Sunday, 1 May 2016

Black Canary Book 1: Kicking And Screaming (#1-7)

"They rode through hell to get here, Keystone! Get ready to scream for Black Canary!" - Dinah Drake

Oh man it's getting depressing blogging about DCYou series with fresh and fun takes on old characters that are either getting outright cancelled or most likely won't make it through the DC Rebirth without being reverted to a more traditional version.  Black Canary as a character has been around since comic's Golden Age.  Like most characters who have been around that long Dinah Lance nee Drake has been through quite a number of revamps and retcons including crossing over to Earth One from Earth Two.  Possessed of a powerful super-sonic cry she is also a skilled martial artist and is probably best known for her time with the "Birds Of Prey" both pre and during the New 52..  However in this version the Black Canary in question is the name of a rock band of which Dinah is the lead singer of.  The sneak peak from Convergeance shows her being head hunted by mysterious looking executives with the implication they want her in the new band to be built around her.  The story proper starts with the band on tour and already with a reputation for trashing venues.  Written by Brendan Fletcher, who is also responsible for Gotham Academy (and indeed one of his Gotham Academy characters is a regular here now) and fantastically drawn by Annie Wu and Pia Guerra I'll admit this is a very different and possibly fan alienating take on a long established character but as someone who was never really interested in her before, I actually impulse bought this in my LCS on the strength of the art and don't regret it.  So lets check it out in more detail.  If you're wondering where this month's Alan Moore comic is, I'm making this a month devoted to either female led comics or teambooks with prominent female members and I am saving The Ballad Of Halo Jones for next months UK comics month.
Dinah and Heathcliff
We begin with Heathcliff, he of Gotham Academy, asking a venue manager for the money the band is owed for a performance.  The venue manager is refusing to pay up as Dinah, here going by the name "D.D." kicked the arses of some men who were harrassing some women fans who were very grateful to her.  Then Dinah appears behind him and the venue manager coughs up the money in fear.

On the tour bus we meet Byron the drummer, Paloma the keyboardist and Ditto, a child progedy guitarist who is mute.  Byron asks of Dinah:

Byron: "What's the deal?  Why is there so much violence around you?  Are you going to come clean about your past, or should we just call it quits now before we all get killed?"
She hasn't even told them what "D.D." stands for and there is a rumour she used to be married.  Dinah explains that she's "lived hard" and maybe karma is catching up with her.  Byron says she can't change her past but maybe she doesn't need to fight so much.
Paloma, Dinah, Byron and Ditto.
Dinah says her sensei would tell her to handle conflict without violence, "I think I lost that path when I lost him".  Of all the things he taught her he didn't tell her how to move on stage.  So Byron shows her a video of another singer to give her some pointers.  Outside as the tour bus is unloaded, some mysterious men watch and speak of a plan to be enacted "tonight".

At the sound check, Paloma grumbles about Dinah blowing the system with her scream.  Ditto strums her guitar and can tease sounds from it the way Dinah can use her voice.

Byron: "Sometimes when people are able to do something brilliant, you just have to go with it and you don't ask questions."

Backstage Heathcliff says to Dinah he senses she is not sure she wants this life.  Dinah says she'll honour her contract, use the money to rebuild her team and her dojo.  She is good at what she does, but does she like it?
Attack of the scribble aliens.
The show begins and gets off to a good start, then suddenly Dinah notices some black scribble monsters in the audience.  Using the mike and lead as a weapon she jumps down and attacks them.  Apologising to the band she uses her sonic scream to defeat them, before they slither off, one of them says:

Alien Thingy: "He will come for her!  He knows.  And he will come! And when he does you will all die!"

Realising it was talking about Ditto, Dinah gives the rest of the band an ultimatum.  They can split now or stay and help her protect Ditto.  They choose to stay and also to keep gigging in the hope Ditto will open up to them.  Dinah says "fine" but starting tommorrow they are all learning self defence, hand-to-hand first then weapons.

