Sunday, July 08, 2007

Black Canary Lives With Sin While Bart Flash Gets The Wake He Didn't Deserve

We hope that everybody enjoyed their Independence Day holiday. This week in comics was a fairly light one, always a good thing for FanBoyWonder’s ever shrinking wallet.

With no further ado, here are our picks for the week of July 4.

Black Canary #1

The Upshot from DC Comics: The League of Assassins tracks Black Canary to Star City in an effort to liberate the child, Sin, they believe to be the DCU's next greatest assassin. Luckily, Black Canary has other plans for Sin's abilities and future.

As a one-time Birds of Prey featured player and current leader of the Justice League of America, Black Canary is one of the best characters in the DC Universe so we were glad to hear that she was finally getting her due with a four-issue mini-series.

That was before we had heard about the upcoming Black Canary/Green Arrow wedding and all of the associated hoopla (i.e. the various special issues and such). Even though we grew up during the Silver Age reading the Satellite-era Justice League issues where Green Arrow and Black Canary were attached at the hip, we’ve grown accustomed over the years to the Canary and the archer being apart.

One of the few flaws of Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow was that he just did not know what to do with Dinah Lance except revert her from girl hostage to nagging common-law wife and eventually scorned woman as Ollie Queen’s wandering eye resulted in at least two love children (that we know of).

It was during Green Arrow’s “death” for a few years in the late 90s through the millennium that Black Canary was able to really come into her own as a character—thanks in large measure to Birds of Prey writers Chuck Dixon and later Gail Simone.

So the idea of Green Arrow and Black Canary tying the knot leaves us scratching our head—surely it’s a better deal for the groom than it is for the bride.

On Birds of Prey, Gail Simone had such a fundamental grasp of who Black Canary is that we frankly don’t think anyone can top her.

Yet BC mini-series writer Tony Bedard does a decent job carrying the ball, as he further develops a plot thread of Dinah acting as surrogate mother to the little girl Sin—the one-time slave and assassin apprentice whom Canary liberated from Lady Shiva.

Sort of the way that Green Arrow adopted the orphaned Speedy, Canary has taken in Sin as BC attempts to provide the child with a normal life. Easier said than done when a child who is no older than Brianna The Girl Wonder has been trained from birth to fight and could kill a grown man with just her finger.

Canary and her own Karate Kid go on a road trip as Dinah mulls over Arrow’s proposal of marriage. During this, the reader is treated to a flashback to one of Canary’s and GA’s first missions together as Justice League rookies.

We couldn’t help but smile when Arrow tells Canary he’s had a secret crush on her and her fishnets all the way back to her JSA days, prompting her to gross out as she informs GA that he had been ogling her mother, the first Black Canary.

The Canary’s and Arrow’s facial expressions—by art team Paulo Sequeira and Amilton Santos—really make the scene work.

Bedard’s plot isn’t the most original but it’s harmless. Our only complaint is his retroactive addition of an ex-husband for Canary, who as Canary tells Sin and the reader she married for less than a year during her first year of college. Of course he turns up like a bad penny seeking Dinah’s help and of course he is actually there to sell her out to one of Green Arrow’s enemies.

The retro ex-husband Craig Windrow is such a obvious throw-away character there is little expectation that he’ll ever be seen again following the conclusion of this mini-series yet Bedard has editorially arc-welded him into Black Canary’s story continuity—the throw away character couldn’t have been just an ex-boyfriend or even a former fiancée?????

Our point here if a writer who deals with a shared character with a long history decides’ to make an addition, retroactively or whenever, to a character’s back story, it should be for a good reason that will forever more add something to the tapestry of said character.

Countdown #43

The Upshot From DC Comics: This year-long weekly series featuring a cast of hundreds kicks into high gear in its third month! Learn more about the search for Ray Palmer! Travel into the Nanoverse! All this plus appearances by the Suicide Squad, the Penguin and the Atom!

