Even after 70 years of comics, Black Canary remains one of the most underrated characters in the DC canon. Whether she's acting as a solo vigilante, a member of the Justice League, or a founder of the Birds of Prey, Dinah Lance has established herself as a headstrong, caring, and very human addition to the superhero lexicon. In recent year, audiences have fallen in love with her through comics, multiple television appearances, an upcoming live-action movie, and, now, the world of middle grade fiction. Black Canary: Ignite arrives in bookstores today, bringing a new take on Dinah from legendary young-adult author Meg Cabot and artist Cara McGee. The DC Zoom graphic novel is an incredibly charming origin story that provides a much-needed narrative for young readers while simultaneously honoring the decades-long legacy of DC's songbird.
Ignite opens on a thirteen-year-old Dinah Lance, a Gotham City Junior High student who hopes to juggle joining the Junior Police Academy and singing in a band with her friends. This plan is complicated by how her fiercely protective parents and her school principal's criticisms of being "too loud." After a string of mysterious events and the arrival of a masked villain, Dinah begins to learn the truth about herself and her family legacy—and may save her world in the process.
With nearly two decades in the business of young adult storytelling and a large body of work about female protagonists, Cabot feels like an inspired choice to bring Dinah's story to life. Over the course of 140 pages, Cabot encompasses and breaks down so much of Dinah's character without the story losing its upbeat tone or becoming inaccessible ti young readers. At times Dinah comes across like another one of Cabot's protagonists—The Princess Diaries lead Mia Thermopolis—in all of the right ways. Both young women are unsure why they don't fit in at school, only to come into their own (while rocking a pair of combat boots) after discovering a shocking secret about their parents' past.
It's also worth highlighting the approach this story has to Black Canary's role as a legacy character, something that has been retconned several times since Dinah Drake first debuted in Flash Comics #86. The narrative offers a new, but familiar, take on the Black Canary mantle, and sets up an endearing mother-daughter story in the process. The way this relationship between Dinah and her mom plays out is sure to pull on the heartstrings of established fans, while also breaking free of the tropes that often plague mothers in children's fiction.
The world of the series also peppers in some fun Easter eggs, featuring both Black Canary lore and to a few other superheroes frequently in Dinah's orbit. The way the latter is weaved into the story establishes the perfect launchpad for a potential sequel or spinoff, especially considering where Dinah ends this particular narrative.
McGee's art works in harmony with Cabot's story, with her style being genuinely adorable without losing the graphic novel's punk-rock edge. Her anime-esque work on comics like Adventure Time and Dodge City suits Dinah's world surprisingly well, allowing for incredibly emotive facial expressions from a lot of the characters. The aesthetics of each character are appealing as well, and the costumes for Dinah and her friends are simple enough to hopefully birth some awesome future cosplays.
The colorwork from Caitlin Quirk bathes the world of the graphic novel in pastel hues of pink, purple, and blue, which communicate the energy of Gotham City in a way that never feels grimdark. And the lettering from Clayton Cowles (who is arguably one of the best in the field now) ties everything together in a fun way, especially when conveying Dinah's Canary Cry.
Black Canary: Ignite is a delightful take on one of DC's oldest heroines, which successfully introduces Dinah Lance to a whole new generation of readers. Dinah is as passionate, determined, and altruistic as she has been portrayed in other mediums, but with the unfiltered, genuine optimism of a girl discovering her place in the world. Even when the story occasionally dips into predictable tropes, it flies out of them with relative ease, crafting a self-contained tale that's genuinely fun to read. As one of the best volumes in DC's young readers' imprint—and as a good Black Canary story—here's hoping we haven't seen the last of Ignite or its world.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Published by DC Zoom, an imprint of DC Comics
On October 29, 2019
Written by Meg Cabot0comments
Art by Cara McGee
Cover by Cara McGee