I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find all the comic reviews you never asked for that you could ever ask for! Wait. . .does that even make sense? It does to me!
So here we are at the back half of DC's short-lived 1993 attempt at a Black Canary solo title.
I was a bit disappointed with the first six issues. It's not that they're BAD, it's just that they could have been a lot better with a bit more effort by a stronger creative team. As it stands coming into the second six issues, things are pretty average and not very memorable. It's a decent read, but I just want a LITTLE more.
Do I get it? Let's find out!
SCRIPT: Sarah Byam
PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden
COVER: Trevor Von Eeden
Not bad. I like the nice sense of motion. The feeling of a moment of action captured. Probably one of the better covers of the run so far. I'd give this one a turn on the office wall.
Black Canary finds herself unwittingly recruited into assisting a pair of FBI agents on the trail of a killer. . .Jesus Valdez, former migrant farm worker turned activist and now known as the masked vigilante, Capoeira (after the martial art style he is a master of), striking out against those who take advantage of illegal immigrants.
After helping the agents track Capoeira to his latest target, Canary is too late to prevent him from killing his target and (by accident) an innocent child. Enraged by the death of the child, Canary accidentally kills Capoeira during a brutal hand-to-hand battle.
As we head into the back half of this series, the same underwhelming feeling that this is JUST on the good side of average remains. This issue feels like filler more than anything. It has a throwaway villain and introduces supporting characters that won't be seen in the series again. If this issue were missing from the run, the rest of the series wouldn't be affected in any way. In other words. . .filler.
The art also maintains a "pretty good" middle line, with the regular inker giving it some sharper lines and less shadows, but with the artist still not providing any backgrounds to speak of. The colors are becoming noticeably brighter and more garish as well, probably thanks to the inker laying a bit less heavy hand on the shadows and opening up more spaces for color.
All in all, this issue maintains the series' status quo of being so utterly average that nothing stands out. If this issue were missing from my collection of this run, I wouldn't even notice, for all the impact it has on the series as a whole. Somehow, I think I'd rather have something be awful than so average. Being awful at least carries some interest for me in seeing how bad it is and if it can get any worse. . .
SCRIPT: James Owsley (Christopher Priest)
PENCILS: James A. Hodgkins
COVER: Trevor Von Eeden
This one is pretty cluttered and busy announcing that sales are low, so it's time for a crossover! The interior art is probably the best of the run, so I wish Hodgkins had done the cover as well. This is the kind of cover that doesn't make me interested in buying the comic at all.
Black Canary travels to Philadelphia in order to track down and return a fleeing mob accountant named Freddie that is supposed to provide evidence to put away Seattle crime boss Tony The Fish.
After a run-in with some of The Fish's gunmen, Canary is rescued by the young hero (that doesn't really want to be a hero) and potential Justice League America recruit, Ray Terrill. . .AKA The Ray.
After returning Black Canary to Seattle The Ray decides (without asking first) to help Canary hunt the missing accountant. His lack of experience bungles Canary's careful stakeout and his interference in her life as The Ray becomes infatuated with Black Canary brings unwanted attention from Green Arrow.
With the help of Green Arrow, Black Canary finally manages to track down Freddie before The Fish's gunmen kill the accountant. The Ray saves both Black Canary and Green Arrow from attacking helicopters and at the end of it all, Canary sends The Ray back to Philadelphia after letting him know she's not interested in him.
This is pretty much the best issue of the entire run. It shows how this series COULD have been in the hands of a stronger creative team. Honestly, the story itself is pretty light and basically an excuse for The Ray and Black Canary to cross over (with a pretty good dose of Green Arrow thrown in for good measure). That said, the writing is crisp and the story feels like it has more to it than it actually does.
Black Canary's inner monologue is lively and interesting, and the interactions with The Ray and Green Arrow feel natural. The Ray is actually a more fleshed-out character in this ONE issue (Owsley was the regular writer on the Ray series) than Black Canary has been through EIGHT.
In addition to the writing taking several steps up in quality, the artwork likewise improves quite a bit. Where the regular artist is JUST on the good side of average, James Hodgkins makes the world of Black Canary come to gritty life, with detailed backgrounds and a darkly-inked and more realistic style that really just elevates this issue above the rest in a big way. Just look at the first page splash here compared to the interior pages in the issues above and below. . .Overall, this issue sort of made me a little sad. It really spotlights how this series COULD have been in the hands of a stronger creative team. It's pretty much another filler issue built around a team-up hook, but both the writing and art elevate things above the basic premise. I have the feeling that this series would be remembered more today if this team had been on the book from the start. Unfortunately, just this one issue is all we get to see.
ENTER: THE HUNTRESS
SCRIPT: Sarah Byam
PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden and ????????
