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Longbox Junk Black Canary

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Longbox Junk - Black Canary

293 views • 7 weeks ago • (1) Comment

Sorry about the delay on this one.  I actually had it done last week, but I accidentally deleted the draft and had to completely re-write it!

ANYWAY. . .

Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for!

This time out, we're going to take a little trip in the paper time machine to a dark and strange place in the history of comics.  Yep. . .you guessed it.  We're sliding on back to the 90's!

HERE WE GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. . .

Black Canary is an interesting character.  She's never really been able to headline her own series for long, and is best known as a supporting character in various Justice League, Birds of Prey, and Green Arrow titles.  I'd even go so far as to say that her connection to Green Arrow is about the ONLY reason Black Canary is even still around today.

I MIGHT be wrong about that, and Black Canary fans might take a bit of offense, but I think that looking at her most successful series (with the Black Canary name in the title) and it being DC's 2007 GREEN ARROW/ Black Canary (lasting 32 issues) sort of tells the story here.

So as a supporting character in comics, television (In various forms she's a major part of CW's long-running "Arrow"), and soon in movies (As part of the DC superhero movie "universe" in the upcoming "Birds of Prey"), Black Canary is a pretty big success.

But as a solo character. . .not quite as successful.

Not that DC hasn't tried.  And so we come to the series at hand.  Except for a small handful of solo mini-series efforts, the twelve-issue series we'll be taking a look at was Black Canary's longest-running solo title until a strange (but interesting) New 52 re-imagining with Black Canary being a member of a rock band fighting ninjas and vampires that also only lasted 12 issues (Coming someday to a Longbox Junk blog near you).

From what I've been able to see, not much is remembered about this series at all, except for ONE thing.  Toward the back half of the run, Black Canary had to endure a 90's grim-n-gritty full makeover that is remembered to this very day on many "Worst 90's Costume Changes" and other internet "Top 10 Worst" lists to that effect.  Here's a sneak preview!

Spiky hair: Check

Straps, buckles, and pouches: Check

Clenched teeth: Check

Overly-elaborate guns: Check

Improbable musculature: Check

Gratuitous crotch shot: Check

WELCOME TO THE 90'S!

So there's that.  But there's twelve issues here.  An unfortunate 90's makeover can't be the ONLY thing this series has, right? That's what we're here to find out! So strap in and head back to 1993 with me as I take a look at this series.  Ready?  Let's do it!

BLACK CANARY

DC (1993)

ISSUE ONE

HERO WORSHIP Part 1

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden

THE COVER:

Not bad.  A pretty nice action portrait here.  Giant shoulder pads set it firmly in the 90's and that's a LOT of hair.  Not a great cover, but I've seen worse.  This one could take a turn on the office wall.

THE STORY:

As Dinah Lance (AKA Black Canary) follows clues surrounding a rash of mysterious deaths of homeless people in Seattle, the past and future come together as similarities between her current case and her very first (failed) outing as Black Canary when she was fifteen years old become apparent.  

The life of a teen prostitute named Sally involved in the organized crime election fraud scheme Black Canary is investigating hangs in the balance as the vigilante tries to save the witness from both the thugs she's working for and the police.

To be continued.

THE REVIEW:

Honestly, it's a bit of a weak start.  The reader just gets dumped right into the story in progress.  There's some flashback scenes of Canary's teenage origins, but it's assumed that the reader is already familiar with the character.  It's not a very new reader-friendly first issue.  To make things worse, the election fraud storyline tying the past and present together just isn't really that interesting.

The art serves to tell the story, but is barely on the "Pretty Good" side of the scale.  It's a little above average in places, but generally a bit sketchy with sparse backgrounds and some pretty garish colors. There's barely any art difference between teen Canary and adult Canary, which is a problem in a storyline that switches back and forth between the two.  It's a bit confusing which parts of the story are in the past and which are in the present.

Overall, I can see that some effort was put into this.  The internal monologue style of telling the story is one I enjoy (even if it does seem like it was swiped from Batman), and there are some good moments here and there, but those moments are balanced out by bland art serving to confuse a "past is present" storyline switching between teen and adult Black Canary, as well as an election fraud story that frankly isn't that exciting.

I can sort of see right out of the gate why this series only lasted 12 issues.

NEXT!

ISSUE TWO

HERO WORSHIP Part 2

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden

THE COVER:

Not so great.  The red is sort of a strange choice of color and Canary's face is hidden by her hair.  The giant shoulder pads keep screaming "90's!" at me.  Sorry, not going up on the wall.

THE STORY:

As Black Canary tries to save a teenage prostitute on the run, she realizes the similarities between this case and her first case as Black Canary are more than coincidence as clues point toward the same low-ranking underworld thug she let escape in the past being behind the rash of deaths in the present.

In the meantime, crooked politician Jacob Whorrsman, the figure behind the election fraud deaths, hires an assassin known as Klik to eliminate both the fleeing witness and Black Canary.  

Canary finally catches up to the witness at the same time Klik does, setting things up for a confrontation between the assassin and the vigilante.

To be continued.

