Previously in Black Canary...
Black Canary: New Wings #4 - "Just Say Thank You" is written by Sarah Byam, with pencil art by Trevor Von Eeden and inks by Dick Giordano. Mike Gold edited the issue with Steve Haynie providing letters and Julie Lacquement colors. The issue is cover-dated February, 1992, but thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics we know the book was released on Christmas Eve 1991.
The last chapter of Black Canary's first miniseries opens with two pages advertising the situational benefits of Hercules suitcases culminating in Senator Garrenger's son's drug smugglers throwing suitcases full of cocaine overboard and bringing them into port under water.
In Gray's Harbor, where the citizenry hates everything non-whte male American, Black Canary and Gan Nguyen are threatened by neo-Nazis with guns and knives. While one of the racists talks of slicing Gan's eyes to look less Asian/more caucasian, Canary dumps lantern fluid on a Hercules case full of money, then puts it to better use.
As Black Canary and Gan make their escape, we cut away to young Chad Brennan who finds his father, former Marine Sgt. Brennan, passed out drunk. In disgust, Chad takes his father's truck and drives off, hoping to never return.
Canary and Gan run through the woods. She tells him to go on without her as he's in greater danger from the racists' hatred, but he slips and falls in the river and she has to pull him out. She changes tactics and uses Gan to draw out the gunman pursuing them. When the baddie emerges from the trees with a rifle drawn on Gan, Black Canary knocks him in the water.
Black Canary stops Gan from killing the man, convincing him that murder won't alleviate his pain, something she knows from experience. They leave the gunman unconscious on the bank and make their way to the highway. There, they're picked up by Chad Brennan, who recognizes the danger an Asian man and a woman dressed like a hooker face in his neck of the woods.
Dinah has Chad and Gan drop her off at the Sandbar police station so she can try and convince the local sheriff that his town is the base for a million-dollar drug smuggling operation. The sheriff laughs her out of his office.
Sgt. Brennan finally arrives at the Port of Sandbar where Loren Garrenger, Jr. oversees the arrival of the drug shipment. Lorry scolds the elder Brennan for not controlling his son. Meanwhile, the scene and the crew armed with machine-guns are observed by Black Canary. She dives off the pier and swims to a small motorboat that she hot-wires. She strips off her sopping wet boots and jacket and cuts her fishnets to tie around her hair.
Elsewhere, Chad Brennan drives Gan to his girlfriend's place. His girlfriend happens to be the daughter of Wren Kole, the Native American friend of Dinah's from issue #1. Gan, Chad, his girlfriend and Wren meet at their place on the Quinault Indian Reservation and formulate a plan. They figure Lorry has the shipments arrive in the Quinault region because the Reservation doesn't have much of a police force. They decide to surprise the senator's son by deputizing one and bringing in some neighboring law enforcement.
Out on the water, the smugglers are hauling in the suitcases full of coke when Dinah comes up on them in her speedboat, acting like a dumb girl who doesn't know what she's doing. That includes piloting the boat, which she bumps into the smuggling ship and falls into the sea.
The smugglers pull her unconscious body out of the drink and bring her into the ship's hold. One of them gets some rape-y ideas, but luckily one of the other murderous drug dealers shows some honor in that regard.
Fully awake, Black Canary slips out of her room and takes out the guard posted there. She then sneaks into the ship's bridge and takes out the captain.
Reinforcements arrive and surround the smuggling boat. Said reinforcements are composed of the ships from three different tribes organized by Gan and Wren. Hoping to jump on the chance for political advancement, Senator Garrenger arrives with the Coast Guard, unaware that his own son is on board the smuggling boat. Also, just for good measure, Gan brought the media.
Dinah knocks out Lorry. Sgt. Brennan has no plan to go quietly and readies his gun for a shootout.
In the aftermath of Chad killing his father and the cops arresting Loren Garrenger, Jr. and the rest, Dinah and Gan meet on the pier. They reveal that the senator was more or less ignorant and innocent of the drug deals. The story ends with Dinah and Gan sitting together, comforting each other.
As an individual issue, this story was okay. The art suffered a lot this time around. I don't know if scheduling got behind or what, and I'm not sure if the fault was more penciler Trevor Von Eeden's or inker Dick Giordano, but on nearly every page are panels where entire characters are blacked out as silhouettes with no detail or definition. Still more panels are bereft of any background detail. Von Eeden's panel construction is also comparatively more ordered and boring in this issue than previous chapters. I greatly enjoyed Von Eeden and Giordano's work in issues #1 and #2, but the drop off was pretty significant in the second half of the book.
The same could be said of Sarah Byam's script. Again, I don't know how much blame could be laid at editor Mike Gold's feet, or time's, but each successive issue felt less organized and clear than the one before. That is, until this climactic issue. It's not confusing like issue #3 was, but it does feel rushed and kind of underwhelming. I don't know why Black Canary and Gan had to go to Gray's Harbor and fight the white supremacists there; they spend a good chuck of this issue in that area, and it doesn't feel connected to the rest of the story. Rather, it feels like putting a cap on a story seed that Byam planted in issue #1 but never grew.
The consequence of that is the final showdown with Sgt. Brennan on the smuggling ship is extremely rushed. Black Canary's fight with Brennan, Chad's decision to take up a gun against his father, and the elder Brennan's death all happen on one page. Nine panels crammed onto the second to last page. Yes, this issue was very, very poorly paced.
It's difficult to praise this series when the stakes were so high and the execution so...meh. I thought the first issue was great, but perhaps too ambitious. The story and art needed to be reined in from issue to issue, and these felt clumsy most of the time. I guess I would blame Gold for a lot of those problems, especially considering he edited Black Canary's first strip in Action Comics Weekly, "Bitter Fruit", which was a mess of conflicting concepts and characters. He should have known better from that experience, but I guess he just repeated a lot of the same mistakes.
On the other hand, Gold did champion the character more than any other. His appreciation for Black Canary shows in the letters columns at the end of the issue where he announces the fiscal success of "New Wings" resulting in an ongoing title for Black Canary that would kick off almost a year later.
Was "New Wings" the best Black Canary story? No. But it was the first that could be called Black Canary in the direct market's order forms and comic racks. So there's that.