COVER: Trevor Von Eeden
Here it is. Black Canary's very own unfortunate 90's makeover. . .AND we get another crossover! Despite the faint stench of desperation wafting from this cover, I have to admit I like the simplicity of it. I'm sort of a sucker for plain backgrounds like this on a cover. If Canary's new Dominatrix look wouldn't raise red flags at work, I'd probably give this one a turn on the office wall.
Black Canary finds herself teaming up with The Huntress when the Gotham vigilante comes to Seattle on the trail of a Middle-Eastern madman named Symitar who is kidnapping and brainwashing American women into his harem of "wives". His latest victim is an old friend of Huntress named Beth, and she's willing to do anything to save her.
After several run-ins with Symitar's thugs, Canary and the Huntress track him to a ship docked at Seattle's port. As they infiltrate Symitar's hideout, the pair of vigilantes are discovered. Huntress is seemingly killed when her boat is hit by a rocket, and Black Canary is taken captive.
To be continued. . .
Like most of the preceding issues, the story here is pretty light and is basically a framework to drape a "Hail Mary" crossover over, featuring DC's OTHER gritty female vigilante, The Huntress (Another supporting character that also found herself unable to sustain a solo series).
It seems like a good idea on paper (sort of a proto-Birds of Prey), but in execution it just seems forced. It's automatically assumed that readers know who Huntress is, so she just sort of jumps into the series without any introduction at all. After the great character work in the previous issue, what's found in this one just feels weak.
So there's that, but the actual story isn't nearly as interesting as the story BEHIND the story in this issue. As I mentioned in the cover look above, this is the issue that Black Canary gets her unfortunate grim-n-gritty 90's makeover that is about the only thing remembered about this entire run.
Okay. . .I'm gonna be honest here. I like it. In my extremely humble opinion, they should have kept it. She should STILL look like this. Yeah, yeah. . .I know. It's completely different than what you normally visualize when you you hear "Black Canary", but let's face it. . .if this was ever going to be a successful solo character, some changes needed to be made.
Unfortunately, like the New 52 Lobo makeover, (See my two part review of the whole series HERE and HERE ), it was just too much at once. They probably should have eased her into it a bit more instead of just throwing a complete new look on the character from one issue to the next.
As for me. . .Call me crazy, but I like the makeover. But then again, I ALSO liked the look of New 52 Lobo, so yeah. . .go ahead and call me crazy. I don't mind. I've been called worse.
That's not the REAL story here! As I mentioned, there's a story BEHIND the story. While doing a bit of research on the series at hand, as I tend to do, I discovered to my surprise that artist Trevor Von Eeden pretty much disowns himself of the art from this issue on.
To make a fairly long story short (You can read the long version HERE and follow other links from there), it seems that following an editorial change, Von Eeden's original pencils for Black Canary (featuring a planned character makeover of his own) were re-done on the order of the new editors by an unnamed DC staff artist to make Canary even grimmer and grittier than the original plan. Von Eeden claims this was done without his knowledge, and that DC didn't have the right to alter his original artwork.
Take a look at his original pencils for a page of this issue below (the big reveal of Canary's new look), compared to the finished product. Once again, I'm gonna be honest and say that I like the published look better. Von Eeden's original idea for Canary's makeover (there's more pages at the link above) just looks overly-elaborate. I like the clean-n-mean leather and crewcut look DC decided on much better.
Would this series have lasted longer or been better received if Von Eeden's original version of the new Black Canary had gone forward? I don't think so. His art on this series was pretty underwhelming as it was. I don't think anything but a complete change of creative team could have saved this ship from going down.
Overall, I found this issue to be quite interesting. The story is weak and the team-up between two female vigilante characters unable to hold a series of their own was forced, but I like Black Canary's new look and the story behind the scenes was a strange little piece of hidden comic book history. Too bad the changes to Black Canary came too late to save this series from its own underwhelming creative team.
THAT WHICH DOES NOT KILL ME. . .
SCRIPT: Sarah Byam
PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden and ??????????
COVER: Trevor Von Eeden and ?????????
There's some interesting inking on this cover that I really like. Unfortunately, all the blood and Canary's angry bewb-tastic Dominatrix look mean this one isn't even coming close to the office wall display. That and the slight whiff of desperation from last issue's cover gets stronger on this one as it announces not one, but TWO crossover characters coming in to try and save this series.
Continuing from the previous issue. . .
As Symitar returns to his home country of Karistan with his harem of American wives and the captive Black Canary, The Huntress (who was presumed dead, but barely escaped) uses her underworld and superhero contacts to enlist the aid of Nightwing and pursue the foreign madman.
