Friday, December 20, 2013

Season's Greetings from Flowers & Fishnets

I found this 1978 ad from DC over at Michael Bailey's blog, Fortress of Baileytude.  I pilfered it because there are only a handful of great holiday images with Black Canary, and this is one of them.  Be sure to check out Michael's blog and his From Crisis to Crisis podcast!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 10 Black Canary Moments of 2013 Part 3

From Injustice: Gods
Among Us Chapter 32.
Art by Jheremy Rapaack.
3. "The Prettiest Girl In the Whole Damn World"

Tom Taylor writes Black Canary better than any writer I've seen since Gail Simone left Birds of Prey.  His depiction is so flattering to the character that sometimes I think he's churning out material specifically for me to geek over.

Of course, that's my overreaction to finally reading a version of the character that doesn't sound like she's only a fraction smarter than the worst dumb blonde joke.

Taylor's Canary is competent, respectable, and a formidable warrior.  She knows Batman's secret identity, and the Dark Knight trusts her to fight against the likes of Superman and Green Lantern, unlike in the New 52 where Batman called Dinah "sloppy and dangerous".

While Green Arrow was undoubtedly the breakout character of Taylor's Injustice: Gods Among Us comic, it was often Ollie's scenes with Dinah that showcased the best of both characters.  Their dialogue was sometimes funny, occasionally sappy, but always playful and honest and true-to-character.

In a world where Superman kills wholesale for "the greater good" and Wonder Woman is basically Lady Macbeth, Ollie and Dinah come off refreshingly familiar.  This is how they should act in the main DC Universe!

From Injustice: Gods Among Us Annual #1.
Art by Bruno Redondo.
Best of all, while Black Canary plays second fiddle to Green Arrow in the first year, she doesn't end that way.  For story reasons, she has to come out of Ollie's shadow, and Taylor has promised that in 2014, Black Canary will take a much more proactive and commanding role.  Bring it on!

From Injustice: Gods Among Us Chapter 33.
Art by Bruno Redondo.

2. The Woman in Black

I started watching Arrow because I knew Black Canary was going to be in it.  I didn't expect to like the show, but I did.  It's not without its faults and I don't think it will appeal to every comic fan, even every Green Arrow comic fan.  It ain't The West Wing or Breaking Bad, but taken on its own it's damn enjoyable entertainment.

And the inclusion of the Canary in the first part of season 2 cranked up the Fun-meter to 12.


Campy? Sure, but it's Black Canary and Green Arrow kicking ass together in the flesh!

Also this.

That's just the major action pieces of episode 5, which focuses on the League of Assassins hunting Canary.  Why?  Oh, because she used to be one and trained with either Ra's al Ghul or his daughter (probably not Talia--the other one).

A year ago, my expectations for a live-action Black Canary in a DC movie were zilch.  After seeing how well the creators of Arrow have translated her and Green Arrow for their limited audience, I think there's a very real chance that someday I could see Canary on the big screen.

And now...

1. Unmasked!

Expect a lot of this cosplay next year!
If you were paying attention during the first season, you knew that Dinah "Laurel" Lance could not have become Black Canary, not without years of physical and psychological transformation.  If you were paying even less attention during the off-season hiatus, you knew that Katie Cassidy, who plays Laurel, definitely wasn't going to put on the costume anytime soon.  The big question on fans' minds was: Who is this mysterious Canary?

The secret was out before the sophomore season started for those who knew where to look, but most viewers discovered in the fourth episode that Black Canary was Laurel's sister, the long-thought-dead Sara Lance, now played by Caity Lotz.

I think this was far and away the best Black Canary moment of the year.  Ironically, it deviated quite far from my preferred continuity by putting a brand new woman inside the black leather.  But I like this deviation, and I love how they went about it.  There's the shock value that Sara Lance was presumed dead since the pilot episode.  There's the familiarity that, while believed dead, she is a known character, not someone who comes into Ollie's life for no reason.  And there's the originality to it.  Arrow is not beholden to the history and facts of the comic book Green Arrow; they show that every week.  Sometimes their changes suck, but a lot of times they work for the kind of story they're telling in the medium of television.

The unmasking of Black Canary and the reveal that Sara was still alive blew open the doors of possibility in this show.  Anything is possible and no cow is sacred.  We've since seen the introduction of characters like Barry Allen and Solomon Grundy.  A Green Lantern appearance would not surprise me at this point, nor would a connection to the DC Cinematic Universe unfolding in the Man of Steel movies.

