Dinah: You guys, I just want to get through Career Week without breaking anything else, so things can go back to normal.
Vee: Normal isn’t a therapeutically beneficial term.Meg Cabot, Ignite
I recently got a copy of Ignite by Meg Cabot and illustrated by Cara McGee, a graphic novel about Dinah Lance (Black Canary) as a modern day middle schooler and just learning that she has a super power. It’s a fun an unusual take on a familiar character.
Dinah may not know she has the Canary Cry yet and may not ever have donned a mask, but she’s the familiar no-nonsense, straight-shooting Dinah that readers of DC Comics featuring the adult Black Canary will know. She sticks her foot in her mouth as often as she opens it, but she also tends to say what everyone else wishes they could.
I really liked how the story stayed very focused on Dinah’s voice as both her strength and her struggle. She uses her voice to stand up for herself, her friends, her family, and more in ways that make it clear she will always fight for what’s right, but it’s also what she is struggling most to learn to control (it’s not like she wants to break things every time she raises her voice, after all). She relies on her voice for her recreation and it is a big part of her identity even before she learns about her power. She’s a singer in a band, which is a core part of the story. And cutely, the chapters all have song names you can imagine her band performing.
The art is very in keeping with the popular style for middle grade graphic novels, but the artist also puts a lot of fun little touches in that refer to the DC Comics that are the source material and larger world this story is drawn from. I particularly loved the little Batgirl charm on Dinah’s keyring. Most of Dinah’s world seems pretty typical for a middle school story. She has two good friends who play in a band with her, frustrations with school, bullies, annoyances with over-protective parents, etc.
Coach Grant: Maybe if you didn’t read books during P.E., you’d pay more attention and have fewer injuries.
Vee: True, but then I’d be less prepared for the academic rigors of high school.Meg Cabot, Ignite
There are surprisingly few other DC characters who make appearances. Besides Dinah’s mother, the original Black Canary (who amusingly tells a version of the original comic character’s romance with her husband that is surprisingly accurate to what appeared in those old comics) the world feels pretty mundane. Dinah’s gym teacher turns out to be Wildcat (who trained or mentored Dinah in many comic stories), which is a fun appearance.
Perhaps the oddest piece of this book is actually the one piece that is almost required for any superhero comic – the villain. In this case, the villain is Bonfire, who recently escaped from Arkham Asylum. Bonfire is a not very well known Black Canary villain, so she makes some sense as a choice, but she’s so over-the-top villian-y here that it’s hard to take her seriously. And yes, I realize I am saying that about a superhero comic story.
Overall, this book was fun and I enjoyed reading a younger version of one of my favorite comic book characters. I wish the story had been more about Dinah learning about her power and how to control it and less about dealing with the villain (Bonfire almost felt tacked on just because they needed a villain, when they really didn’t). I would love to check out some of the other books in this vein that DC is publishing, but it definitely felt like there was a checklist of things they were required to include in this book and those were added in after a good story had been created. They felt unnecessary and took away from the otherwise very strong and interesting story.