When the new Black Canary comic first started, I thought that the titular heroine’s past was being intentionally kept vague so as to make it easier for new readers to get into the series. To be quite blunt, Black Canary’s backstory in The New 52 Universe was a convoluted mess. And it had nothing to do with any previous incarnation of the character that new fans might be familiar with from the earlier comics, cartoons or TV shows featuring Black Canary.
Even experienced comics fans had trouble making sense of a history that involved a childhood on the streets, recruitment into a special military task force after being trained in martial arts by a kindly old sensei, gaining a superpower, going on the run from her former employers to become a vigilante and being framed for the murder of her husband, who it turned out wasn’t really dead. And that was all before she became a rock star!
Unfortunately, Black Canary ultimately did try to address this backstory. First, by revealing that not only was Dinah Drake’s husband, Kurt Lance, still alive but that now he had amnesia! Then by revealing that an aged, blind and time-displaced Kurt Lance was the mysterious record company CEO who brought Dinah and her band together in the first place.
Why? Good question. And Black Canary #7 finally gives us some answers.
A wall of exposition delivers more details about the plot in one page than the previous six issues put together. We are informed that Ditto – the mysterious mute MacGuffin everyone has been chasing after – is an intelligent sound wave with the power to create matter and that a being of pure silence called The Quietus is coming to destroy her. The band Black Canary was assembled to protect Ditto and destroy The Quietus using the most epic sound system ever assembled for any stage show! Oh, and Ditto was also responsible for giving Dinah her powers.
This is sadly typical of Brenden Fletcher’s “tell, don’t show” style of writing. We know Dinah has come to consider her band mates as family because she says so, in spite of their being little evidence of the characters bonding on the page. Indeed, I couldn’t even remember the names of any of Dinah’s band mates beyond star-child Ditto. Nor could I, on reflection, remember anything about them – no personality traits beyond loving their craft and being loyal to Dinah and Ditto!
The one thing that makes this issue at all tolerable is the artwork and the amazing ending sequence, in which Dinah does battle with The Quietus with the power of pure rock. It’s an imaginative sequence reminiscent of the band battles in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Annie Wu brings it to life beautifully, being a wonderful visual storyteller. There are some pages that seem sloppy but I believe this was an intentional choice – showcasing the warping power of The Quietus as it distorts reality with its presence. The colors by Lee Loughridge are also praiseworthy, leaving every page of the comic looking like a punk band poster come to life.
Sadly, this amazing artwork does little to hide the overly complicated and rushed story. This comic – and indeed this series – are a tale full of Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. The only reason I’m planning to pick up next month’s issue is out of a half-hearted hope that the mysterious white-clad blonde ninja chasing after Dinah (the one mystery not yet explained) will turn out to be her long lost sister, Sara.