black Canary's first backup story in Action Comics Weekly, edited the story.

Back in the seminal Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters (scroll down to number #59), Black Canary was captured and brutally tortured before the Emerald Archer rescued her.  The trauma done to Dinah left her incapable of using her sonic scream and unlikely to ever bear children.  The emotional after-shocks of this story in the pages of Green Arrow cast Dinah mainly as a victim.

"Do Black Canaries Sing?" attempts to restore Dinah's character to its rightful status as woman of action and strength rather than damaged by confronting the doomsayers head-on in the guise of her own mother.

But first we revisit the horrific scene of her torture...

Dinah Laurel Lance recalls in vivid detail being bound to a forklift in a warehouse and tortured by the man who slices her up and takes the Black Canary choker of her costume.  He drops the choker, which symbolically transforms into a bird feather that lands in a pool of Dinah's blood.  That causes her to wake up screaming.

Luckily, I suppose, Dinah lost her meta-human Canary Cry otherwise she'd shatter every window in the neighborhood when she wakes from a nightmare.  As it happens, something or somebody else is responsible for breaking her bedroom window.

Yep, that's Dinah Laurel Lance's mother, Dinah Drake-Lance, the original Black Canary.  This story has two generations of Black Canary!  A few years earlier, Roy Thomas ret-conned Black Canary's history to include... Y'know, I'm going to cover that tomorrow!  All that really matters is this is one of, if not the first stories to establish the current Black Canary is the daughter of a living, retired former Blonde Bombshell.

Anyway, Dinah Drake seems to be quite the domineering and judgmental mother.  She shames her daughter into coming down from her apartment to chase the little boy who stole her purse.  The boy eludes Old Dinah by jumping into a dumpster.  Meanwhile, Young Dinah gets her car; they squabble about how "helpless" Old Dinah is before spotting the young thief darting across the street.

Young Dinah lets the boy get ahead of them so she can follow him back to his gang leader.  They track him to an apartment building in the city.  Young Dinah "shows off" by leaping up onto the fire-escape, determined to find the criminal mastermind behind the young thief.

Old Dinah follows her daughter up a couple of flights of stairs.  By the time she reaches her daughter, though, Young Dinah is staring through a window, looking crestfallen.

Inside the apartment, the thief has not returned to his gang, but his family.  And the mastermind is not another criminal, but the boy's mother.  And she thinks he got the money from finding a job that will help lift them out of their poverty.

Young Dinah maintains the ruse of being the thief's employer, so much so that she actually gives him the job and expects to see him on Saturday show up for work.  At the same time, she surreptitiously gets her mother's purse back without revealing it to the boy's mother.

The next day, Dinah's old and young walk through the park and talk about the evolution of crime and criminals from one generation to the next.  Young Dinah mentions that her mom came to Seattle to see "Aunt Wren", whom I imagine is Wren Kole, a character who will appear in the "New Wings" miniseries and might have appeared elsewhere, but I'm not sure.

In essence, "Do Black Canaries Sing?" is a story about Dinah Laurel Lance moving beyond the pain of her torture.  And to get there, Sarah Byam wisely avoids throwing Black Canary in a room with a rapist or knife-weilding serial killer.  She doesn't need to re-experience the trauma to have a catharsis.

Instead, Dinah is confronted by the voice of authority telling her you're done, telling her it's time to quit.  Telling her she's broken beyond repair.  And Dinah says no.

She won't quit fighting, superpowers or not.  She's not a victim, and she's not damaged goods.  She's a damn superhero and a former member of the Justice League of America!

This was a great outing for Sarah Byam with the character of Black Canary.  For years, Mike Grell would continue to include Dinah in his Green Arrow series, but her portrayal often came across as nagging and defeatist and just annoying.  Byam polished off the dirt and grime and showed readers the strength in Black Canary.  And a few years later, she would take her to greater heights with Black Canary's own monthly series.

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