So, maybe not all of the Top 10 were great moments.  I could have spared myself the time by cutting this list to six, but I want to get used to the format, because I think next year will be much better.  We'll see more Black Canary in Injustice: Year 2 by Tom Taylor.  We'll see more Black Canary on Arrow, I guarantee.  And we'll get the first original graphic novel with Black Canary's name on it as she teams up with Zatanna!

Looking forward to 2014!

Top 10 Black Canary Moments of 2013 Part 2

7. Coming Off the Bench

From Justice League #17, art by Ivan Reis.
Earlier in this countdown I talked about how Black Canary almost joined the ranks of the Justice League in 2013.  The closest she came was fighting on their behalf against the Atlantean invasion in the crossover event Game of Thrones "Throne of Atlantis".

From Aquaman #16, art by Paul Pellatier.
When the League's heavy hitters are taken out of the game, Cyborg calls in the reserves to defend the city of Boston from Ocean Master and the army of Atlantis.  Black Canary, as well as Hawkman, Vixen, Zatanna, Firestorm, Black Lightning, and Atomica, hold off the destruction of the East Coast until Aquaman and the rest of the League ran reinforce them and save the day.

(Apropos I like this team roster a hell of a lot more than the one with Vibe, Stargirl and Catwoman.)

It was great to see Dinah valued enough by the League to fight a war in their absence, even if there is a total lack of discipline and organization to their defense.

Wait, Cyborg's line in the panel to the left doesn't sound very flattering!  Dinah never steps in and takes charge of the battle; she exhibits zero leadership skills.  She can't even prevent a teenager from endangering them all.  Oh God, why does the New 52 hate her so much?!!  Top 10!  I can't even make a Top 10 list that shows her in ten favorable moments!

6. "Where the Hell Did You Come From?"

At this year's San Diego ComicCon, the show runners of CW's surprisingly successful Arrow television series screened a short video that recapped the major beats of the first season finale while teasing the second season's premier.

And the climactic sequence of the video--what drove fans crazy was the first appearance of the Blonde Bombshell played by Caity Lotz.

The Canary would take on a much larger role in the show's second season than fans likely expected.  At the time the video came out, though, it was enough to demonstrate to new and old audiences how bad-ass a character she could be.  Hell, those 40 seconds got me to buy the first season so I could prepare for her screen debut.

5. Change of Clothes

Even though Black Canary didn't really make it into the game Injustice: Gods Among Us as anything other than an NPC who recharges Green Arrow's health (so I've heard; never played it), she did get the full-service concept art treatment.  Below are seven different could've-been interpretations of the Canary by Bernard Beneteau.

Okay, none of these are ideal costumes for Black Canary--not if you want to take her seriously in anything other than a knockoff Street Fighter video game.  Some of them look silly, and some of them make her look more intimidating than she's probably going for.  But, and I cannot stress this enough, I like all of these costumes, every one, more than the Jim Lee-designed costume she wears in the New 52.  I can't explain it rationally, but I would prefer her in even the silliest of the above designs to the one she has been stuck in for the last two years.

Thankfully, these weren't the only options for the digital-first comics that tied-into Injustice.

From Injustice: Gods Among Us Chapter 18.
Art by Jheremy Raapack.
Several artists have depicted Dinah in this bleak, alternate universe, and each one of them does a terrific job rendering her "unjust" costume.  This look is so much better than the conceptual entries above and the New 52 design.  I think the reason it works, even with its faults, is that it honors what I consider the most important elements of Black Canary's costume.

From Injustice: Gods Among Us Chapter 24.
Art by Mike S. Miller.
The three essential things her costume needs to have:
  1. Black.  Her costume must have black, preferably black leather or something like it.
  2. Blonde.  Whig or dye-job, I don't care, but as long as Black Canary is a caucasian woman, she's a blonde.
  3. Fishnets.  Not padding.  Not mesh.  Fishnets.
And three recommended things her costume should have:
  1. Cleavage.  It sounds juvenile, but Dinah's bust is part of her aesthetic.  Not as much as Power Girl's, I'll grant you, but it is important to her look.
  2. Choker.  She ought to have something around her neck.
  3. Jacket.  Not necessary, but she looks better when she has one.

The Injustice costume is still a little more armored and tactical than I'd prefer, but it hits all three "needs" and two out of three "shoulds" on my checklist.

4. You Can't Stalk Someone Who Wants to Be Followed

Early in December I "followed" actress Caity Lotz on Twitter.  Caity plays Black Canary on the television series Arrow.

A few hours later, I received this:

Holy--! A direct message from the woman who plays Black Canary?!! Did she see my Twitter handle and address and know what a fan I am?  Is this the start of something--?

Yeah, for all of five minutes I believed this was really, truly a personalized direct message to me.  Then I figured out that she wasn't following me back.  The DM was probably a bot that automatically shoots the same message back to everyone who follows her.  Nothing more.