Next day the band is out in the desert being taught how to shoot.  Paloma refuses at first and Dinah goes to check on Ditto.  She tells her she was married once and her husband showed her how to shoot.  But Ditto has more secrets, "like your real name.  Or where you come from.  Or why those creatures are after you."  She starts to ask Ditto about the noises she can make with a guitar when Heathcliff calls to her that someone is watching them.
Training in the desert.
Dinah has a check round then says it's time to leave, but not before noting the perfect target shooting as done by Paloma.  The tour continues, with the band keeping a low profile between gigs.  One day while they are practicing their martial arts moves, they hear someone on the bus.  Byron surprises the person who turns out to be Maeve their original singer.  "It didn't work out" snarks Byron.

Maeve says it was because someone decided having a lead singer who was loud rather than good was in the best interests of the band.  After exchanging death glares with Dinah, she runs off.  Paloma says she has every right to be upset, Dinah was "handed this band on a silver platter.  She didn't work for it.  She doesn't know music".  Yet she knows how to shoot and kill a dude with her bare hands, so what's all that about?  Dinah says that's enough.

Dinah: "We've got a few more shows to go to fulfill this contract.  Let's play the gigs and cut our losses.  I'll move on and rebuild my life.  You can have your old band back.  Cool?"
Introducing Bo Maeve.
Later she and Ditto go to a shop selling musical instruments.  Ditto strums a guitar and Dinah says she can feel it like in her vocal chords.  She quietly uses her power to hum and sets the guitars thrumming. 

Then a masked man appears and attacks.  He has a vocal inhibitor so she can't use her voice on him, so they throw down hand-to-hand.  Dinah knocks him out and when Byron asks who he is, Dinah takes off his mask and reveals her husband, Kurt Lance.  And if the people he works for are after them, "we're in greater danger than I thought."
Kurt Lance.
We cut to Black Canary's next concert, interspersed with Dinah taking down government goons.  They chase the bus on motorbikes, but Paloma's sharp shooting fends them off.  They capture one of the goons and bind and gag him on the tourbus.  While Dinah confronts Kurt the others hear him spluttering and go and check on him only to find an oily alien about to bite his face off.  Paloma empties a clip in it but it has no effect.

Kurt and Dinah talk.  He tells her Ditto isn't from Earth and people will kill to get hold of her.  The oily aliens are from her planet and they are on the bus right now.  He and Dinah drop through the bus roof and Dinah shouts the alien to death.  They make it to the gig in time.
Dinah and Kurt to the rescue.
Afterwards Kurt says he and Dinah need to "really talk".  He says he had no intention of showing up in her life again.  Ditto is dangerous.  His people - the government - want her back.  Dinah was treated with genes taken from Ditto, "you get your scream from Ditto".

He doesn't want the government to have her back though.  He voluteered for the "retreival" mission so he could help Dinah instead.  "I know you're a good person and this girl means a lot to you".  Then Byron rushes in and says Ditto has gone missing.  We join her in a car being driven by Maeve who gleefully says:

Maeve: "Now that I've got you, nothing will stand in my way of getting what I want.  Watch out Black Canary fans.  You're about to meet Bo Maeve".

Maeve tells Ditto that she was "born to entertain".  She is bitter that Paloma and Byron didn't stand by her when the record company dropped her.  Dinah is freaking out when Heathcliff finds Maeve's shawl and at that, Dinah sets off alone on motorbike in pursuit.
Mave and Ditto bond.
Maeve and Ditto are getting along, Maeve tells her that she was a stage school brat who left home when her parents were exploiting her badly and made her own way in the world.  The only thing that mattered was "Be the best.  Always be the best."  She called the band "Alias Insane" after a derogatory nickname her father gave her. 

In their hotel room Maeve teaches Ditto some stage moves as they bounce on the beds.  Still tracking them after calling for the assistance of a tech geek, Dinah foils a mugging outside a shop she believes Maeve and Ditto visited.  Next day Maeve and Ditto leave the motel and Maeve says, "if I didn't have other plans I think we could make something awesome together".

We get another flashback, this time to when Maeve was dropped from the band.  She says how awkward and horrible she thought Dinah was when she saw her on stage in Her clothes and singing Her songs.  So she set the clothes in the dressing area on fire out of spite, and witnessed first hand Dinah using her power to blow the flames out.

Maeve: "She had a genuine talent of her own. A gift that she kept a secret.  Something I thought I could never possess until very recently."