THE REVIEW:

The story here isn't bad.  It's actually improved over the first issue and moves forward with a bit more momentum as Canary makes more connections and pursues her prey, trying to get to her before it's too late.  Unlike the first issue, I actually want to see what happens next with this one.

BUT. . .

While the story has improved, the art is still a problem.  I actually read quite a bit of one section before I realized that the part I was in was taking place in the past (The story continues switching back and forth between teen Canary and adult Canary) because there's very little artistic difference between past and present.

Here, let me show you what I mean.  One of these pictures is 15 year old Dinah Lance on her first outing as Black Canary.  The other one is of adult Dinah Lance as a seasoned vigilante.  Can you tell which is which?

The clue is in the stockings.  Adult Canary has skin-revealing fishnets while Teen Canary has darker tights. These splash pages are pretty easy.  It's a bit harder to tell when the scenes between the two time periods are switching back and forth on the same page.  It's really confusing at some points.

Overall, the artist's failure to separate flashback and present aside, this issue was an improvement on the first.  This story arc is only 3 issues long, so hopefully once the intertwining time periods are done with, the art won't be a problem.

NEXT!

ISSUE THREE

HERO WORSHIP Part 3

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden

THE COVER:

A decent action shot, but WAY too much negative black space that doesn't leave much room for the main character to shine.  A good idea, but poorly-executed.

THE STORY:

Continuing directly from the previous issue, Black Canary confronts assassin Tyson Klik as he is in the process of strangling teenage prostitute and fleeing witness of deadly election fraud, Sally. 

During the brutal fight, Sally escapes and both Black Canary and Klik pursue her while engaging in a running battle over the rooftops of Seattle.  Finally, Klik corners Sally and Canary is unable to stop him from breaking her neck and killing her.

In the end, Canary's witness is dead and the assassin is in the hospital, badly wounded by Black Canary and in police custody.  He refuses to name his employer, and Black Canary is determined that this is far from over.

The End.

THE REVIEW:

And here we are at the end of the first story arc for this series.  This whole issue is pretty much a running battle between Black Canary and the assassin sent to eliminate her and the witness.  So for what it is, it's a good finish with some dangling threads to be picked up in later issues.

Being mostly action, this issue abandons the dual timeline story structure, and (as I hoped in the review of issue 2) the art wasn't the problem it has been once there was only one storyline to follow.  It's still a bit sketchy, with a lack of backgrounds and some garish colors, but at least you know where you are in time.Overall, this was a decent finish to the first story arc.  I like that Black Canary didn't really win at all, with the death of her witness and a lot of unanswered questions remaining.  It's not the greatest comic story I've ever read, but it's nowhere near the worst.   It just sort of rides right down the middle line of "Pretty Good".  Unfortunately, "Pretty Good" isn't what sustains a comic series for the long haul. 

Let's see what happens next. . .

ISSUE FOUR

THE ART OF WHORR

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden?

THE COVER:

A strange one.  All the information I can find on this issue lists Von Eeden as the cover artist, but this doesn't remotely resemble any of the other covers or any of his interior work.  So it's either another (uncredited) artist or an interesting painting experiment by the regular artist. 

In any case, it's pretty good.  It has a cheap pulp novel look I'm a fan of, and I like the bold colors a lot.  It's pretty bewb-tastic, though, so it won't be taking a turn on the office wall. 

THE STORY:

When thugs begin to shake down Black Canary's old friend, Tony Cinchelli, she begins to uncover a real estate scheme to force long-time residents out of Seattle's immigrant neighborhoods and buy the land for redevelopment at low cost.

What Canary doesn't know is that Jacob Whorrsman, the same crooked politician behind the election fraud scheme she recently uncovered, is also behind the real estate scheme.  

The shakedowns turn deadly when Tony's shop is firebombed and his niece, Sophia, is almost killed.  Black Canary stops Tony from taking his revenge when she reveals that Sophia had taken out an insurance policy on the shop and was working with the thugs.

In the end, it is also through Sophia that Whorrsman learns that Black Canary is still interfering in his schemes.  He becomes determined to take down the vigilante once and for all.

To be continued.

THE REVIEW:

Despite having a sort of sketchy title, the story itself is actually pretty good, even though it follows a very heavily-traveled path.  The old "organized crime tries to run people out of their homes so they can buy the property cheap, and only one person can stop them!" story has been told MANY times in MANY places.  That said, it's pretty well-written and avoids the art problems that the dual time period storyline of the first three issues caused.

The art also shows a bit of improvement.  It's still looks sketchy and often has a lack of backgrounds, as well as being garishly-colored, but I can see additional effort shown as the story focuses in on more characters and conversations in this issue.

Overall, this issue shows an improvement in both writing and art.  It's not great. . .the story is VERY well-worn and the art is barely on the good side of average,  but when the bar in this series is set at "Pretty Good" anything that can be called an improvement counts.

NEXT!

ISSUE FIVE

BLYNDE WOMAN'S BLUFF Part 1

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden

THE COVER:

Hello, gratuitous crotch shot!  No way I can put this one up on the office wall.  Other than that, this is actually a pretty good cover.  