... Still, it felt really cool for five minutes.  Everything after that was sad and humiliating, but those five minutes were awesome and deserve to make my Top 10 Black Canary Moments of 2013.

What moments will make the final three?

To Be Continued...

Top 10 Black Canary Moments of 2013 Part 1

It's the end of the year, which means it's time for news outlets, pundits, blogs, and well, basically anyone with an opinion and the means to express it to formulate his/her Best of the Year lists.

I didn't think I would make a Top 10 Black Canary Moments.  Despite her starring role in not one but two ongoing series for a chunk of the of the year, there was very little to celebrate about Birds of Prey and Team 7.  If you read those comics or my reviews of them, you understand why I'd find it hard to make  even a Top 3 list.

Then, like a dunce getting whacked in the head, I was reminded that Black Canary's appearances were not limited to those comics, or even just within the medium of comics.  A live-action version of the character made a welcome addition to TV's Arrow this season; a 2-D version continued to guide the young stars of the Young Justice animated series; and a non-playable version provided support in the smash hit video game Injustice: Gods Among Us.  (Note: I haven't seen Young Justice, so I couldn't include it.)

With that in mind, what was good (or great) enough to make the list?

10.  Speaking of Lists...

Black Canary was considered for two different Justice League teams in 2013.  She made neither, of course, but as the saying goes, "It's an honor just to be nominated."

After Atlantis attacked the United States in the crossover event Atlantis Attacks "Throne of Atlantis", the Justice League decided to open their ranks to new members.  Black Canary was invited up to the satellite for a little costumed mixer that ended predictably with a robot trying to destroy all humans.

From Justice League #18, art by Jesus Saiz.
Alas, Batman filled the openings with the precocious Firestorm, the treacherous Atomica, and the heretofore unknown Element-Woman.  Yeah, Black Canary, who chaired the Justice League in another universe, lost her spot to Element-Woman.  I think Batman still had a grudge against Dinah for choosing Poison Ivy for her Birds of Prey.  I mean, who wouldn't question her competence after that?

From Justice League of America #5,
art by Brett Booth.
But that wasn't the only time Black Canary could have been part of a Justice League.  When the inaugural mission of the government sponsored Justice League of America went... well, let's just say "sucky", Amanda Waller wanted to revamp the roster.

The conceit of this JLA is that each member was assigned a specific opponent in the Justice League should the need or event season arise to go to battle.  In a more perfect continuity, Black Canary's fighting ability ought to be superior to Katana's; I'm not sure that's true now.  And if the goal was to pit someone against Wonder Woman, I have to imagine Dinah's Canary Cry would be more formidable against the Amazon than Katana's, um, katana.  (Actually, I think Hawkman would have been a better foe for Wonder Woman, while Canary could have used her sonic powers to disorient Aquaman.)

Again, Dinah was passed over.  The only character Steve Trevor added to his lineup was Doctor Light... who died immediately after, so maybe it's for the best she got snubbed this time.

9. Cry for Help

In November, Black Canary made a guest appearance in Batman: The Dark Knight #25.  I wrote about this cameo when the issue came out, but the gist is that Batman recruits Canary and Condor to help him track down Clayface.

From Batman: The Dark Knight #25, art by Alex Maleev.
She accomplishes nothing in the story and could have been omitted from the script without any consequence to Batman's investigation.  Still, it was nice to see her popping up in better selling and better quality books.  And she gets a motorcycle again!

8. Victory at Last

More than two years into the New 52, Black Canary has fought and beat exactly one real super villain who previously existed in comics.  And it wasn't in Birds of Prey and it wasn't in Team 7.  It happened in the pages of Justice League, where Dinah earned her first credible takedown in a rooftop battle with Copperhead.

From Justice League #18, art by Jesus Saiz. Again.
Oh man... I just realized she didn't even beat him by herself, Cyborg helped.  Jesus!  I know there are characters who have been more blatantly--and possibly spitefully--mistreated by the New 52, but the ways in which everything positive about this once respectable character have been perverted or discarded since September 2011 is utterly depressing.

I'm going to tell you right now that nothing from the past year of Birds of Prey or Team 7 make this list.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Birthday, Starman!

According to the 1976 Super DC Calendar, December 18th is the birthday for the Golden Age Starman, Ted Knight.

From Starman Annual #2, art by Gene Ha.
Starman teamed up with Black Canary on several occasions outside of their usual adventures with the Justice Society of America.  In case you missed it, I posted their first pairing in The Brave and the Bold #61 yesterday.  Much more interesting, though, and more scandalous is that the two engaged in a short-lived extramarital affair as depicted in the pages of James Robinson's Starman series.  And I assure you, I will get around to reviewing that eventually.

