The Girl Has Pipes: Black Canary Recommended ReadingJune 16, 2015
As a force to be reckoned with and a Canary cry to match it, Dinah Lance, also known as the Black Canary can arguably be considered as one of the top heroines in the DC universe. Whether she’s alongside her fellow Birds of Prey, keeping Oliver Queen out of trouble, or running solo, there seems to be nothing the beloved heroine can’t handle. Known to be one of the top martial artists of both heroes and villains alike, as well as being equipped with a deadly sonic scream, Black Canary is ready to deliver a brutal beatdown at a moments notice. While Dinah Lance may not have been the only one to take on the mantle of Black Canary (both her mother Dinah Drake, and her Kingdom Come universe daughter Olivia Queen have assumed the title) she certainly seems to be everyone’s favorite bird. With a new Black Canary series, her fourth one in fact, set to debut from Brenden Fletcher and Annie Wu, here’s some classic, but must read stories to help you catch up and be ready for the all new series!
It should be no surprise to find at least one Green Arrow title on this list. After all Dinah Lance had been the on again/off again girlfriend of the Emerald Archer for almost fifty years. While Black Canary has made her appearance throughout multiple series for the sharp shooting hero it is Mike Grell’s 1987 mini series The Longbow Hunters that makes this list. While this book may be found on many Green Arrow recommended readings, including my own, it doesn’t make the story any less important to his canary counterpart. Set during the years of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance’s life together in Seattle a string of cases involving the murders of eighteen young girls catch the duo’s attention. Green Arrow takes to his bow in any attempt to track the person responsible for these crimes but the Black Canary takes to a different tactic as she goes undercover in an effort to stop them herself. However things go dark as Dinah is kidnapped and tortured by her captor. Black Canary would escape with her life although barely thanks to the help from Green Arrow. However the traumatic experience of these events would cause her to not only lose her canary cry for many years but faith in herself as well. The Longbow Hunters and the events that came from this series are something that are touched upon by many writers who took on Dinah’s character. As a character who is often viewed as the powerhouse both in body and spirit, the events that took place allowed readers to see a different side of the Canary. While the original story may have been three issues long DC comics compiled the story into one trade for easy reading which you can find at your local comic book shop or buy digitally via Comixology.
Further Reading: Black Canary Volume 1
Seeing as how this book was one of the first titles to expose me to the character, Black Canary’s third series, also titled Road To The Altar holds a special place in my heart. Written by Tony Bedard and art by Nicola Scott, Paulo Siqueira and many others, this four issue mini series takes place between the end of Judd Winnick’s massive run on Green Arrow and the his beginning on the Green Arrow/Black Canary series. The story focuses on Dinah Lance and Sin, a young girl who was born and bred to become a cold blooded killer, worthy of taking head of the League Of Assassins. It was during Black Canary’s time with the Birds of Prey that she rescued the child from such a life in the hopes to give the girl one of her own. However trouble ensues not only with the league but with her own relationship with the Emerald Archer herself. With special appearances from Green Arrow himself as well as Mia Dearden who then donned the role of the heroes sidekick Speedy, this book is an excellent read and serves as the perfect predecessor for the future Green Arrow/Black Canary run. There aren’t enough people who give this book credit and is often overlooked on the recommended readings for the character. While the book may be a little hard to find, readers can easily find the individual issues while perusing through dollar bins or during a good back issue hunt. The issues are also available digital over on Comixology. While you’re at it make sure to pick up the Black Canary Wedding Planner one-shot which is also included in the trade.
Further Reading: Black Canary Volume 2
After years of breaking up and making up Black Canary and Green Arrow finally tie the knot. The Wedding Album contains just the beginning of the thirty two issue series complete with action, angst, arrow puns and foul language. Judd Winnick returns to the characters he wrote for years crafting yet another great story. Throw that in with artwork from Amanda Connor and Cliff Chiang and you have yourself one hell of a book. So perhaps marriage isn’t all bliss and happiness which is what happens in the first arc of Green Arrow/Black Canary. Chaos ensues which forces Dinah to Themyscira, which is pretty damn cool by the way. We need more stories with Black Canary hanging out among the Amazons. This book feels more like Dinah’s rather then Ollie’s, at least for the first half, which is a nice change of pace. I can’t stress enough now perfectly Winnick wrote these characters which not only shows within this series but in the Green Arrow solo series he wrote prior. This one has definitely got to be my favorite out of the list and is one that I have read over time and time again. This book really flushes out the relationship between the entire Arrow family. You will laugh, you will cry and by the end of it you’ll probably come out with a vocabulary fouler than both Oliver and Dinah combined. Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album also includes the Wedding Special which is an absolute must read. This book is just the setup for a fantastic series. You can catch the trade over on Amazon.
Birds of Prey: Death of Oracle
Don’t let the name of the book intimidate you. This book may claim the “Death of Oracle” but it’s definitely important for our Black Canary. Gail Simone is legendary for her work on her mammoth Birds of Prey run which stretches over more then sixty issue collectively and her work on Birds of Prey: Death of Oracle is no different. What makes this such an essential read is Black Canary’s confrontation with the villain Mortis, a woman who’s touch can cause a person to go insane as they’re forced to live through their deepest regrets. Remember how I said that Mike Grell’s Longbow Hunters was referenced throughout much of Dinah’s history, this is one of them. Gail Simone has often stated that Black Canary is one of her favorite characters to write and the passion and love for the heroine is evident throughout the books entirety. Black Canary is forced to struggle with herself for what may be the final time as she attempts to put every awful moment behind her. Any story involving the Birds of Prey are near essential for any Black Canary fan but this one takes the cake in my book merely for the personal struggles and triumph that we see the character go through. This book is well worth the read, as is every book written by Gail Simone. Birds of Prey: The Death of Oracle is a story of strength and sisterhood as these women fight the hardships that try to stop them. The book also includes a smaller arc, written by Marc Andreyko that allows readers to see a life for the first Black Canary, Dinah Drake as she teams up with classic heroes such as the Phantom Lady and Lady Blackhawk. Make sure to pick this one up over on Amazon
DC Comics gave readers a brief break from the New 52 for the stand alone graphic novel Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell. Paul Dini returns to craft an all around fun story as well as the perfect addition to any Black Canary fan’s collection. This book which could also be considered as an extended one-shot also serves as the perfect place for new readers of the character to jump aboard. This story is whirlwind adventure for our favorite fishnet wearing ladies. While a Black Canary/Zatanna team up story was never one I expected it was one I certainly welcomed. Even in the afterlife a crazy thief is hellbent on revenge after Dinah ruined her chances at a serious payout. Black Canary gets herself into trouble yet again and its up to her spellbound friend Zatanna to help her. Paul Dini takes readers across time throughout the two heroines relationships spanning from their early days, all the way to terror on Apokolips. Joe Quinones work on the book is stunning as he creates new yet familiar looks for both of these characters. The book also includes early sketches from Quinones himself as well as the script to the story. This is another one of my absolute favorite reads and something I find myself coming back to time and time again. One can only hope to see more Black Canary team ups in the future! Until then make sure you pick this up whether you’re a fan new or old over on Comixology or at your local comic book shop.
Further Reading: Wonder Woman #34 – #35
Black Canary has had her fill of stories over the years, allowing each of them to shape her in their own way. As a leader for both the Birds of Prey and the Justice League of America, she has lead with strength and passion never once allowing the worst of her hardships to define her. These stories are just the surface of those surrounding around Black Canary and there are sure to be only more to come. Until then don’t forget to pick up Black Canary #1 which releases on June 17th. Let us know in the comments below what are some of your favorite Black Canary stories/moments and always happy reading!