Action Comics Weekly #634 (Black Canary)
“knock ’em Dead, Part 11”
Writer – Sharon Wright
Pencils – Randy DuBurke
Inks – Pablo Marcos
Letters – Steve Haynie
Colors – Gene D’Angelo
Editor – Robert Greenberger
Hey now, today marks the first (of three) final farewells hitting us this week! Today Black Canary takes her final ACW bow. While she’ll technically appear during next week’s The Crash of ’88!… it won’t be as the star of her own feature.
I thought I’d be a lot happier about this… hrmm… I must be going soft in these late numbers.
We open at “act” the Contemporary Theatre where much of the second-half of this story has taken place. There, Cat has Ken strung up high above the stage in some rigging. He ain’t dead or anything, though… well, not yet. Nearby, Black Canary, who figured everything out after her trip into the sewer last week, looks on. Somehow Cat doesn’t notice that there’s like a mile of blonde hair just a few yards away. Before Cat can cut the cables and send her ex-husband plummeting down to the stage, Dinah swoops in… asking the all-important question, “How did your daughter die?”. I mean, this broad’s pretty unstable… might wanna wait til you’re on solid ground to begin the interrogation.
This leads to, of all things, a flashback scene. Ya see, Cat’s totally cool with Ken spilling the beans right now… and so, he does. The thing of it is, Ken while married to Cat, but screwing around with The Deb, found himself in some pretty risky situations. This is when he somehow contracted AIDS. I say “somehow” because we don’t know if this was a sexually-transmitted or needle-sharing sort of situation. Whatever the case, he got it.
Fast-forward about a decade… Ken, along with Dannie (his daughter with Cat) were out biking, when there was an accident. Dannie broke her arm, and lost a lot of blood. Ken just happened to be a match (AB Negative)… bingo-bango, the kid’s now got AIDS too! She dies not too long after.
With the story told, Cat decides it’s time for Ken to take his final bow. However, before she can send him to his final splatting place, Dinah produces a sack… from which it looks as though she’s dumping Dannie’s ashes all over the stage. Wow, that got dark–er.
Over the course of the next couple of pages, Dinah battles an enraged Cat. This is kind of what we’ve been waiting for for the past near-dozen weeks… however, the way it’s rendered… it’s nigh on impossible to actually follow. The art is veers into the, uhh, “hyper-experimental” at this point? It looks like the fight ends with a spotlight either blinding Cat… or literally exploding. It’s quite “out there”.
We wrap up this chapter, this arc, this feature… with Cat, dead… splattered all over the stage. Dinah produces the actual urn full of Dannie’s ashes, so we know she didn’t actually callously dump a child’s remains all over the place. Ken’s alive… and is going to be okay, ya know, AIDS notwithstanding. After a “witty” Law and Order style closing-line from Dinah… that’s that!
So, all’s well that ends well.
Such a strange story… I’d say “strange little story”, but this sucker ran for eleven weeks. Let’s talk nuts and bolts for a bit, since that was my main takeaway (and problem) with Wright and DuBurke’s first run-up at telling a Dinah story. This one meandered far less… and, most importantly, introduced us to our cast early on. If you were following along during Dinah’s first arc… we were still meeting major characters in like the penult–er, second-to-last chapter!
This story was, like the one before it, sorta-kinda “torn from the headlines”… at least thematically. The AIDS epidemic was hyooge news back in the late-80’s. It was like one of the three certainties in life. It was like everybody was out to get you 1) hooked on drugs, 2) initiated into a gang, and 3) infected with AIDS. It’s up there with quicksand as one of the things I was sure would eventually take me out.
Here’s where this arc differs from the last… in the first arc, we met the Librados… illegal immigrants, who did some rather unsavory stuff just to make ends meet. We got this sorta-kinda “Robin Hood” vibe from them… doing bad things, but for all the right reasons. Ya know? Real Philosophy 101 “ethical dilemma” sorta stuff. Here, Ken Glazier… for all intents and purposes, a “good guy”… he cops to his unsavory prior actions. He regrets them… laments them, takes responsibility for them… and has been “broken” ever since.
There isn’t like this neon-arrow pointing at him telling us he’s who we should be rooting for, like there was with the Librados last time out. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Ms. Wright was far less heavy-handed and agenda-driven this time out… and the story was much better for it.
On the other hand. Mr. DuBurke? Mistuh Mistuh Mistuh Mistuh… DuBurke. I wanted to love this art. In fact, it was just about the only thing I was looking forward to while this arc loomed on our Action Comics Daily horizon. Like I’ve said a few times already… this art is fine to look at, but no good at telling a story. I mean, look at our big climax here… I haven’t the foggiest idea which way the characters’ heads are screwed on, much less what’s actually going on! We’ve waited nearly a quarter-year for this scene, and I can hardly make heads or tails of it. That’s not good.
What I’d really like to see is like a “Director’s Cut” of this story… because, I feel as though there is a very tight and solid story hidden somewhere here… underneath the weird ACW schedule, without any repetitive nothin’ happenin’ scenes, without waiting until the last minute to spill all of the beans. There’s something good here. This isn’t to say the story, as delivered, was bad… because I don’t think it was. I just feel like it could’ve been better.
I get that’s a pretty broad thing to say… I mean, every story (and every thing) “could’ve” been better. What I’m trying to say is, this arc showed promise and potential, where the first outing did not. There’s a feeling that if nudged ever so slightly, this could have been a very special Dinah-centric story… in a time where Dinah-centric stories really weren’t a thing.
Would I recommend knock ’em Dead? Hmm… if given the choice between Librado’s Way and knock ’em Dead… definitely choose the latter, but… ya know, I dunno. It’s not bad… maybe check it out? Howzat for riding the fence?
Tomorrow: A Series of Very Convenient Events!