I haven't read many Starman stories from the Golden Age, but I always, always liked the character.  First his costume--what's not to like?  The fin on his cowl reminds me of '50s or '60s science fiction helmets, like that worn by Adam Strange.  But the cape is classic '40s mystery man!  The color pattern--red, green, and yellow--so garish, so in your face, but they're not obnoxious, they just work together really well.  See Robin and Mister Miracle for confirmation.  And then there's the gun holster on his hip!  Or is it a holster for the Cosmic Rod?  It's incredibly visually striking because it's incongruous to the rest of his costume.  It's brown leather, and it looks like something a military officer would have.  The eye is as drawn to that weapon holster as it is to the star emblazoned on his chest.

Then there's the Cosmic Rod (or "Gravity Rod"), which is nothing short of sci-fi perfection.  A magic wand, essentially, with a science-y heft and the ability to move matter and fire energy rays.  Seriously cool!  It also has the added joke benefit of looking like a sex toy, which, to me, is just one more thing to love about it!

Equally as cool as the costume and the gadget is the type of character Ted Knight represents.  He's a scientific-minded genius who constructs the mode of his super-power.  He reminds me of the Marvel heroes that would follow him, such as Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym.  Where many Golden Age heroes acquired their gifts through chance or birth, like Green Lantern, the Flash, and Superman, Starman was self-made, in the same vein as Batman, and later Iron Man and Ant-Man.

I think Starman is too often forgotten or shortchanged.  This version especially, as the '90s Jack Knight who headlined his own book for a decade is so well remembered now.  The thing is, the original Starman had such an iconic look and power set that I'm surprised he didn't takeover as figurehead of the Justice Society.

In the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths world where Superman didn't come into being until the era of the Justice League, I think Starman would have made a great substitute for Superman.  His powers are hardly the same as the Last Son of Krypton, but he has that striking costume, a brilliant mind, and extraordinary abilities of a hero that could have united others around him.

Credit for Starman's creation is attributed to artist Jack Burnley, as well as writer Gardner Fox and a host of editors including Whitney Elsworth.

Happy Birthday, Teddy!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Team-Up: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #61 (Sept 1965)

The Brave and the Bold #61 pairs Black Canary with Starman in "Mastermind of Menaces" written by Gardner Fox with art by Murphy Anderson.

That cover has a lot of text!  It calls both heroes "superstars from the fabulous forties".  At the time this comic was published in 1965, Black Canary and her Justice Society comrades had appeared a handful of times in the pages of Justice League of America.  She was part of the Earth 2 cast, however, and only appeared when the League would crossover into the parallel Earth of the Golden Age heroes.

I love this title page, with Starman and Black Canary running away from the whispy, outstretched hands of the villainous Mist.  The banner declares, "For the first time together!"  This couple would team up again in the very next issue, and both stories would be the focus of a retcon in Starman Annual #2 published thirty years later.

After a mere three panels to set up the mystery, Fox and Anderson introduce us to all three of our heroes, Dinah Drake-Lance and her husband Larry Lance, as well as the visiting Ted Knight.  Note the locations referenced in this first page.  This isn't Sherwood Florist that Mike Grell created for The Longbow Hunters, but the Drake Flower Shoppe.

The semi-retired Canary and her husband are also said to be working out of Park City.  I'll have to go back through her early appearances in Flash Comics, but I don't think Park City was ever used as her hometown or base of operations.  I think Gardner Fox made it up for this issue.  As a fan of both world-building and keeping Black Canary out of the shadow of Batman and Green Arrow, I like the idea that she might've had a Metropolis of her own to patrol.

When I think of my favorite comic book artists, I don't usually think of Murphy Anderson.  There's nothing wrong with his art--quite the opposite--but I just haven't seen enough for him to climb onto that favorites list.  The two panels above, however, have made me a fan of his for life.

I don't know if he concocted the workings of the telescope from his own mind or he was drafting something from life, but it looks incredible in scale and detail.  Contrast that image with the closeup of Ted and the tension in his forehead.  Again: incredible!

If I was a younger, more crass man, I would never stop laughing at Starman's "Cosmic Rod".  I mean, seriously!

Starman fights the goons, getting the upper hand.  Then, however, sound waves emanate from the flower on of the goons' lapel.  The effect disorients Starman, giving the bad guys time to escape.

We then find the titular Mastermind of Menaces himself, the Mist, waiting for his minions to report.  He is less distraught over the unexpected appearance of his nemesis Starman than he is curious as to why Starman didn't use his Cosmic Rod to defeat the goons.

