Black Canary #1 and Justice League of America #1

Black Canary #1 by Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu, Tula Lotay, Lee Loughridge, Steve Wands.  Black Canary/Dinah Drake Lance created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.
Black Canary #1
Story: Brenden Fletcher
Art: Annie Wu, Tula Lotay
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Steve Wands

Black Canary/Dinah Drake Lance created by Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.

Black Canary is one of those ensemble characters DC keeps pushing from time to time as a star in her own right. Most of those efforts tend to focus on her skills as one of the world's foremost martial artists/covert operatives. Nothing wrong with that since the premise provides an excuse to show lots of kick-butt action. It's just that it's well trod territory. This latest relaunch still references those chop-sockey roots, but adds a twist which so effectively sets the character apart from the DC stable it has me wondering why no one's ever tried it before. Actually, I've probably answered my own question.

Basically, Dinah Drake or "D.D." is now the frontwoman for a rock band called "Black Canary." The new series can be considered a spinoff of Batgirl, where she was a supporting character for a bit. Brenden Fletcher nonetheless avoids making any explicit connection or even mention to her New 52 history. So it's a little unclear how much of it still applies to her. Just as well. Dinah is portrayed as an enigmatic figure hinting at a mysterious but troubled past. She still beats up a lot of bad guys, oftentimes while still on stage.

As with Batgirl, Fletcher eschews the company's house style for something a bit more alternative in flavour. And as with that series, the art team is largely responsible for making its premise work. Annie Wu's roughly hewn linework combined with Lee Loughridge's bold splashes of bright colors perfectly captures the youthful energy and gritty atmosphere of an indie rock concert. Under Wu's deft hand, Dinah's traditional black costume is subtly altered to look less like a circus outfit  worn by a pulp heroine from the 40s and more like something a punk musician would put on for a live performance. And Steve Wand's typography completes the effect by helpfully repurposing some of the page layouts to look  more like music posters.

This is an enjoyable reimagining of an already familiar character. It's such a departure from previous incarnations that more knowledgeable fans might feel at a loss trying to relate Dinah the rocker to past decades or even the last few years of continuity. So the comic is best read by anyone who can come to it with the fewest preconceptions about the character.

Justice League of America #1 by Bryan Hitch, Howard Porter, Daniel Henriques, Wade von Grawbadger, Andrew Currie, Alex Sinclair, Jeromy, Chris Eliopoulos.  Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox.
Justice League of America #1
Story: Bryan Hitch
Art: Bryan Hitch, Howard Porter
Inks: Daniel Henriques, Wade von Grawbadger, Andrew Currie
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Jeromy Cox
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

Justice League of America created by Gardner Fox.

This double sized issue seems to ignore whatever changes to the status quo were brought about by the DC You relaunch and goes to heart of what makes the Justice League of America appealing to fans: Some of DC's most famous characters tackling a menace none of them could handle alone. This a classic superhero throwdown with just enough intrigue injected into the proceedings to help break up the monotony of the action and suggest even more ominous forces behind the immediate threat actively working to undermine the team.

The issue's extended length allows for Bryan Hitch to employ his panoramic approach to storytelling. He's assisted by three inkers and two colorists to embellish his detailed, photorealistic art. This results in the faces being a little less consistent and refined. Could the story have been told with a smaller page count? Sure. The pacing is somewhat disjointed, and the plot becomes convoluted towards the end. But much of Hitch's appeal comes from his expansive layouts and grandiose set pieces. The additional space is utilized to showcase each Justice League member's contrasting personalities, abilities and weaknesses. The climactic battle sequence emits a real sense of danger as each of them is taken down by an unexpectedly amped-up villain.

Whatever problems this issue has in terms of plotting, characterization, continuity or pricing ($5.99 is pretty hefty for a pamphlet), there’s something satisfying in reading an iconic approach to such well-established characters. And it's kind of entertaining to see DC indulging one of its marquee creators as he goes for broke, especially after a long absence from the title.