Unfortunately for Huntress and Nightwing, they are betrayed by the American Ambassador in Karistan and find themselves on the run. In the meantime, Black Canary tries to escape, but is recaptured and presented to Symitar's father, the Sultan of Karistan, as a gift.
To be continued. . .
Despite featuring not one, but TWO crossover characters, there's no saving this extremely weak story. It's been pretty plain for the last few issues that the writing is on the wall for this series and you can easily see Black Canary sort of limping toward the finish line.
The writing here is forgettable, even though there's a weak attempt at "relevance" with a bit of preaching about how great America is compared to other countries when it comes to women's rights. . .but it just comes off as heavy-handed, forced, and honestly a bit cringeworthy.
It's just sort of strange to try and throw down a feminist message in a comic featuring one female character wearing a leather dominatrix outfit spending most of the issue in chains or giving the reader gratuitous crotch shots during the combat scenes of her failed escapes AND another female character wearing a skimpy purple swimsuit who has to enlist the aid of a man who immediately takes charge because her plan fails and she can't pull off the mission on her own.
To make matters worse, you can also see a definite downward turn in the art. It's pretty plain to see Von Eeden giving up. A good portion of this issue looks extremely sketchy and unfinished. Look at the top panel below for a fine example. . .
Overall, this issue suffers from a lack of effort that clearly stems from the impending end of the series. The last-ditch attempts at relevance by trying to more tightly connect this series to the DC Universe by way of crossover, as well as the somewhat hypocritical feminist messaging, feel forced and obvious. The art looks unfinished. There's a definite feeling that nobody really cares about this series any longer.
SCRIPT: Sarah Byam
PENCILS: Trevor Von Eeden and ?????????
COVER: Jim Aparo
I like the simplicity and colors of this cover, but Canary's face just looks very strange. Jim Aparo is a comic legend, but this is NOT his best work. Extra points for an X-Men #136 homage (even if it is pretty half-baked) found in such an out of the way corner of the bargain bin. Homage cover completionists take note.
Continued from last issue. . .
Huntress uses her underworld contacts to enlist the aid of a illegal weapons dealer in order to use a tank to assault the desert fortress of Symitar's father, the Sultan of Karistan. In the meantime, the Sultan gives Black Canary to Symitar's brother, Hassan, enraging Symitar.
Canary manages to escape Hassan's chambers during Huntress and Nightwing's assault, but is quickly recaptured and forced to fight for her life in single combat with Symitar for the amusement of his father, the Sultan.
After defeating Symitar, the American Ambassador steps in and demands that the Sultan allow Black Canary to be freed. Canary, Huntress, and Nightwing leave, along with Huntress' friend, Beth. . .who was the reason this whole thing started in the first place. Too bad about the rest of the harem, I guess.
This issue is supposed to be the big finish to a three-issue arc, but it's pretty underwhelming and honestly ridiculous in places. . .Shadowy vigilantes Nightwing and Huntress deciding an explosive frontal assault using a TANK is the best way to infiltrate the Sultan's fortress stands out. It reads like the writer just wanted to end the story and it didn't really matter HOW.
And once again the strangely-hypocritical feminist messaging is front and center as an obvious attempt to salvage a bit of relevance. And like last issue, it's forced, cringeworthy, and just seems like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a Big Gulp cup. Definitely a bad direction to try and go when your scantily clad female hero is shouting about respecting women in one panel and then in the next. . .Hey-OH!
Errr. . .maybe. . .no?
Overall, this is probably the worst issue of the run. The feeling of nobody caring any more is even stronger than in the previous issue. The art is sketchy, the colors are sloppy and garish, there's a forced and very mixed message that veers from "Women deserve respect!" to "Look at my crotch!" from panel to panel.
And THEN there's two vigilantes trained by Batman on the shadowy streets of Gotham blasting their way into a fortress using a TANK instead of silently grapple-hooking over the wall in what has to be one of the most head-shaking and out of character scenes I've read in quite a while.
This whole issue feels like it was written with just ending the story no matter what in mind.
AND FINALLY. . .
SCRIPT: Sarah Byam
PENCILS: Leo Duranona
COVER: Fede Tuen
This cover is SO 90's! It's great AND awful in every 90's-Tastic way! This cover IS the 90's! On the final issue, they decided to just drop THIS on us. It's like a brightly-colored middle finger farewell to DC readers who didn't want a grim-n-gritty Image-style Black Canary. I LOVE this cover!
Unfortunately, the gratuitous crotch shot keeps it from taking a turn on the office wall display.
After Black Canary encounters and old friend and partner of her parents at her mother's grave (Named Jack Lynch), an invitation to lunch turns into a high-speed chase and shootout against strange humanoid creatures!