Starman uses his Cosmic Rod to make the wall transparent (It can do that?!) so they can spy on Dinah.  As if in a trance, she reads a list of wealthy customers who are receiving flower deliveries from her shop that day.  Unbeknownst to her, she has been brainwashed by the Mist, who listens in and determines which of Dinah's customers to rob.

At about the same time, the Mist realizes why Starman's Cosmic Rod didn't work earlier.  The sound waves from his flower combined with the noises in the observatory created a specific frequency that prevented starlight from charging the Cosmic Rod.

... Man, I wish I could've taken a science class during the Silver Age...

Anyway, Starman and Larry surreptitiously snap Dinah out of her trance and explain how she'd been used as an unwitting accomplice without tipping of the Mist that they're onto his plan.  Dinah Drake-Lance is furious about being manipulated.

Thus, the Canary semi-comes out of semi-retirement.

Maybe I am that young, crass man after all, because after I read "I'm putting this miniature cosmic rod into yours, Black Canary" I had to put the book down and leave the room.

Back to the story.  A trio of the Mist's minions enter the home of Freda Van Taller, who has been entranced by the flowers to leave her valuables out in in the open.  The goons have been coated with the Mist's special chemicals so they are invisible.

Black Canary arrives and hears the criminals moving about even though she can't see them.  She breaks a capsule of red powder into her palm and blows the dust into the room.  The dust coats the invisible crooks, giving her visible targets and she springs into action.

Meanwhile, at the Park City Yacht Club, the Mist's voice commands his latest victim to place valuables into a model viking ship and set it adrift in the water.  A helicopter piloted by more goons picks up the viking ship, but Starman takes to the air in pursuit.  Starman uses the Cosmic Rod to deflect their bullets back at the helicopter, thwarting their plan.

At the same time, Larry Lance follows his targets back to the Mist's hideout.  He transmits the location to the others, but not without his presence being noticed.

With the absurd combination of frequencies negating the power of the Cosmic Rod, Starman crashes to the ground and is captured by the Mist's invisible cronies.

With her miniature Cosmic Rod (tee-hee-hee), Canary lifts all of the scientific gadgets and computers in the Mist's array and drops them like cartoon anvils on the crooks.  She then targets and destroys the flowers he used to incapacitate Starman, but then the Mist activates the room's defenses.

I have read a lot of really, really bad Black Canary stories lately in the pages of the New 52's Birds of Prey and Team 7.  I almost forgot what a good BC story looked like until I re-read this issue.  I can't praise this story highly enough!

Starman is one of my favorite heroes of the Golden Age, and I'll go into greater detail about that tomorrow, December 18th, which is Ted Knight's birthday according to the Super DC Calendar.  His powers don't compliment Black Canary, and there isn't any real thematic resonance between their superhero identities (unlike say, Canary and Wildcat).  There's no obvious story reason for these two to team up, but that's not what The Brave and the Bold was about.  Not complimentary parts, but two characters who bring out something unexpected in each other.

Ted Knight and Dinah Drake feel like good old friends, and that's just great storytelling.  Starman buddies up with his teammate's husband to help her when she's brainwashed.  And later, Black Canary uses Starman's own technology to save him and wreak havoc on the bad guys.  It's a great team up and they work together really well because they feel like rounded, authentically good-hearted characters.

Larry Lance gets to play both the private investigator and damsel-in-distress.  Like Steve Trevor (when done well), Lance is a heroic man-of-action in his own right, but he never overshadows his better half.  Dinah is the "super" of the two.  My favorite Larry moment is when Dinah appeals to his masculine ego while still establishing their pecking order.  She praises his stealth skills as a private investigator so that he won't fight the criminals himself and get hurt.

Dinah gets "duped" in this issue.  The Mist uses his chemicals and subliminal suggestions to use her in his crime spree.  When her husband and friend break her of the villain's hold, she doesn't wallow in sadness or guilt or embarrassment.  She says, "Aw, hell no!" and laces up her gloves.  She suits up for the first time in some time and unleashes the fury of the Black Canary on the criminals of Park City.

Mark Waid described Gardner Fox as the most prolific writer of the Silver Age other than Stan Lee.  Throw a stone at a pile of comics written between 1940 and 1970 and there's an even chance you'll hit one of Fox's books.  With that much sheer volume of credit to his name, you'll find a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot in between.  The bad scripts, I think, are the more dated Golden Age scripts that are difficult to read today.  The good scripts read just like The Brave and the Bold #61.  Fun.  Full of humor, full of character, full of crazy science and daring action.

