Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Black Canary and the Package of Peril: Flash Comics #87

In her second appearance, Black Canary played much more of a backseat role than she did in her first. That's fair though, because this is a Johnny Thunder story, not a Black Canary one. And though Black Canary doesn't particularly shine in it, it is a great example of the combination of action and slapstick humor that folks must have liked about Johnny.

The story opens with Johnny daydreaming about Black Canary just as she happens to scoot by with a mysterious package.

I don't know if "framed" is the word she's looking for there. If you'll remember from last time, Black Canary is a crook who steals from other crooks. That's what she's done in this story too. Her robberies are real; it's just that her motives are good.

Then again, that's a lot to throw at Johnny (who's not the brightest guy around to begin with) as she's hurriedly trying to ditch some loot. "Framed" is probably just shorthand for "Trust me. It's not what it looks like."

Johnny does trust her and he takes the package, but almost immediately it's snatched out of his hands by the goons chasing Black Canary. He pouts for a moment before Canary gets him moving again.

The story's not real clear on why Canary tried to dump the package with Johnny. Or why - if she's close enough to write notes with little bird-drawings on them and lob them at Johnny's head - she doesn't just tail the crooks herself. Dark and mysterious are the Ways of the Black Canary. I'd think maybe she was just sweet on Johnny except that none of their other stories together ever suggest that. Chalk it up to writer Bob Kanigher's wanting to include Black Canary in another Johnny Thunder story and not having a very good idea about how to do that.

Johnny gives chase and what follows is one of the most awesome comics pages ever. I don't usually like to scan whole pages, but this one's too good not to share.

First of all, the art is gorgeous. I love how Carmine Infantino poses Johnny in each panel. The way he runs cracks me up and I could stare at the balanced design of his posture in the second panel for hours.

I also like how Johnny suddenly becomes a competent action hero as he's riding on the back bumper of the car. That's a rare thing, but it adds something to the character that he's not constantly bumbling his way through cases. Sometimes he actually knows what he's doing.

Oh, and then of course there's the bad guys' hideout that happens to be a castle. No explanation for that either, by the way. It's just a castle.


More hilarity ensues once Johnny's inside.

Johnny's captured and thrown in a bag to be fed to crocodiles. Black Canary shows up to rescue him, but she's also captured and thrown into a bag. In another instance of competence, Johnny rescues her.

Johnny tells her to stay put while he goes off to retrieve the package, a hollow owl statue that contains the diary of the leader of the crooks. Any credit this mastermind gets for living in a castle with crocodile-traps is offset by his stupidity in keeping an incriminating diary. He deserves to have it stolen and handed over to the police (which, we learn, was Canary's plan all along).

Back to true form, Johnny bumbles his way through a fight with the thugs and pretty much wipes the floor with them. All except one whom Black Canary arrives just in time to clock with the owl statue. She decided not to stay put like Johnny told her to. Good for her.

And so ends the Case of the Perilous Package. Again, Black Canary's pretty disposable in it, but that'll change as we go along. She becomes a regular guest-star in Johnny's stories from here on until she proves so popular that DC cuts her loose from Johnny and starts letting her solo.

Johnny's still around next time though, and his Thunderbolt (absent in this story) will be back too.

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