Friday, March 14, 2014

Pretty Bird: DETECTIVE COMICS #559

You might know I'm fond of coordinating blog posts with celebratory events from DC's Super Calendar from 1976.  And according to that calendar, March 14th is the birthday of Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman!  So today's installment of Pretty Bird Friday looks at a comic that not only showcases Black Canary working with her boyfriend, Green Arrow, but also guest stars Catwoman (and some guy named Batman, too).

Detective Comics #559: "It Takes Two Wings to Fly" is written by Doug Moench with art by Gene Colan and Bob Smith.  As you can see from the cover, Black Canary is dressed in her sweatsuit costume generally known as her Justice League International costume.  This look--which I've never preferred although I will admit it has grown on me over the years--designed by Klaus Janson, debuted in Detective #554.  After that, Dinah wore it in a couple issues of Green Lantern, but I'm fairly sure this was only the fourth or fifth published appearance of the costume.

The story opens with Batman chasing a suspect across the rooftops of Gotham City*.  The crook manages to escape the Dark Knight by leaping onto a train, and Batman's pursuit is disrupted by the intervention of Green Arrow.  The Emerald Archer tries to convince Batman that the crook, Curtis Sample, isn't such a bad guy, he's just fallen on hard times as a result of a broken and corrupted financial system.  Batman argues that's no reason to allow criminals to get away with committing crimes.  Green Arrow, of course, calls Batman a Nazi and that's when things are about to get punchy.

Green Arrow prevented Batman from stopping a potential murderer and claimed that the guy was a victim of circumstance?  I don't think he has much chance of swaying the Caped Crusader to his position.

The three costumed crime fighters go for coffee--yes, they go sit down at a table in a coffee shop.  Batman and Green Arrow call each other names but Black Canary tries to keep the peace and tells Batman what they're doing in Gotham.

Curtis Sample's father worked for Kemson Corp for twenty years handling hazardous waste.  When dad died of cancer, Sample tried to sue Kemson Corp for their dangerously negligent practices concerning toxic waste and such.  Oliver Queen wrote articles in the Star City newspaper to help Sample's crusade against the environmental polluters, but it amounted to nothing.  Sample lost his case.  And Kemson retaliated against Sample.

Green Arrow and Black Canary explain to Batman that Sample's scheme is to rob Kemson's Gotham division of enough money that he can front as a representative from an international chemical conglomerate, lure Kemson into a deal for some illegal product, and prove in court that they're dirty.  Ollie and Dinah are allowing him to go along with this overly complicated scheme while watching over him to make sure he stays safe.

Batman can hardly believe what he hears.  They continue to a restaurant surrounded by night owls drinking coffee.  Batman makes it about pride and territory, that they didn't inform him they were coming to operate in Gotham.  Green Arrow makes it about left-wing/right-wing politics.  Black Canary, for her part, makes it about innocent people being poisoned by this company, and that's enough to settle the argument.

However, as the altruistic trio make their way outside, one of the coffee shop's patrons follows them out with a gun.

Black Canary kicks and punches the would-be shooter, Batman disarms him with a batarang, and Green Arrow pins him to the wall with an arrow through the man's jacket.  Ollie questions the guy who claims to be hired muscle from Kemson Corp paid to follow Sample.  There are others who stayed on his trail while this guy went after the heroes.

Black Canary worries that Sample is in grave danger while they've been fighting amongst themselves.  Green Arrow and Batman blame each other for that.

Batman meets Commissioner Gordon at the hospital where Curtis Sample was admitted after taking a serious beating from the Kemson hoods.  Outside the hospital, Catwoman approaches Batman, who introduces her to the others.

Batman vows to continue with Sample's plan to entrap the Kemson Corp in an illegal sale of hazardous chemicals.  Green Arrow refuses to go along with it because he doesn't want to admit Batman's plan makes sense.

So Bruce Wayne gets Lucius Fox to set up the deal through a subsidiary and uses Selina Kyle as the front for the deal with Kemson.  Selina goes to the Kemson plant in Star City to inspect the plant, but when she gives them the money, the Kemson officials betray her.  One of the men is the hood who ambushed Batman and the others outside the coffee shop.  He was bailed out of jail and told his superiors about Batman's plan.  Before Kemson hurts Catwoman, however, the Dark Knight makes his dramatic entrance.

One of the hoods threatens to shoot Selina, but he's struck by an arrow.  A green arrow.

Batman, Catwoman, Green Arrow, and Black Canary work together to stop Kemson, retrieve the money, and put down all of his hired guns.  Batman thanks Ollie and Dinah for showing up to lend a hand, and then Dinah and Selina go get some coffee to gossip about their men.

So as a birthday tribute to Catwoman, this isn't the greatest example, but I already reviewed Birds of Prey: Manhunt.  She doesn't do a whole lot in this story; it's really about Batman and Green Arrow bickering about their approaches to society's evils, calling each other stupid names, and generally being childish brats.

On the other hand, Catwoman and Black Canary are the only characters who come out of this issue not looking like idiots.  Dinah is able to keep Batman and Green Arrow from physically brawling and she's able to keep them focused on the only thing that really matters in their line of work: protecting innocent people.  Her level-headedness is what makes this team-up work both for the characters and for the reader.

As for the art, I am and will always be a huge Gene Colan fan.  He's one of my all-time favorite artists in the business.  Now I don't think this issue was one of his better outings, but it's not bad, and once again, I think Black Canary comes out on top.  Colan has drawn a better, darker, more striking Batman, but I don't know if Black Canary ever looked better in her blue sweatsuit costume than she did in this issue.

* The first part of this story is supposed to be set in Gotham City.  But on the first page, there is a sign on one of the buildings that says "I Love the Big Apple" with a heart standing in for the word love and an actual apple for the word apple.  Is this a sign for New York City in Gotham?  Was Colan referencing actual buildings and drew the sign forgetting that in the DC Universe, the cities aren't actual representations of real life cities?


  1. I think I am one of 2 people who like that Canary costume. And Colan gives Canary a nice ethereal quality here.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. There's nothing wrong with the costume in and of itself; it's a cool look for a superhero. But it is not Black Canary, not to me. It's like Mary Marvel's black emo slut costume from FINAL CRISIS. Nice duds for some character...just not THAT character! That's how I feel about Dinah's JLI look.