Murphy Anderson draws a classically beautiful Black Canary in the same style as Carmine Infantino and Ross Andru.  Dinah's whole demeanor takes on a more assertive look when she puts on the costume, as though it were a uniform.  It's a great visual distinction between wholesome florist and heroic adventurer.

I read this story in the collected Black Canary Archives.  If you can find it there or on its own, I highly recommend reading this issue!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Caity Lotz Interview from the Hollywood Reporter

Last week, CW Network aired the mid-season finale of Arrow.  The episode resolved several mysteries while opening up a can of new ones.  One of the ongoing threads of the second season has been the duel sagas of Sara Lance played by Caity Lotz.  There's her current flight from the League of Assassin's and her five-years-old captivity on the island with Oliver.  I'm guessing Sara's situation on the island will be resolved by the end of this season with Ollie thinking she's dead somehow.  Her ongoing flight from Ra's al Ghul's forces, however, could play out over several seasons.

The Hunter and the Bird of Prey
About a month ago, Lotz gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter where she revealed some behind the scenes information on how she read for the part, and her character's development, past and future.  I've highlighted some of the questions I liked with my commentary below.

You can (and should) read the full interview here.

THR: When you were cast as Black Canary, did you know what her identity would be and where she was headed?

CL: No, I had no idea. I actually auditioned for a character named Lisa. (Laughs.) There were fake sides, even what I was reading wasn't the actual character. I had no idea, I just thought I was playing some character named Lisa and then afterwards, I met with [executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg and he told me about it and, yeah, I was really excited.

The fact that the producers were keeping the character's identity under wraps during the casting stage tells me they really had big expectations for not only how the fans would respond to Canary, but to the character's longterm status on the show.

THR: How surprising is Black Canary's past?

CL: It is constantly a surprise for me. All of a sudden I'll get a new script or one of the producers will talk to me and it's like the shock of something new they've created for the character. (Laughs.) The show evolves while it's going, so there are a lot of new discoveries that even the writers are finding so I'm constantly surprised. Where they're taking the character is impressive.

Fans of the Canary are in uncharted territory here.  Her history, her whole identity has been completely altered for the show, so there isn't any roadmap to go on.  We can't assume the writers will revisit familiar stories from the comics because none would apply to her status in the show.

"Isn't there enough S&M stuff going on
with her costume - now we gotta get
ropes involved?"
THR: Oliver has declared that he won't kill anymore, but with Black Canary around, how difficult is that going to be?

CL: With or without Canary, that's a difficult thing, but as of now, Canary's M.O. doesn't include not killing. That's a foreign concept to her. Where she's been trained, killing is all but necessary in her mind. Those philosophies will come at odds between the two of them.

I prefer the hero that doesn't employ lethal force, especially a hero for whom it would come so easy, like Superman and Batman, but as I've said before, Arrow has a different set of rules and expectations.  I don't mind that Black Canary kills right now because she's a damaged person for whom killing is a survival trait.  I'm hoping that part of her character evolution will be Ollie teaching her how to fight without killing, in much the same way that Batman in the comics had to condition his son Damien not to kill after growing up with the League of Assassins.

For more questions and answers with Caity Lotz, read the whole interview.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Canary Comics for March 2014

DC released their solicitations for March 2014.  Black Canary's name only pops up in two items, so if she's guest starring in any of the Forever Evil tie-ins or the latest issue of Injustice Year 2, it's not significant enough to make the solicits.

Written by Christy Marx
Art by Robson Rocha and Jonathan Glapion.
Cover by Jorge Molina
On sale March 19.
32 pages. $2.99 US.

Black Canary confronts Ra's al Ghul, who makes her an offer that could save her husband! Is she willing to pay the ultimate price?

Damnit, I just want to wipe my hands of this series and be done, but the story is improving, albeit at glacial pace.  And now Christy Marx is bringing Ra's al Ghul into the mix?  This has me intrigued because of how Dinah is connected to Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins in Arrow, and how she almost married him way back in the Chuck Dixon era of Birds of Prey.  Grrr!!! I think I may have to stick with BoP after all to see where this story leads.

Also, is Robson Rocha taking over art duties full time or just for this issue?  He helped Romano Molenaar on issues #22 and #24, so he's not coming out of nowhere.

Of course, the biggest and bestest news to come out of the March solicits is for a book that's not even coming out until May...

Written by Paul Dini
Art and cover by Joe Quinones
On sale May 21
144 pages. $22.99 US.