Maeve drives herself and Ditto to a meeting with Amanda Waller, the DCU's resident black ops executive.  As part of her agreement with Maeve, Waller will have her taken to a facility and given a power of her own in return for Ditto.  Then a white clad ninja armed with a katana drops down and disarms all the soldiers.  It takes Ditto away and delivers her safely to Dinah.  Meanwhile Maeve is in a lab being upgraded with a superpowered voice of her own.
Another concert ends and Dinah pays tribute to her bandmates and they have a group hug onstage.  In the bus afterwards Kurt apologises to her for letting her down after he had his memory erased.

Kurt: "I'm really happy you've found something here, with this band.  But it's not safe for them, Dinah.  Out here with people like us."

Dinah starts to tell him to be straight with her, but is interupted by Heathcliff saying they have arrived at the campsite they'll be spending the night at.  After they set up, Kurt goes to check the perimeter.

Byron is excited that the next town is where the family are, although it's also Maeve's hometown so they better be on their guard.  The debate if it was Maeve who took Ditto.  Paloma is unsure, but Byron and Dinah believe she did.
Dinah reassures Ditto.
Dinah is curious as to how much they know about their record company A&B Records who put them together.  Dinah was approached to do one record and one tour and as she was broke at the time would have been dumb to turn them down.  But being put in a band with Ditto who has similar powers makes her wonder if there is an ulterior motive going on.  She says they should pay the label headquarters a visit soon.

Later Dinah is sleeping in her tent when the white ninja reaches in and extracts a vial of her blood.  This wakes Dinah up and she immediately goes on the offensive but the ninja gracefully knocks Dinah down and makes her getaway.  Dinah gives chase but loses her in the night time woods.

Next day the band meet Byron's family in a diner.  After the meet and greet an speaker is tossed through the store's window.  Dinah goes outside and is confronted by a woman who is backed up by several bands with grudges against Black Canary.  She challenges her to a "Battle Of The Bands" which Heathcliff says he's agreed to.  He whispers to Dinah that it was the only way to pay back the organiser for trashing their last venue.
The gauntlet is thrown.
The band make themselves ready, then Heathcliff comes in and says Maeve has a band which has just taken to the stage, "Bo M" it is called.  They go out and take a look at her and even Dinah grudgingly admits Maeve has some cool moves.  Then Maeve lets out a shattering cry just like Dinah's.

The crowd are superhyped by Maeves performance, Dinah says they need to pull out of this Battle right now.  Kurt agrees but says Maeve was probably a distraction by Waller and there are likely to be soldiers lurking around the place.  "All the more reason to get out while we can" says Dinah.

In the dressing room, Paloma and Byron are pondering a wave form scribbled on the mirror by Ditto.  They use Paloma's smartphone to decrypt it and it plays back Dinah's words when she paid tribute to her bandmates.  Ditto is trying to tell them something, but what?  But before they can make their getaway they discover their stuff has been loaded on stage and Maeve is calling them out.  So they go ahead and play.
Black Canary versus Bo M.
Side-by-side on the stage, Bo M and Black Canary face off against each other.  They begin to play hard, Black Canary have the upper hand then Bo M's guitarist slashes the cable to Paloma's keyboard.  Byron and Bo M's drummer clash as well.  Dinah notices Ditto has gone and bears down on Bo M's drummer demanding to know where she is.

The drummer zaps Dinah with her drumstick and their guitarist's guitar belches flames.  Dinah hurls a cymbal at her to disable it.  There is more fighting and Bo M are defeated.  Maeve completely loses her shit:

Maeve: "Pick up those instruments or I swear I will scream out the organs of everyone in this room".

The crowd are on Dinah's side, "they don't even care about the music anymore" says Byron.  Both Dinah and Maeve aim one last mighty scream at each other when Ditto wanders in between them.  Kurt rushes to save her and he and Ditto are exactly where the two screams meet and they are sent into oblivion which distresses both Maeve and Black Canary deeply.
Ditto and Kurt are screamed away.
In the aftermath Black Canary slip away, outside is a limo from A&B Records who are going to take them to headquarters and answer all their questions.  They head up to the top of the building and find Mr. Pike, an elderly man running the show.  He is also... Kurt.  Much aged and wheelchair bound now.  He introduces them also to the "composer" of the symphony they have been part of.  Ditto.

