Thursday, February 11, 2016

Black Canary #8 Review and **SPOILERS**

Safe European Home

Written By: Brenden Fletcher
Art By: Sandy Jarrell, Lee Loughridge
Letters By: Steve Wands
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: February 10, 2015

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Last issue artist Annie Wu rocked my world—with rock!—and I was looking forward to what she might cook up for issue number eight…turns out she’s not on this issue. I suppose after that incredible issue she deserves a break, and the person replacing her is no slouch! It’s Sandy Jarrell, who I know from Batman ’66 but he’s done a lot of other work besides (according to his website.) So we know the art will be capable, but can this comic achieve the greatness of the last issue (or two) without the work of Wu? Hey, that rhymed, it’s true! One fish, two fish, red fish, blue! Forget this Seussing, read my review!

Explain It!:

This is a book I would say is defined by a particular art style, and that art style can be described as “Annie Wu and Lee Loughridge Kicking Ass.” So when Wu is off the book, I get a bit leery and wonder if all the displays of sound reverberating will work under another pencil. Well, though this issue doesn’t have Annie Wu on art, it did two things right: one, it has Sandy Jarrell on art, who was one of my favorite artists on Batman ’66 and I’ve been hoping to see more of his work. Two, this issue doesn’t feature Black Canary (the band) performing, so there’s not a lot of need to draw creative sound waves. Black Canary can’t perform, you see, because Dinah has been missing for two weeks. The other members of her band are being grilled by a hard-nosed detective about Dinah, about the supposed deaths of Ditto and Kurt Lance, about the gigantic sound-sucking kaiju that stormed through Gotham City but a fortnight ago…the band members say nothing, and before long Kurt Lance’s high-priced fancy lawyers come barking through and spring the kids. Can I just say this looked like the worst interrogation ever? One police officer yelling at three apparent juveniles in the same room, looked more like my seventh grade math class than police questioning. Outside of the precinct, these same lawyers pass them a manila envelope with a flyer for a show in Berlin—Black Canary is performing. A note from Kurt explains Dinah is in trouble and they need to hotfoot it over to Germany—of course, he has provided airline tickets, which await them at the airport. That shadowy, secretive, prematurely aged Kurt Lance thinks of everything!

Meanwhile, over in an abandoned Nazi amphitheater somewhere (presumably) in Germany, Dinah is beating the snot out of several swordsmen simultaneously with her bare hands. Watching is a blond woman wearing a high school marching band jacket and several dozen weirdos in freaky, horned masks that have pointed tongues hanging out. Makes them all look sort of like dopey cats, if you ask me. Eventually, the one lady dressed like the Little Drummer Boy tells everyone to stop getting their asses handed to them by D.D. and take her back to her cell. Her cell is a barred cube that she shares with none other than Vixen, the lady that can take on the powers of animals through a magic totem that she wears around her neck. That totem, bemoans Vixen, is being worn by the lady from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, who she calls Grey Eyes. Dinah’s powers are likewise curtailed by an uncomfortable-looking collar bolted around her neck; indeed, she cannot even speak, and communicates via a series of shrugs and exasperated eye rolls. Vixen is also wearing a collar, but I assume that’s just to stay in fashion. That’s when the white ninja—you know, the very same one who helped Black Canary (the band) defeat the giant monster Quietus last issue, then appeared to have kidnapped Dinah by the end of the book—shows up to announce that she is Dinah’s Aunt Rena, and that she and Dinah have concocted this plan where Dinah will get into Grey Eyes’ good graces and then do more damage from within this organization of people in stupid masks. Still with me here? A lot happens in this scene, it’s just truth bomb after truth bomb!

We see a little scene of the Black Canary gang on a plane ready to take off for Germany, and learn that Ditto and Maeve—the other gal with a Canary Cry—are also going along because they heard about good European chocolate, too. Back in the cell, Vixen fangirls on Dinah before bashing her head on the cell’s bars and screaming that she’s been attacked. This brings the guards, who Vixen subdues fairly handily. She tells D.D. to come along and escape, but then Aunt Rena shows up and beats Vixen back into the cage in order to keep her plan intact. Three dudes in funny masks are just clobbering the crap out of Vixen at the behest of Aunt Rena. Eventually Dinah does a Popeye—she can’t stands no more—and beats the crap out of the guards. She’s then able to remove the collar that takes away her voice despite looking very industrial and cool. Dee throws the Canary Cry at Grey Eyes and is able to give Vixen back her totem necklace, and then you know all hell breaks loose! They bust through the wall into a courtyard that has like a hundred masked ninjas. After dispensing with Grey Eyes again, Vixen and Dinah take off, Aunt Rena standing at the broken wall, forlornly. They make their way back to America, ready to put that whole bananas time behind them…while at that very same moment, Black Canary and Maeve have arrived in Germany, prepared to search for Dinah!

This book really plodded along for a lot of issues, but the last two have been jam-packed with stuff, which is a mixed bag. I enjoyed reading this issue, and am interested to see where the story is going, but Aunt Rena lays out the whole plot in about two pages that are so dense with information, I only mentioned about half of it in my review. Still, there were lots of cool fighting scenes that picked up the pace and were expertly-rendered by Sandy Jarrell. The whole book had a relatively standard layout that I think worked well for a tale that had a lot to tell. I appreciated that, though this is clearly kicking off a new arc, the characters we’ve meet and things we’ve learned to this point weren’t deemed irrelevant. Seems so rare in comics these days, but then so do seven-issue story arcs. You intrigue me, Black Canary, in a pretty delightful way. Just don’t start boring me again.
Vixen using bird powers to fly away bodes well for this book.
Bits and Pieces

This is a pretty dense issue that reveals some of Dinah Lance’s background as well as introducing a new story arc. The pacing is a little clunky, but it does the job and there are some really well-drawn action scenes. Mea culpa, Sandy Jarrell! I will no longer consider this comic book an Annie Wu-only production! If you’ve been enjoying the comic so far, then you can keep on picking it up. For new readers, I suppose this is as good an entry point as any, but prepare to take careful notes.

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  1. Well to give the book some props, it makes me want to see Vixen in more comics. She looked pretty good in this.

    Also, the moment I found out Dinah had an aunt, I was beginning to speculate that they were establishing her mom to be Laurel and her aunt to be Sara...That would have been cool.

    1. That actually would have been pretty cool!


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