The Art of Annie Wu
For the last several years DC and I have been on the outs. I hadn’t been happy for a while, but when things went down with the Batwoman creative team I knew I needed to move on. It was a messy breakup, filled with trips to the used bookstore in order to purge whole series runs from my collection. Regular stops at my local comic store had me avoiding the DC wall, unable to make eye contact with the titles that I used to know and love. I received snippets of information from mutual friends, but tried my best to cut all ties. It might have continued this way indefinitely – I’d started something new with Marvel and I was happy – if not for Annie Wu.
I’m lucky enough to be a five minute walk away from my LCS, so every Wednesday I stroll over and pick up my file at lunch. Not exactly the busiest time of day in the sprawling metropolis that is my small college-town, and because it’s usually just me and my comic book dude Chris, I get a lot of individual customer service. And freebies. My introduction to Annie Wu came as a promo poster for Black Canary that Chris slipped into my bag. No talking it up. No, “You should check this out.” Just a folded piece of glossy paper for me to discover when I got back to my office.
Art has always been a key factor in whether or not I enjoy a comic. I’ve read many poorly written books because the art was good, and have had to walk away from a brilliant series more than once because I couldn’t connect with the art. A handful of artists have captured my heart in a definitive “love-at-first-sight” type of moment: Phil Noto’s Birds of Prey #43 cover, JH Williams III’s Batwoman: Elegy, and Stephanie Hans’s flashback sequence in Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 all engendered such a reaction in me. When I pulled that Black Canary poster out of my bag last summer, I fell hard once again.
While Noto and Hans both use an almost watercolor technique, full of soft lines and painterly qualities, Wu, not unlike Williams, uses bold black lines to emphasize action and strength. This style is used perfectly to reflect the rock and roll, riot girl, punk aesthetic that this latest iteration of the character of Black Canary embodies. Wu’s depiction of DD feels like violent sketches over stained glass: sharp, bright, and beautiful.
One of my favorite examples of Wu’s ability is a three page spread in issue #1. It’s an action sequence in which DD is forced to take on a group of skeletal, faceless, blog-like monsters in order to protect the other members of her band. The action Wu achieves is stunning, but I have to also give massive props to Lee Loughridge, the colorist. In panels where DD is dominant, oranges and yellows permeate the scene, as if she is a source of light and energy. Conversely, when the monsters gain ground the panels shift to tones of blacks, blues, and purples. It’s a subtle dichotomy of darkness and light that speaks to the coming battle DD will have to engage in in future issues.
These three pages are completely art driven, using only a single word bubble toward the end when DD turns to her band and says simply, “I’m so sorry,” before unleashing her sonic scream to win the fight, knowing it will reveal her “different” nature and fully expecting their rejection.
Black Canary was the perfect storm for opening my heart back up to DC. I already loved the character, it told an interesting story, and the art was amazing. With Rebirth and the cancellation of the series on the horizon, we’ll see how long my reconciliation with DC lasts. I do however know two things for sure. First, that Fletcher and Wu’s run on Black Canary is a classic, one that will hold a special place in my heart and on my shelf. And second, I will follow Annie Wu in whatever creative projects she endeavors, because I love her art, and true love lasts a lifetime.