Black Canary is debatably DC Comics’ most prolific heroine if you go by the numbers. In addition to her role as one of the titular Birds of Prey, she is part of Batman’s Justice League of America and has a major role in Green Arrow. It is ironic then that nobody has seen fit to let Dinah Lance take center stage in any story since DC Rebirth began… until now!
Dinah Lance flies solo in Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey #9 – the second part of a story arc dubbed Blackbird. Curiously, the title refers not to Black Canary but a mysterious metahuman who is operating on the sly in Gotham City. This so-called Blackbird reportedly is training and boosting the superpowers of C-list super-villains, turning them into legitimate threats.
The Birds learned about Blackbird after Nightwing nearly fell prey to a shape-shifter known as Gemini. After nursing the wounded warrior back to health and beating some answers out of Gemini, the team gained a name and a lead. This leads to Black Canary going undercover in an underground metahuman fight club, in the hopes of getting Blackbird’s attention and an invitation for some mentoring. Little does Dinah realize just how intensive the training will be and that Blackbird has bigger goals in mind than simply sowing chaos in Gotham…
The artwork for this issue is top-notch. Roge Antonio does a fine job depicting the various fight scenes – both Dinah’s battles in the ring and her sparring with Blackbird’s other students. I’m less enamored of Antonio’s character designs, but that’s just down to personal preference as it’s odd for me to see Roulette (organizer of the underground fights and frequent JSA villain) without her trademark full-body snake tattoo. I have no qualms regarding color artist Allen Passalaqua, who does an amazing job of varying up the palettes. Strong warm colors dominate the backgrounds of the action sequences while muted tones are utilized for the flashbacks that depict Dinah’s childhood as a homeless youth.
I wish I could be as kind in discussing the story. While The Bensons’ script does a fantastic job of defining Dinah’s character and past, it also makes her look like something of an idiot. Never mind that she is going undercover in her usual costume – she’s also using the alias Noir Nightingale! And that’s ignoring that it’s unclear just how much of the New 52 Black Canary solo-series is still canon and just how famous the band called Black Canary (and, by extension, their singer “DD”) became before breaking up.
I don’t think I can blame The Bensons, however, given that this has been a problem across the board. The Black Canary series never made it clear if Dinah was famous in certain circles or if she’d become a superstar. I could hand-wave the “Noir Nightingale” plot if Black Canary weren’t a household name, but Dinah Lance is famous enough, in Green Arrow, to be recognized by a diplomat as “my daughter’s favorite singer” while infiltrating an upper-class charity event. And the whole conceit of Justice League of America is that Batman is trying to create a publicly-operating superhero team made up of identifiable human heroes. Emphasis on the “identifiable”.
This isn’t enough to sink the story but it does make one long for a more clearly defined origin arc ala what Roy Harper received recently in Green Arrow. As is, Batgirl and The Birds Of Prey #9 is an enjoyable work taken on its own merits. Just don’t try and make it mesh with Dinah’s other appearances in the DC Universe and you’ll be fine.