THE STORY:

Black Canary is hired as a "Security Consultant" to guard an extremely rare black tulip on exhibit in Holland.  Unknown to her, a mysterious figure has hired the infamous thief known as Blynde to steal the tulip.  Blynde is the sister of Tyson Klick, the assassin Canary took down while investigating a deadly election fraud scheme (in issues #2 & #3), so she has a personal score to settle with Black Canary.

In Holland, Blynde uses her powers of disguise, as well as a cloak that makes her invisible, to infiltrate the museum the black tulip is being exhibited at.  Black Canary arrives too late to prevent Blynde from killing the guards and stealing the priceless flower.  After a short fight, the tulip's owner arrives and Blynde kills him in order to make her escape from Black Canary.  The police arrive on the scene and find Black Canary holding his body.

To be continued. . .

THE REVIEW:

I'm gonna be blunt here and just say that there's very little in this issue that made me interested in it at all.  Honestly, if I were buying this series on the stand on a month to month basis, this issue would probably be my last one.

It's not BAD, but like the rest of this series so far, it's just not really that GOOD, either.  It's just so average that there would be no way for me to justify dropping another $1.75 on another issue when there's nothing here that makes me want to see what happens next.

The setup is weak.  The villain is just a throwaway "opponent of the month".  The art remains barely on the good side of average, with the lack of backgrounds and garish colors trying to move the needle to the bad side.  It's all just so. . .plain, I guess?  It just seems like there wasn't really much effort put into this.

Overall, this issue doesn't have much going for it at all.  To me, it's the very definition of "Minimum Effort".  It's the sort of comic that you read and forget about five minutes later.  It's not memorable in any way.  I'm starting to see more and more why this series isn't remembered for anything other than Canary's 90's makeover.

MOVING ALONG!

ISSUE SIX

BLYNDE WOMAN'S BLUFF Part 2

SCRIPT: Sarah E. Byam

PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden

COVER: Trevor Von Eeden

THE COVER:

This one is just sort of. . .Meh.  It's pretty generic.  SIDE NOTE: I don't think the artist could decide what color Canary's jacket is supposed to be.  It's purple on three covers, blue on two, and you can't really tell on one.  In any case, this isn't the sort of cover that makes me want to buy the comic.

THE STORY:

Continuing from the previous issue, Black Canary finds herself in Dutch custody awaiting trial for three murders she didn't commit.  After her companion, Green Arrow, pulls some strings, an American Agent named Eddie Fyres arrives to take Canary into custody.

With Fyres' assistance, Black Canary investigates the murders and theft of the black tulip she failed to guard.  In the meantime, the thief Blynde discovers that her employer, the mysterious "Severance", has also hired her brother, Klick, to take down Black Canary before she interferes with his plans.

After a failed assassination attempt by Klick, Canary and Fyres pursue him and are led to Blynde's location.  A brutal battle ensues, but Canary and Fyres manage to defeat the brother/sister villains and regain possession of the black tulip.  All's well that ends well.

The End.

THE REVIEW:

And so we come to the last issue in this part of the review.  Like the previous issue that it continues, it's so utterly average and unmemorable that I'm actually wondering how this series managed to hit twelve issues.  Hopefully, there's some improvement to come.

I can see how the writer is trying to build Black Canary her own little "Rogues Gallery", but Klick and Blynde are just not great characters at all.  They're barely sketched and feel disposable.  Not the sort of villains that make for great storytelling.  It's a pretty weak effort.

The story here seems rushed and unimaginative.  The art remains JUST the good side of average.  There just seems to be an overall lack of effort that was noticeable in earlier issues, but is starting to become more obvious as the series goes on.

Overall, this is another completely forgettable issue.  It has a story that I can't bring myself to care about, art that is okay but doesn't try very hard to be more than okay, and villains that seem more disposable than dangerous.  It's not BAD, but it's also plain to see not much effort was put into making it good.

CONCLUSION

These first six issues of Black Canary are average at best.  I can see what they were WANTING to do. . .turn a popular supporting character into a solo title.  Unfortunately, the execution is pretty weak.  It's not that Black Canary is bad. . .it's just that it seems that not much effort was put into it.  This COULD have been a lot better. 

 I'm thinking the main failure here is in DC simply assuming that readers would buy these comics based on already knowing Black Canary as a supporting character and that they could just jump right into making her a lead.  That sort of makes these stories float around without much background or context at all.  I think maybe DC overestimated Black Canary's ability to carry an ongoing comic series.

It MIGHT have worked with a strong writer on board. . .from that time, I'd say a Mike Grell Black Canary series would have been something special.  Unfortunately, Black Canary (at least these first six issues) didn't have a strong enough writer OR artist to lift it any higher than "Pretty Good" in places.  It's a shame, because in MY extremely humble opinion, Black Canary is just the sort of background character a better writer could have done some great things with.

Up Next. . .

The back half of Black Canary.  Issues 6 - 12.

Will things improve?  I sure hope so.  Let's find out!

Be there or be square.

  • 7 weeks ago by edgos2's avatar edgos2
  • Like always, great review, regardless of the quality of the comics you're talking about! I've never owned or read any of these, and probably never will, based on your opinion. Thanks for doing what you do!
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