Two of the DC Universe's brightest stars join forces in this original graphic novel!  A year ago, Black Canary infiltrated a gang of female criminals set to pull a dangerous heist at a Las Vegas casino.  Its leader was skilled in hand-to-hand combat and more than a passing interest in black magic.  Rather than be captured by Canary or the law, she went to her death, vowing to get revenge on Canary!  Now, one year later, death stalks those gang members, and Canary must turn to her friend Zatanna to help investigate.  This title also includes a special sketchbook section.

You could've knocked me over.  I had heard this was out there for a couple months.  I had seen sample pages, even the pre-order page on  But somehow I didn't believe.  Couldn't believe it.  It seemed too good to be true.  An original Black Canary graphic novel: Holy crap!

And she's not partnered with Green Arrow or Batgirl or anyone else you'd expect.  It's her Fishnet Sister, the Mistress of Magic, Zatanna.  Plus, that creative team!  I first noticed Joe Quinones during Wednesday Comics where he drew the Green Lantern tale.  Great stuff, there.  And Paul Dini, who knows both of these ladies pretty well from his involvement with the DC Animated Universe, fills me with hope that this story will approach the characters from a place of love instead of cynicism.

Friday, December 13, 2013

BIRDS OF PREY #25 (New 52) - Zero Year

Over in the pages of Batman, the titular hero's origins have been rewritten for the New 52.  One of the major moments of Batman's "Zero Year" is a city-wide blackout caused by The Riddler.  In November 2013, a number of DC comics tied into this event to show where characters like Clark Kent, Barry Allen, and Dinah Drake among others were six years ago.  What kind of characters were they during "Zero Year" and how did the events of that time shape the kind of heroes they would become?

Birds of Prey #25: "Sunrise" is a Zero Year tie-in set six years before the current events of the ongoing series, and extended to 28 pages at $3.99 instead of the usual 20 pages for $2.99.  The issue is written by Christy Marx, with art breakdowns by Scott McDaniel, pencils by Romano Molenaar and Daniel Sampere and Travis Moore, inks by Jonathan Glapion and Vicente Cifuentes, and colors by Chris Sotomayor.  Jorge Molina drew the cover... and what a horrible cover it is.  The idea is nice, showing a younger Dinah defending herself from a gang in what looks like a street-cycling prototype of her Black Canary costume.  But the colors drown out any sense of pop or dynamism about her costume.  Everything sort of washes and blends together.  And, my lord, what is wrong with her face?!!  That could be the ugliest depiction of a beautiful woman I've ever seen in comics!  Why didn't the editor laugh at this and pass it back demanding a redo?

...Okay, moving on...

Six years ago, Dinah Drake is teaching a martial arts class at her dojo in Gotham City.  There is an alter on the wall to a Sensei Desmond Lamar, who we'll meet later in the story.  Dinah's instruction is interrupted by a street gang running a protection racket.

Dinah quickly disarms and beats down the five thugs, showing her students exactly what they could accomplish if they heed her wisdom.  She sends the gang running, declaring that neither she nor her dojo will cower to criminals.

After class, she cleans the dojo, which is also her home, and later visits the grave of Sensei Desmond.  She is restless, at a crossroads in her life.  The dojo is failing as a business and she doesn't know what to do with her life.

We jump back even further into Dinah's past, to the moment when she first met Sensei Desmond.  Dinah had runaway from her foster home and scrounged food out of Sensei's dumpster when he found her and took her into his home.

He gives her a place to stay and a worldview that isn't full of anger and hatred toward other people.  Over time, she starts to pickup on the fighting lessons he teachers his students until she is old enough to be trained.

Sensei Desmond dies of brain cancer a few years later.  By that time, he was as much a father to Dinah as a teacher, and his death is devastating to her.

On the subway coming back from the cemetery, all the power goes out.  Dinah takes charge and helps get the commuters off the train and back to the street safely.

Hey, it's that woman again!  The old black lady, Miz Etie, who shared a table with Dinah back in issue #18, and then met Condor outside the bank in issue #22.  Who is this 99 year-old woman (although, I guess she'd be 93 in this issue), and why does everyone call her "Mother"?  And why is she so concerned with Dinah after all these years?

Elsewhere, the military is monitoring the blackout.  John Lynch, who will create Team 7 a year after these events, is told by a commander with what look like cybernetic parts on his head that the blackout was caused by an electromagnetic pulse set off by a terrorist.  The commander says someone named Ye tried to warn them of the EMP, and sends Lynch to Gotham to retrieve Ye.

Hang on, if it was an EMP how come the flashlights were working in the tunnels?  Wouldn't those be killed, too?

