Writers: Julie Benson, Shawna Benson / Artists: Claire Roe, Roge Antonio / DC Comics
Y’all really gonna make me talk about Black Canary, huh? -deep sigh- Aiight.
Let’s start by saying I actually don’t have any beef with Dinah
Laurel Lance Drake and I really liked her as a character despite the odd ups and downs she’s had pre-Flashpoint (remember when she and Ra’s al Ghul were a thing? That happened, y’all). In fact, one of the things that made her more fascinating than her other Justice League counterparts was her relationship to her mother and the idea of heroism as lineage especially in taking on the mantle of your own living family member. There’s some deep psychological stuff there. So it strikes me as odd in a continuity where Dinah never even had a mother that the Bensons insist on bringing it up every few pages with Dinah’s conversations to her absence. It’s almost the same effect as punching a hole through a wall, haphazardly hanging an attractive painting over it, and then proceeding to interject into every conversation how that picture never used to be there. Why draw attention to the gap you already know fans are going to notice (and yes, this backstory has been in place for a few years, but not nearly as long as the previous iteration)?
I suppose the constant barrage of flashbacks are supposed to make us empathize more with Dinah, but they really feel odd and out of place in the high-paced action genre the rest of the comic seems to be going for. There’s no orphan child that Dinah sees and suddenly connects to due to her rough past. There’s no defining moment in a battle where Dinah recalls the wise words of her sensei which then help her to an unprecedented victory. We kinda just learn that Dinah was a sad kid who learned martial arts. And oh yeah, she develops the Canary Cry after her training because why not?
I’m also confused as to why Roge Antonio needed to be brought in to draw the Dinah flashbacks in the first place. While Claire Roe’s art still suffers from some inconsistency issues from page to page she seems to be perfectly capable of providing the same soft atmosphere as Antonio. Speaking of inconsistency, the tone of the whole comic also feels all over the place. Am I somber and sympathetic to young Dinah? Am I snickering at the snarky humor? Am I horrified at the literal snake people talking about eating human beings? Your guess is as good as mine. I also find myself annoyed more than not that the Birds aren’t really as strategically smart as they should be given their combined abilities. I understand that they’re getting the hang of one another, but that doesn’t mean that every mission is a string of guesswork instead of anticipated by a well thought out plan. It’s a shame, too, because a team up with a more light-hearted Babs than its predecessors had the potential to give us a genuinely fun book about exploring the complexities of female friendship when the stakes are high. But for right now? The Birds reads like any old crossover special rather than the superhero squad goals we spent decades pining for.