Kurt tells them "vibration creates life".  There is a sentience in the movement between entropy and vibration.

Kurt: "Life as pure signal.  The timeless movement of the firmament strings.  The universe's perfect harmony."

But there is something called "The Quietus" which swallows sound, "that is what's coming for us here and now, Dinah".  When he was hit by the screams he ended up everywhere and everywhen.  The past, present and future the same to him.  Ditto is a "sentient sound given material form".  The screams disrupted her and him with her.  And the things he saw on his way back to this time and place...
The aged Kurt, part of the mystery that created Black Canary.
Ditto is special among her people in that she can hold a stable matter form, "they see her as a threat.  They want to destroy her."  Kurt has seen the end of all things and Ditto bought the band together, and made it so he had a huge record company that had it's own stadium full of amplifiers and speakers.

Kurt: "They are your holy weapons in this war for the living universe.  Black Canary".

Ditto's people have unleashed The Quietus, it'll be attracted by the stadium.  They will lure it there and destroy it.  Dinah tries to send the others away, "I'm not a musician.  I'm a warrior" as she comes clean about her past as a crime fighter alongside the likes of Wonder Woman.  But the others say they will stay, Kurt said it needed all of them.
Maeve has her part to play also.
"I'll scream louder" comes a voice, and Maeve shows up.  When she realises Ditto isn't dead she hugs her with great relief.  Dinah tries to tell her to shove off but Kurt says she is part of the plan.  She was picked to provide an oppositional frequency to Dinah's.  When the screams collide they alter reality, "it's the only way to defeat The Quietus.  The only way to save Ditto."

Then Amanda Waller appears and tries to take Ditto and Dinah into her custody.  Kurt tells her to wait until after they defeat The Quietus, then all her questions will be answered.  The band strikes up and starts to play with Dinah and Maeve on vocals. 
The Quietus defeated.
A huge black oily alien appears, the music starts to take it apart, but it manages to grab Dinah.  But in the nick of time the white ninja appears on stage and throws a couple of cymbals at it and it drops Dinah before finally being shouted apart by the noise.

After all that, Waller says she wants Ditto.  Kurt says everything that Ditto has, he has now and he doesn't mind going with her instead.  Waller agrees, then notices Dinah has disappeared.  We end the book on a page of Dinah remembering her past and the white ninja coming up to her and pulling off her mask, but we don't see who it is... cliffhanger into next volume.
Who is that masked woman?!
Well I'm sold.  I shall definitely be getting the volume when it comes out so I can mourn the loss of a good comic after the DC Rebirth no doubt sucks.  Rebooting Black Canary as a band is a very clever idea, because the character has such an amazingly convoluted story just in the New 52 alone, having her start with a blank slate though still haunted by that past is a compelling narrative choice.  Brendan Fletcher has a real ear for rhythmic naturalistic dialogue and writes convincing young people as well.  The art is magnificent.  Annie Wu and Pia Guerra's styles mess very well. It's unusually styalised for a "superhero" comic, but funky to look at with crisp well choreographed fight sequences and excellent facial detailing.  If I have one criticism it is that the ending of The Quietus arc lent a bit heavily on telling and not showing, but otherwise this is a great comic, very female friendly.  Black Canary's traditional fishnet outfit works far better as a punky lead singer's style rather than a serious crimefighter.  The characters are all nicely sketched in and having Heathcliff pop up again after having left Gotham Academy was a good idea.  Overall, thumbs up for this unusual looking tale of aliens, sentient sounds and a band that can't help trashing it's venues when it plays.


  1. another dcyou title i missed. the artwork is cool, I agree, it looks indie if that makes sense?

  2. Yes it does make sense :) It's the kind of art that would incline me towards lending the book to someone who liked non-traditional "superhero" comics.

  3. Scribble aliens? Like, from Fear Her?

    This art reminds me of the art of INJ Culbard.

    I bet that that white-clad ninja is going to turn out to be her sister or her mother or something.

  4. I used my amazing naming skillz to name the aliens. Augh don't remind me of Fear Her, that episode was just the worst ever.

    I think you might be right, I'm thinking mum myself.