Who's the Modern Age Black Canary?

Who's This? The daughter of the original.

The facts: We talked about it a bit last week. Black Canary was a late Golden Age invention that was tagged to jump from Earth-2 to Earth-1 so she could become a member of the Justice League of America after one of those JLA-JSA crossovers. To make her more on par with the rest of the team, they gave her a canary cry, and eventually retconned a strange backstory in which the original Canary married co-star Larry Lance and had a child called Dinah (because that is totally a tradition for female offspring, sheesh), cursed with the cry by the Wizard, and sent to the multiversal void for her own protection by Johnny Thunder's Thunderbolt and the Earth-2 Canary we think joined the JLA is actually the daughter with memory implants, and oh forget it. The Crisis did away with all that business, and left the canary cry as a simple mutation, and Canary's membership in the JLA was upscaled to FOUNDING member when the Big Three were said not to be. Either way, jumping to Earth-1 put Dinah in Green Arrow's crosshairs and for a lot of her history, like it or not, she's been attached to a male character of greater notoriety, even though she was designed as an independent character. In the late 80s, she and Oliver Queen were grounded in mature readers-type stories in HIS series, though she got a mini-series and series following her departure from the book. When that didn't work out, she helped found the Birds of Prey with Barbara Gordon and has been attached to one version or other of that team since.
How you could have heard of her: Post-New52, she was given a series in which she headlines a rock band, and she's still connected to Green Arrow and the Birds of Prey as of Rebirth. On television, not only was she a character on Arrow, but they amplified her footprint by giving her a sister who becomes White Canary andd goes on to star on Legends of Tomorrow. The recent Harley Quinn/Birds of Prey movie had a completely different Black Canary, but the I.P. lives on.
Example story: Black Canary vol.2 #7 (July 1993) "The Dance of Capoeira" by Sarah E. Byam, Trevor von Eeden and Bob Smith

The 1990s Black Canary series conveniently has 1) no Green Arrow to muddle things up, and 2) a done-in-one story I can use as an example of a modern-day Dinah story. Now, I don't really know her supporting cast, but she has a friend called Gan who brings an undercover FBI agent on a date where Dinah is a third wheel. She spots a pickpocket in the crowd and heads for the restrooms, because one of her chief weapon is fishnets, fishnets and surprise, her TWO chief weapons...

You would think she could apprehend a common thief without getting into costume, but here we go. The real crime being committed however, is an assassination, on screen, by the masked capoeira dancer, putting an electrified palm on his victim's heart.

This is as much Capoeira's story as it is Black Canary's, so let's go roughly over the details. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art secretly developed in plain sight by peasants as a dance so the bosses wouldn't know. And so the assassin known as Capoeira uses that fighting style, but also targets people who have exploited migrant workers. The electro-palm is less thematically relevant, but we're told it's only his latest weapon, and the FBI have been tracking him for the better part of a year. So, back to the story, Capoeira escapes after zapping Canary (had he touched her chest, it would have been curtains, but he's too much of a gentleman for that), and the FBI allows her to help stop him since she cocked up their sting operation.

His next target: A farmer who uses cheap migrant labor, but otherwise doesn't look like some kind of evil land baron - overalls, plaid shirt, shotgun - but still found guilty by Capoeira's standards, he's killed and his house is set on fire. Canary runs into the flames, but she's too late to save him. But Capoeira's been irresponsible. The man's family was asleep upstairs, and his wife tries to save their innocent baby!

Oh man, that is DARK. The good guys eventually corner Capoeira behind a building and Black Canary finds out what it'd be like to fight Marvel's Tarantula.

That's it, Black Canary is disfigured from now on. Seeing some water pipes along the roof, she has an idea:

The water hits his electrical system and electrocutes him. Dinah hoped it would only stun him. She thought he would survive. But she was wrong.

At least that scar has nicely healed...

So, has Grellification returned Black Canary to her roots as a film noir character? I think we could say so. She'll return to the superheroics of the Silver and Bronze Ages in due course, but at this point, if not quite noir, this story feels at least like the neo-noir of the '90s. Our heroine is unhappy in her life, she's screwing up, she's not managing to save the innocents she sets out to rescue, and the villain even dies just to add to her guilt. We see the noir in Capoeira too. Though painted as a villain, he's out for social justice, but he too is a complicated vigilante who makes bad things happen and pays for it.

So after two Who's This? entries for Black Canary, the question is: If you're not doing her in noir, are you doing her right?

Who's Next? A senator raised by birds.



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