Black Canary, Old and New: Six Books You Should Read

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Black Canary is now headlining her own series, with the first issue released this week, written by Brenden Fletcher with art by Annie Wu and Irene Koh. The new Black Canary solo title features a re-imagining of a classic character, placing Canary as the lead singer in a rock band who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Although this is a new scenario for Dinah, she appears to be every bit as spunky and dangerous as she always has been.

Black Canary by Annie Wu.

So, who was Black Canary before she was a rock’n’roll singer slash reluctant hero? There are two basic incarnations of the Black Canary character. The first was Dinah Drake, who debuted in Flash Comics in 1947. She would go on to feature prominently in Justice Society of America comics. Later on, enter Dinah Laurel Lance who is Dinah Drake’s daughter and the most well-known Black Canary. This Black Canary is characterized by her role in the Birds of Prey (featuring Oracle and Huntress), the Justice League (and JLA), as well as her relationship/partnership with Green Arrow Oliver Queen. The original Black Canary Dinah Drake did not have any powers, and was simply a hand-to-hand combat specialist. Dinah Lance’s Black Canary also has the super-sonic canary cry, as well as being a gifted martial artist. It is even suggested that her fighting skills are so strong she would beat Batman in a fight.

You can see the current Dinah’s introduction in Batgirl issue #38 (available on Comixology), or the just-released Batgirl Vol 1: Batgirl of Burnside.

If you’ve picked up the all-new Black Canary and are looking for some of her former incarnations be sure to check out some of the following!

Panel from Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Neil Adams.

Green Arrow/Green Lantern

Written by Dennis O’Neil. Art by Neal Adams.

Although Dinah does get into some wacky situations, and is often referred to as “a frail”, she holds her own in this comic often taken down several opponents at once on her own. It showcases her relationship with Oliver Queen as well as her friendship with Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and is a fun look at the classic Dinah.

Green Arrow/Green Lantern is available in trade paperback and digitally.

Panels of Justice League: Year One by Barry Kiston.

JLA Year One

Written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn. Art by Barry Kitson.

This story outlines the formation of the JLA, with Canary is one of the founding members! JLA Year One also nicely showcases Dinah Lance’s relationship with her mother, Dinah Drake, the original Black Canary. Dinah joins The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter to form the League. As the only woman on the team, Dinah frequently has to remind her teammates that she doesn’t need rescuing, and that she can more than hold her own. This is one of my favourite Black Canary books, and it can be a bit tricky to track down, but it’s worth it if you can get your hands on it.

JLA Year One is currently out of print but is cheaply available on Amazon and digitally.

Green Arrow and Black Canary by Cliff Chiang.

Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special and Series

Written by Judd Winnick. Art by Cliff Chiang and Amanda Conner.

When Ollie and Dinah finally decide to tie the knot you just know chaos is going to ensue. The Wedding Special and the subsequent series is fantastic fun and it features lots of familiar faces from the DC Universe. You don’t need to be overly familiar with their relationship to get the gist (they fight and make up, a lot), and it showcases Dinah’s strength, sassiness, and love for her family.

Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special and Series is available in trade paperback and on Comixology.

JLA

Justice League of America: Lightning Saga

Written by Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns. Art by Ed Benes.

It wouldn’t hurt to read the first volume in this series (Justice League of America: Tornado’s Path) but it’s not wholly necessary. This second story arc is where Canary really shines, getting voted in as the new JLA’s Chairperson. This story also beautifully illustrates her relationship with Green Arrow’s former side-kick Roy Harper that we have seen evolve through the Lantern/Arrow teamup as well as the Canary/Arrow series.

Justice League of America: Lightning Saga is available in trade paperback and digitally.

Birds of Prey.

Birds of Prey (2004 and New 52)

Written and art by Various.

While we have a different crew in the older and the newer Birds of Prey comics, they are must-reads for fans of Black Canary. In Gail Simone’s run on the Birds of Prey Canary is supported primarily by Huntress and Oracle. In the New 52, Barbara Gordon is still around but as Batgirl, and Canary is working with a new ever-changing cast of characters including Katanna, Poison Ivy and Starling. These books showcase friendship and teamwork in a great way, and all feature a whole lot of Black Canary.

Birds of Prey is available in multiple trade paperbacks and digitally (2004 and New 52).

Zantanna and Black Canary by Joe Quinones.

Bloodspell

Written by Paul Dini. Art by Joe Quinones.

This is a fantastic one-shot Black Canary and Zatanna team-up that is being reprinted in paperback this week! It is fun and showcases the two Justice-Leaguers friendship as well as both their powers, and gives a unique and original backstory as to how the pair originally met. If you’ve never read one or both of these characters, this is a great place to start. Paul Dini is the quintessential Zatanna writer, and Joe Quinones captures both of their personalities perfectly.

Bloodspell is available in trade paperback and digitally.

View More Should Read Lists.

Here’s to another fantastic series of Black Canary stories told in a whole new light! What are your favourite Canary books?

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Emma Tarver

Emma has been avidly reading comics for the past two years when she is not studying hard as she works towards her psychology degree. She is an Aquaman enthusiast and a zombie aficionado.

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