Arguably, Dinah Lance a.k.a. Black Canary is a secondary character within the massive DC Universe. If asked about the character most people would probably know more about her on-again/off-again relationship with Green Arrow or that she was a member of the Birds of Prey team. Black Canary hasn’t been able to carry a solo series in the past (there’s a total of 20 issues between three volumes published from 1991 to 2007), but with Black Canary #1, Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu set out to push Black Canary out of the shadows of Green Arrow and Birds of Prey and into her own spotlight.
Fletcher doesn’t waste time on unnecessary backstory. There’s no quick origin or recap of previous events. He writes seemingly with the idea that the reader is either going to be familiar with Black Canary’s past or know nothing about her. No matter what perspective you go into the issue with, Fletcher does an excellent job of establishing purpose quickly and effectively. The story revolves around on the concept of mystery. D.D., the new lead singer of the band, Black Canary, is an enigma. She has a spectacular voice, her past is unknown, and wherever she goes violence follows.
As Fletcher develops this foundation for the main character, he also develops the relationships between her and Paloma, Byron, Ditto, and Heathcliff (the other members and roadie of the Black Canary band). The characterizations and attitudes of these secondary characters are perfectly matched to the gritty tone established with the rock band backdrop. Byron wants to be famous, Paloma shows distaste for D.D., and Ditto is a pre-teen guitar virtuoso who doesn’t talk. Fletcher doesn’t over do any of the introductions of these characters and develops them just enough to make them interesting.
While Fletcher’s story establishes and maintains the new environment and attitudes surrounding Dinah Lance well, Wu’s art brings it all to life. There’s a jagged quality to Wu’s art in this issue that can only be described as beautifully punk. At first glance, the sharp lines along with the minimal detail that Wu uses to construct her characters create a dank atmosphere that perfectly matches the slowly building mystery. Looking over each panel a second and third time, however, reveals layers of emotion–the ease at which D.D. falls into violent reaction, her insecurity and paranoia, and the band members’ inexperience dealing with such situations all come together in what Wu presents or leaves out of her artwork.
The downside to this issue is that there are a few points in the story where Fletcher deems it necessary to connect with aspects of Black Canary’s New 52 continuity. When her past is questioned by reporters, Dinah is confronted with the details of her marriage coming to light. When faced with unreal danger, her non-superpowered bandmates come together in a moment that feels a lot like Fletcher is purposefully forming a team. Black Canary always appears strongest when leading a team, and it’d be an interesting change to see her not at the center of a team-dynamic.
This final aspect may, however, allow Black Canary to develop into a stronger solo character. If any creative team can do that, it will be Fletcher and Wu. They’ve already shown what a captivating character Dinah can be throughout this issue. They just need to keep developing the story forward and deal with the past less.