We really do feel bad for not liking this issue’s main story. Don’t get us wrong, we’re glad that Bart Allen got his due with a memorial—it’s the tribute to the fallen Flash that BARRY Allen should have gotten but didn’t.

Bart deserved at least that much following the character’s murder by Dan Didio’s dumb ass post-Infinite Crisis brainstorm and the failure thereof.

However this “Funeral for a Friend” fell flat. Instead of emotional and mourning, the Bart Flash’s wake came off as hokey and chock full of manufactured drama.

Helping not at all was the completely unbelievable appearance of the Pied Piper and The Trickster at the service. Two members of the Rogue’s Gallery wanted for The Flash’s murder just blend into the crowd to “pay respect” to the guy they murdered—a crowd full of folks with super hearing, telepathy and just plain eagle eyes—and no one notices???? Yeah they get captured by the Suicide Squad in the parking lot….but Come ON!!!

Even higher in the wings we see the unlikely trio of Donna Troy, the Red Hood Jason Todd and the rouge Monitor viewing Bart’s wake. Talk about out of character—the Monitor’s role this issue is reduced to nagging “is it over yet” so they can go find the source of this latest manufactured “crisis” while Donna and Jason embrace in mourning like siblings.

Meanwhile, Monarch gives his new agent Forerunner a tour of his secret lair. Last week, we went off on this bad early-90s hangover. Monarch was a generic cookie cutter villain from the instantly forgettable Armageddon 2001 “event” and time has not made him any better of an antagonist.

Here we see Monarch building his own Star Wars-like army of clone storm troopers as he prepares for global or universal or multi-universal domination—YAWN!

Nightwing #134

The Upshot from DC Comics: "The Missing Year" continues with a startling rebirth: The return of the Vigilante! Yesterday, he challenged the Crimelords of Europe, Asia and Africa, and defeated them. Today, he controls the 21 Tigers, and an international gang of murderers. But there was a time when Dick Grayson called him friend and mentor — and they both loved the same woman.

We can’t remember who—if we could remember, we would credit him—but a reviewer had commented a couple months back that the problem with Marv Wolfman’s take on Nightwing has been that it’s just another look back to the past and that Nightwing is never going to get the respect he deserves in the future if his stories are always looking back.

We don’t disagree with that. As much as we like the concept of the Missing Year, it’s time for Dick Grayson to stop being written like the guy whose best days are already behind him.

We’ve always liked Marv Wolfman’s take on Dick Grayson’s personality as a down-to-Earth kind of guy but why….just why can’t Marv have Nightwing fight just one bad guy without either some d-list villain getting the drop on him and/or Nightwing tripping all over himself??????

This is the storytelling equal of dumbing down Superman’s powers by having every bad guy from Lex Luthor to bank robbers throw Kryptonite at the Man of Steel. A new Vigilante is NOT a worthy adversary for the adopted son of the Dark Knight.

Yet for once, a writer’s retro-con works in our favor during this issue’s flashback between Dick as Robin and Batman. After being lectured by Bruce one too many times, Dick declares he wants his emancipation and scoots on the next bus out of town.

Even since Max Allen Collins’ brief but destructive post-CRISIS run on Batman two decades ago where he put forth the story that Batman fired Dick as Robin, it’s made us crazy. For the past two decades the Batman fired Robin thing has persisted to the detriment of the Dick Grayson character.

Meanwhile after such a big build up as the femme fatale from Dick’s past last issue, Liu is seen but barely heard from this issue even as we get to know Metal Eddie—Clyde to Liu’s Bonnie—a little better.

As grateful as we are to Marv for just returning competence to this book after years of careless incompetence, Mark Andreyko’s Nightwing Annual #2 gave us a tantalizing glimpse of just how great Nightwing can be in the right hands.

Andreyko has even expressed interest in writing more Nightwing. So not to sound ungrateful but Marv we ask that after you finish your scheduled year-long run on this book, you step aside and let someone take Nightwing to the next level.


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