It's a blackout caused by an EMP--where's all the light coming from?  Dinah's running around the streets, saving Vietnamese grocers and stopping looters complaining about the lack of power or traffic.  But everything looks fine.  The lights are on!  I don't think Chris Sotomayor knew what he was coloring when he got these pages.  This shouldn't be more than a cosmetic mistake but it really bugs be because I have long complained about the editing on this series--without ever naming the editor(s).

Dinah finds someone in a nearby alley.  It's Ye, and he's been fatally wounded.  He passes the tracker with intel valuable intel for the military that was hardened against the EMP.  He tells her to find Lynch, but of course he dies before telling her who Lynch is or why she should do that.

Then the ninjas show up.  They killed Ye and they want the tracker.  They chase Dinah who employs her mastery of the various martial arts forms that Sensei Desmond taught her to defend herself, even taking a number of ninjas out so that the leader demands more forces be unleashed on her.

Back in the alley, Lynch's team finds the dead Ye and one of the living ninjas, who kills himself rather than answer their questions.  Lynch starts tracking Dinah.

The ninjas chase her into a blind alley.  The leader gives her the chance to give up the package and walk away.  She calls his bluff and starts dropping his minions.

Eventually, their numbers overwhelm her.  Just before she is killed, Lynch arrives and the commandos kill all the ninjas except for the leader, who escapes.

How did she know he's Lynch?  He's just the first face she sees that isn't covered by a mask so she assumes he's the one random person a dead guy asked her to find?  God, why is she always so trusting of everybody?!!

Lynch drives Dinah back to her home while filling her in on some of the details, including the involvement of EMP-causing device called a Marx generator.

Wait, what--what, no, no... what the--WHAT?!!  Seriously, Christy Marx you're going to name a device in the comic after yourself?  REALLY?!!  MY GOD THAT IS SO ARROGANT AND STUPID AND--

Oh.  I just looked it up.  Marx generators are a real thing.

Never mind then.

Lynch pulls up in front of Dinah's dojo which is burning to the ground.  She's lost her home, her place of business, her only tie to the man she loved like a father.  She's utterly vulnerable, and that makes her an appealing target for Lynch.

Of course, Lynch isn't picking her up for a date; he offers her a job as a special ops agent, which will eventually lead to her inclusion on Team 7.

The Characters

Dinah is the only member of Birds of Prey featured in this issue and we really learn a lot about her.  Why it took twenty-five issues to get to this point, I don't know, but whatever.

Dinah was an orphan, abandoned by her mother and never knew her father.  She ran away from an unsupportive foster home and was living on the streets eating garbage for a while.  The timeline isn't specific, but based on the art, I would guess she was between the ages of nine and twelve when she first meets Sensei Desmond.  She's clearly a few years older when he starts training her in the styles of Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, boxing and Karate.  We also see him tutoring her in what appears to be book-style homework.  I don't know if she enrolled in school or had any formal education or if that was all Sensei.

Some years pass by the time he dies, and I'm guessing she's about 19 or 20 when this story takes place.  That would make her 25 or 26 in the current continuity.  That corrects an earlier problem I had with her continuity.  I thought to become the kind of high-tier special forces operative she was in Team 7 would require many years of training, which by my calculations would have put her in her mid-30s in the present.  What Marx has done with this issue is establish her extensive physical training over years in her childhood, so that even with only a year of military training under Lynch, he would choose her for his select team.


There are problems with this story.  The art is mostly fine; the three different pencilers don't get in each others way, but the colors during the blackout really, really take me out of the story.  There's also the superficiality of the ninjas as antagonists in the third act.  There's nothing special about them and Lynch even blows off the answer so we don't really care.

Then there's the cameo by Etie, or "Mother".  It's kind of a nice nod to Marx's current story, but it's also a bit distracting because nothing comes of it later--unless she's the one who burned down the dojo!

Maybe the biggest problem, though, is how conveniently things come together in the end.  I know Marx was bogged down by the crappy continuity she inherited, but the union of Dinah and Lynch at the end is too fast, too simple, too contrived.

On the other hand, there is a lot to like about this issue.  I feel like I finally know who Dinah Drake is in the New 52.  She is not the Dinah Drake, or the Dinah Laurel Lance of pre-Flashpoint DC; she's someone else.  She's an orphan without family connections who was adopted by a loving sensei that taught her various fighting forms.  Then she was "adopted" by a harsh military man who taught her how to fight and kill for the government.  Then she fell in love with and married a man who helped her control her meta-human power.

Actually, that last one doesn't mesh.  She only used her power once before Kurt Lance supposedly died!  That whole bit of her history was screwed up by the end of Team 7.

This was definitely one of the best issues of the series, but considering I have never given a chapter from this series an A, that isn't saying much.  And I still won't.  This isn't the best, but it's pretty good.

Grade: B+