Action Comics Weekly #629 (Black Canary)
“knock ’em Dead, Part 6”
Writer – Sharon Wright
Pencils – Randy DuBurke
Inks – Pablo Marcos
Letters – Steve Haynie
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Robert Greenberger
Well, we’ve had us a, in my opinion, pretty strong run of Black Canary over the course of the past few weeks. In that time, it was almost as though artist and writer swapped positions on the “annoyance meter”. Throughout the original run, I simply could not stand the writing… and the art was decent enough.
This time, I’m kinda digging on the writing (though, it still has its flaws) while feeling as though the art is dragging it down. Not that I haven’t enjoyed or appreciated the art… it’s just not very good at telling a story.
Let’s check out Chapter Six. Chapter Six… already? Wow, where does the time go?!
We open with Dinah being pounced upon by a Bill Sienkiewicz drawing. Turns out, while attempting to deliver some floral arrangements to a local rehearsal of Peter Pan, she accidentally wandered on stage. Whoops! We shift scenes to that Ken Glazier, who is on the phone with the Red Cross. They want a donation of his rare AB Negative blood… but he knows he can’t be a donor. Not sure if this is an allusion to AIDS or him being a junkie. On the news, he learns of the death of Richard Malone (of Rich’s It’s Instrumental). He calls in what he thinks he knows to Seattle’s Silent Witness Hotline. Oh, and it’s confirmed that Rich was a victim of the Chloral Hydrate. I’m tellin’ ya, this is a packed few panels!
Back at the theatre, we learn that Dinah instinctively socked her would-be attacker on reflex. It’s not entirely clear here exactly who she punched. It might be the Severe-Looking woman, who spent some of last chapter spiking the ever-loving hell out of her hair? Ya see, she’s actually Ellen “Cat” Jamerson, and she’s playing the titular role of Peter Pan. It’s, admittedly, been a minute (several, in fact) since I’ve ever seen Peter Pan… I can’t remember him ever wielding blades. Maybe this is the “Seattle Cut”… or, maybe I’ve just never actually seen it!
Dinah sits through rehearsal, chatting up the director. She’s mesmerized by Cat’s performance as Peter… and decides to talk to her a bit more while the actors are on break. It’s a… weird, and wildly convenient conversation. Dinah compliments Cat’s mannerisms on stage… then, immediately asks if she has kids? Yeah, that’s a natural progression of conversation, right? Anyhoo, we learn that Cat indeed does have a daughter. I mean, we’ve seen the framed photos, right? Though, I might’ve thought those were of “The Deb”. Man, this art really needs to be a bit tighter if it’s going to be our guide!
We jump ahead to Black Canary loitering outside of Rich’s It’s Instrumental. She overhears some neighborhood kids talking about the fate of the shop’s owner…
… before… oh, Lord… what in the… Good God, this is one ugly panel.
Izzat Throw Mama From the Train? Yeesh! Dinah cuts this character off as they’re leaving the building, and corners him (and his impossible hair) for questioning. At first he ain’t too keen on spilling what he knows, but Canary’s able to persuade him with threats of sharp and pointy violence. She wants The Deb… and so, this creep (Rich’s roommate) points her in the right direction.
Speaking of The Deb, our final scene takes us to a United Food Distributors warehouse… where our Dragon Chaser has wound up. She’s let inside, but immediately held up at gunpoint. I can’t be too sure, but it kinda looks like she’s been set-up. This might be a Police Sting. Whatever it is, Black Canary looks on from a skylight… and is very surprised that The Deb doesn’t have blonde hair. Man, what would these urban vigilantes do without skylights?!
Man, but there was a lot going on here.
I hate to make assumptions about “experience levels”. Here we have Ms. Wright, who notably ghostwrote some issues of Warlord for her then-husband Mike Grell when he was unable. I couldn’t speak to the quality of those issues… but, the point I’m trying to make is, this Black Canary experiment isn’t her first time writing comics.
That said, however, the pacing and storytelling are kind of all over the place. There are flashes of competence… but then, we get something like today’s feature. We get four panels to start that run the gamut of several of this arc’s subplots. I feel like those four panels could’ve been blown up to fill four pages… though, admittedly, I probably would’ve complained about that too.
There’s also that oddly convenient dialogue. Everything seems to fall into place, however, not as naturally or organically as it perhaps should. Dinah chatting up Cat, and with her second question asking if she has any kids? That’s a stretch. Hell, maybe it’s not… maybe this is how real people talk. I know I don’t just chat up strangers and immediately ask for particulars on the size and shape of their families. I’m guessing the kid will be the crux of this entire endeavor… so, we had to have it confirmed somehow. All’s I’m saying is, there had to be a better way.
I mentioned the art being “our guide” during the synopsis. This is the only ACW feature to this point where I almost feel required to go back and reread everything that came before just to be “on track” for the current chapter. These faces keep blending into one another… and, there is a distinct lack of clarity. It might be by design… it might be artistic license… but, what it’s definitely not, is easy-to-follow sequential art that tells a story.
In the first Black Canary feature I complained that we kept getting new characters added to an already bloated cast. DuBurke did his damnedest to keep up, but, there are only so many ways you can draw a “generic white male”. Here, I feel like we have a decently-sized cast… characters who ought to be memorable enough… but, they’re just flailing in the miasma of crosshatching, emote lines, and weird “lens flare”-affect.
Then of course, there was that panel.
Oh man, I don’t think I’ve seen a panel quite that damn ugly in a very long time… hopefully I won’t see one like that again. Looking at this, I was actually reminded of that little ditty they’d put in the back of a lot of Marvel books back in the mid-eighties, starring Meatloaf. Ya know, this one:
Besides the overall pained and ugly look, however, it’s not much of a match. Close enough for my addled brain though!
Overall, perhaps a step back from the last few weeks… which is to say, still worlds better than the first arc. The art is my main drawback… and, again… I don’t dislike it, I just feel as though it does a poor job of conveying story.
Tomorrow: Penultimate Sixing!