Black Canary #5
Story: Brenden Fletcher
Art: Pia Guerra, Sandy Jarrell, & Lee Loughridge
As Black Canary (both the character and the band that she gave her superhero name to) gets near the end of their tour, the plot threads of the first arc of the most rock n' roll comic on the stands start to pull together. Dinah has begun to put the pieces together, and now wonders exactly how the record company happened to put both her and Ditto, both with mysterious powers and ties to the shadow government, on the same band, and realizes that probably isn't a coincidence. But Dinah doesn't have time to really sort this out, as the last stop on the tour is the hometown of original band members Lord Byron and Paloma Terrific. And at a signing at the local record store, we get to see a little more about Byron and Paloma's past, and it explains a lot about their personalities. Byron's mom, Judith, and sister, Shelley, show up decked out in Lord Byron fan club t-shirts and are clearly her number one fans, while Paloma's family doesn't even appear, and she doesn't seem to expect them to. No wonder Paloma is so sour and distrusting. But it wouldn't be an appearance by Black Canary if something wild didn't happen, and after a speaker flies through the record store window, the band finds a group of disgruntled bands waiting outside, ready to challenge them to a battle of the bands. And Heathcliff, road manager and former Gotham Academy student, tells Dinah, who's already itching for a different sort of battle, that this is something they have to do. Naturally, with the way things have been going for her, Dinah has already had a battle that issue, with the mysterious white clad ninja who has ben following the band, who stole a vial of Dinah's blood for still more mysterious purposes. Aside from all this, we continue to see Kurt Lance, Dinah,s ex-husband who had his memories erased so he doesn't remember their life together, continuing to try to reach out to Dinah while travelling with the band, and continuing to be more interesting in three issues here than he's been in the entire post-Flashpoint DCU to this point, more a character than a plot point. Arriving at the battle of the bands, the generally bad feeling about the whole thing prove prescient, as another band is playing in the battle: Bo M, the new band of Bo Maeve, former member of Dinah's band and her sworn enemy (at least in Maeve's mind). Dinah gets to se Maeve begin her performance, and seeing the way Maeve dances on stage opens Dinah's mind to something about her own performance in a nice character moment before Maeve opens up with her new powers, and it looks like a big fight is on for next issue. While I miss Annie Wu's kinetic art style on this book, I'm excited to see Pia Guerra on this (and last) issue. I haven't seen much from her since the end of Y: The Last Man, but her style works well here; it's not as loose and wild as Wu's, but it has excellent flow in the fight scene, and her Ditto is too adorable for words. Black Canary has been one of the strongest new titles out of DC in its newest wave, and it's ramping up for an exciting finale to its inaugural arc.
Clean Room #1
Story: Gail Simone
Art: Jon Davis-Hunt
Gail Simon is known for being a writer who does strong characterization, strong female characters, and zany plots. But it's often forgotten just how dark her work can be. For instance, Secret Six, for all its very funny and heartfelt moments, is a book about truly broken people often doing terrible things. And those darker inclinations are the source for hew new Vertigo title, Clean Room. I'm not anywhere near sure exactly what is going on in the background of this new horror/thriller comic, but one of the great things about horror is that sense of being off-kilter. The issue starts with a family walking to church, a scene that quickly devolves into terror as a disgruntled truck driver hits the young girl in the family, and then backs over her to make sure he got her. Somehow the girl survives, but something is different. The action then moves to a woman preparing to commit suicide. This woman, Chloe Pierce, is our point of view character for most of the issue a reporter who lost her fiancée, and after being saved from suicide, now wants to find out why and what the writings of new age/self help guru Astrid Mueller had to do with the suicide. After tracking down Mikey, another man who was exposed to Astrid's cult/organization that seems to straddle the line between any self help cult and Scientology who is an addict who now wants to use but just can't bring himself to, Chloe arrives at the shining palace that is Astrid's headquarters. Meeting with an Amazonian official, Chloe strong arms her way to a meeting with Astrid, and the reveal of who Astrid is makes the beginning of the issue and the end connect. Oh, and did I mention that throughout the issue there are these truly disturbing images of monsters and horrors? The tuck bearing down on the little girl, Chloe's dead fiancé with his face half blown off visiting her in the hospital, and a demon hanging from the shoulders of the woman Chloe meets before Astrid. Jon Davis-Hunt is a new name to me, and I'm hoping I'll be seeing a lot more of his work. His people are striking, but those monsters? Brrrr... The detail work throughout the issue is stunning and perfect for what Simone is doing. Vertigo is trying to get back to the forefront of edgy, dark comics, and I've been happy with what I've read this month from their new offerings, but Clean Room jumps out at me as the flagship of their new titles: creepy, deep, and already capturing the darker parts of the imagination.
