22nd Oct2019

‘Black Canary: Ignite’ Graphic Novel Review (DC Zoom)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Meg Cabot | Art by Cara McGee | Published by DC Zoom | Format: Paperback, 128pp


Of all the recent DC Ink and DC Zoom imprint books, this was the one I thought might be a stretch, might be a reach too far. Don’t get me wrong, I love Black Canary as a character. I’ve been reading her since she was a Justice League member in the 1970’s, through her mature readers only phase in Green Arrow books and finally in her own books. That’s a whole lot of fishnet tights I can tell you. Dinah Lance is a great character, but how can she be pitched at a young audience? Harley Quinn, teen Selina Kyle, and Raven from Teen Titans all have that rebellious streak going on, that ‘bad girl trying to do right’ vibe, whereas Black Canary has always been a pretty straight forward all-American heroine. I was most curious therefore to see how writer Meg Cabot, big name as she is in teen literature, would hook in that target audience.

The hook she chose, very cleverly, was music. You can’t go wrong with that. Also, our Dinah Lance is not Black Canary, her mother was, but she doesn’t know it yet. But let’s start at the beginning. Dinah lives in Gotham City, with mum and police detective dad, and really wants to be in a band (which she is, with some friends). She also really wants to join the Gotham Police Academy, which Dad isn’t too keen on considering you have people like The Joker running around. Pretty ordinary girl with an ordinary life. That won’t last long, if that person lurking outside her house is anything to go by.

Actually Dinah’s not as ordinary as she thinks she is. Things keep breaking around her when she shouts, something her Gotham Junior School Principal Dr. Vogel isn’t too happy about. Dr. Vogel, rather perceptively as it turns out, suspects Dinah has a superpower, for which she has a pamphlet. There’s always a pamphlet. Dinah’s father, though, is adamant that is all rubbish, though her mum’s a little more subdued. Her friends become convinced she has mind powers, though Dinah swears them to secrecy. Things start to escalate anyway’ however, when a hooded figure attacks Dinah in her mother’s flower shop, Sherwood Florist (always loved that), asking for ‘black canary’. Time for Mum to come clean.

Dinah’s mum reveals to her that she used to be a costumed crime fighter, Black Canary, and that she has sonic voice powers, a canary cry, that Dinah has seemingly inherited. Pretty cool, right? Not to Dinah. She’d rather have powers like Black Lightning. No pleasing some people. Dinah’s world starts to change at an ever increasing pace, as she discovers the person following her is an old villain of her mother’s ,Bonfire, and her school sports coach is actually Ted Grant, the hero known as Wildcat. It’s not good when your parents have cooler friends than you. Ted’s been asked to help Dinah learn some self control, to work on using her abilities a little more wisely considering the amount of recent property damage her school has sustained. Oh and Dinah has singing lessons. Good luck with that.

Before you think this an all out superhero fest, writer Meg Cabot throws in a little Archie-esque angst by having Dinah’s friends, who have been seeing less and less of her for obvious reasons, fall out with her and chuck her out the band. That’s worse than being attacked by a super-villain in the teen world. Even worse , her parents want her to leave the city for awhile, until Bonfire is captured, so she will definitely miss the Battle of the Bands, not to mention who will look after her pet black canary?

Things have been happening fast in Dinah’s life, and continue to, as her mother is then kidnapped by Bonfire, and Dinah decides it’s time for a new Black Canary to spring into action, albeit a slightly grungier looking one than her mum. Bonfire turns out to be someone we knew, Dinah wins her first superhero battle, and friendships are restored. Most importantly, this being a teenager, Dinah gets back in the band and they win Battle of the Bands. Wins all around I’d say.

This didn’t disappoint, in terms of the audience it was aimed at. For me, it was a little formulaic and bland at times, though I enjoyed the Easter eggs and little DC references scattered throughout. Dinah was an engaging character, though villain Bonfire was not, and the supporting cast that was set up all look interesting. The art wasn’t my favourite style personally, but suited this material perfectly too.

A solid, entertaining read, with nice easy on the eyes cartoony art by Cara McGee. (My ten year old daughter, incidentally, loved it)

**** 4/5

Black Canary: Ignite is released on October 29th. Pre-order you copy here.


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