Following their escape, Black Canary takes the badly-wounded Lynch to her home in Seattle to recover. He tells her that he's been on the run for the past three years after discovering a secret gene-splicing laboratory and an apocalyptic plan to replace the human race with hybrid animal-humans like the ones that attacked them.
Shortly after Black Canary agrees to help Lynch in his fight, the project's enforcer, a modified human called "Prime Number" attacks Canary's home. Black Canary, Lynch, and The Huntress manage to defeat Prime Number and his robotic minions, but Canary's home is destroyed during the battle. Canary vows to take down the project no matter what it takes.
To be continued. . .
No. Wait. The End.
And now for something COMPLETELY different! In the FINAL issue!
Here we are at the last issue of the series and NOW it completely changes direction for some reason. Along with a new monster-huntin' storyline and a new character that seems to be setting up to be a love interest for the angry new gun-toting Black Canary, we also get a new artist that provides a much more dynamic art style. . .but still have to deal with the same garish and misplaced coloring that has plagued the whole series.
Despite all the sudden changes (or maybe because of them), this is actually one of the better issues of the run. It just seems strange that this issue even exists. It sets up a whole new situation for Black Canary that is honestly more interesting than anything in previous issues, and introduces a revamped art style that has been badly needed since the first story arc ended, but then ends on a cliffhanger that is never resolved.
This series ended abruptly on these changes and the whole thing is never really mentioned again, except with extremely brief notes in various Wiki articles (there is VERY little information to be found on this series).
I actually like the new gun-toting Monster Hunter Black Canary that appears in this issue and this issue only (In previous issues, she clearly and definitely shows a dislike for guns). I'm not saying it's the greatest thing I've ever read in comics, but it's a pretty bold direction for this particular character and it's too bad that it wasn't explored further. Honestly, it probably would have ended badly without also changing the writer out, but for once this series was actually INTERESTING. Too bad it all came too little, too late.
Overall, this was one of the better issues of the whole series. Too bad the multiple changes to the story direction, art style, and main character came in the final issue and were never mentioned again. DC might have had more success with Black Canary if they had made these choices a bit earlier in the run.
Thank Gawd it's over. I'm gonna be honest here and admit that the reason I took so long getting this Longbox Junk entry done is because this series is one of the most average and uninteresting set of comic books I've read in a long time.
Like I mentioned somewhere above, I don't mind if a comic series is bad. A bad series will hold my interest because I want to see HOW bad it gets or if it turns around at some point and improves. It goes without saying that I don't mind a good series either. I love discovering hidden nuggets of comic gold in the bargain bins and letting people know about it. But when a comic series hits the ground right in the middle of the road and STAYS there, it gets hard to plow through to the end.
After writing the review for the first half of this series, I didn't even really want to do the second half. Except for a VERY few spots. . .the Owsley/ Hodgins issue #8 that made me see what this series COULD have been. . .the interesting back story behind the Black Canary 90's makeover from issue #9. . .the total change of direction in the LAST issue of the series. . .this series was so utterly average that I just kept putting off reading and reviewing it at all. I was actually at the point of possibly abandoning the second half of this Longbox Junk entry!
But I've said it before and I'll say it again. I ain't a quitter, son.
This series had a fundamental problem from the very first issue, and that problem is the creative team. In the hands of a stronger creative team, Black Canary could have been something special. If not special, then at least better than what we got. . .which is a series that is barely even acknowledged as existing at all, except for occasional appearances on "Worst Costume Changes of The 90's" lists.
This two-part Longbox Junk entry is literally the ONLY full review of this series beyond the first issue. . .so there's that, I guess. I've contributed to the knowledge of something that nobody cares about. BUT THAT'S WHAT I DO. . .SO THAT'S WHAT I DID!
Overall, I consider this Black Canary series as a prime example of how NOT to try and make a supporting character into a solo character. It features weak writing, barely-passable art, and brushes off new readers by assuming that anyone buying a Black Canary comic already knows everything about Black Canary.
This is one of the worst introductions to a character for new readers I've seen in a long time, and it's no wonder that it floundered and failed after just twelve issues. Even if you happen to be a Black Canary fan already there's not much here to grab onto beyond a few moments that barely manage to elevate to the level of "Pretty Good".
I can't really recommend this series to anyone besides Black Canary completionists or those who might be interested in the strange little backstory to Canary's gritty 90's transformation that was promptly forgotten about. For anyone else, I'd say leave it in the bargain bin.
Up Next. . .
I'm not really sure. Hopefully it will be better than this was. It's not often I feel like just abandoning a Longbox Junk entry in the middle of writing it.
ANYWAY. . .
No matter what I decide to do next, be there or be square!
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