Princeless: Raven- The Pirate Princess #4
Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Rosy Higgins & Ted Brandt
A pirate's life for Raven and her crew is at hand, as long as they can get past those pesky villagers with pitchforks and torches. Having recruited her crew last issue, Raven, the daughter of the pirate king who is on a quest to reclaim her birthright from her usurping brothers, arrives back at the inn owned by her friend Cookie and his daughter to find it besieged by townsfolk who believe Jayla, Cookie's daughter, is a witch and want to burn her alive. It's some quick thinking from Ximena, Raven's former best friend and the freshly recruited navigator of her ship, that saves Jayla in a scene comically reminiscent of Carrie, which is a sentence I didn't think it was possible to write. With the guards and the mob driven off, Raven finds Jayla, angry a her father's protective nature, ready to head off on Raven's all female pirate ship. Left alone with Raven, Cookie makes a speech that is beautiful, asking Raven to take care of his daughter and make sure she never comes back to the one horse town they live in, because Jayla's too good for it and deserves better. Cookie is a fascinating counterpoint to all the other fathers in the Princeless universe: Raven's own father was taken in by his sons and locked Raven away. King Ash, father of main Princeless series heroine Adrienne, did something like that to all his daughters, and is at best condescending if not a full on misogynist. And Adrienne's best friend Bedelia's father is a drunkard whose work Bedelia had to do to keep the two of them afloat (although the cause if his alcoholism remains unknown, so there might be more story there). Cookie not only unabashedly loves his daughter, but is willing to let her go so she can have a better life because she's smart. Not only that, but as Raven prepares to set off, Cookie gives her some sage advice about the life of a pirate. Let's be frank: Cookie is a father figure up there with Alfred and Uncle Ben in the pantheon of great comic book pseudo-dads. We also do get to spend some more time with the core of Raven's crew, Katie, her first mate, and Sunshine, who Raven befriended at Cookie's, and he final page of the issue has the two of them, along with Ximena, Jayla, and Raven (the core cast of the series) standing on board of Raven's ship preparing for the adventures to come. The mix of action, comedy, and character has been one of the hallmarks of Raven- The Pirate Princess, and with the whole cast now gathered, I'm looking forward to getting to know each of these very fun and different characters and how they relate to each other as they sail the high seas.
Dan Grote checks out the first issue of Warren Ellis's new Marvel series, Karnak...
Story by Warren Ellis
Art by Gerardo Zaffino and Dan Brown
Of course Karnak, the member of the Inhuman royal family who sees the flaw in everything, is a good fit for Warren Ellis – he’s an aloof jerk with hand-to-hand combat skills.
That’s right, from the guy who brought you Pete Wisdom, Spider Jerusalem, and Moon Knight, it’s Karnak.
But Dan, don’t you have some kind of thing about the Inhumans that you mention every time you review an issue of Ms. Marvel?
Oh sure, but Karnak isn’t so much about Marvel’s new-favorite race as it is about how Karnak thinks he’s better than everyone and can generally back it up, the sort of arrogant-jerk fantasy shared by perhaps one too many comics readers.
These days, Karnak has broken ties with the Inhuman royals and lives as the hermetic philosopher-king of the Tower of Wisdom. He occasionally comes out of hiding to run extralegal missions for SHIELD, in exchange for more money for the tower and the ability to mess with people.
Guest starring in this issue are screen-to-page SHIELD transplants Phil Coulson and Gemma Simmons, who enlist special K’s aid retrieving a fellow Inhuman from an AIM splinter cell that has infiltrated SHIELD (and Captain America just finished scrubbing the place of Hydra).
“Is there anyone left at SHIELD who actually only works for SHIELD?” K (and the reader) asks Coulson (and Marvel editorial).
In exchange for his services, Karnak tells Coulson and the parents of the missing Inhuman boy that the boy must become a disciple at the Tower of Wisdom, to be released back into society at a time of Karnak’s choosing. The parents also must give him “the single thing that allows you to believe that the universe is a kind and beautiful place,” because, per Karnak, “humans are no more important than objects, and both humans and objects are meaningless.” Oh, and $1 million. He also gets that.
Finally, let’s peep the art. David Aja covers are always welcome, especially in this post-Hawkguy era. Dan Brown’s muted green color palette also has me missing a previous Aja joint, the Immortal Iron Fist. A panel drawn by Gerardo Zaffino in which K chops a bullet in half has me just as misty.
Oh, and apropos of nothing, Karnak has a Zack Morris-style cellphone. There, I think I just sold you this book.