Writer: Mike Costa
Pencils: Graham Nolan
Inks/Cover artist: Ken Lashley
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
The manager at my local comic shop has been after me to check out IDW’s various G.I.Joe comics, especially the new Cobra spinoff series, but I’ve resisted, not being a big fan of G.I.Joe, even though my brother and I had a number of the toys in the 1980s. Well, this entry in DC’s New 52 line is written by the guy whose work has been what’s been driving my friend’s recommendations, so I approached this revamp of the Blackhawks concept with an open mind. Well, I can only assume G.I.Joe: Cobra is exceptionally better than Blackhawks, but this read like an Image comic from the early 1990s, designed to be Kewl rather than compelling. Another reason why I was curious about this title was the fact longtime comics artist Graham Nolan — once DC’s go-to guy for Batman stories — contributes to it, but his simple, traditional style is nowhere to be found in this comic book. I expect Blackhawks will appeal to G.I.Joe fans… if they’re looking for super-hero elements to creep into their Joe stories.
When bad people do bad things locally, you call the police. When they do bad things in a colorful costume, you call the Justice League. When they do bad things abroad, you call in the military. But when they do bad things involving banned super-science and other means prohibited by the Metapowers Act, you call in… well, you’re not supposed to know, but you call the Blackhawks. A super-secret military operation funded by the United Nations, the Blackhawks are a elite group of soldiers and specialists who will take any risk to save lives and lock the bad guys in a dark corner of the world from which they’re never emerge. But what happens when one of these soldiers, tasked with containing anything metahuman, is exposed to something that will make that person a target?
As I thumbed my way through the first few pages of this comic book, I was struck by the fact this could’ve been a Jim Lee comic that’s been sitting in a drawer for a couple of decades. I was repeatedly reminded of Jim Lee’s throughout the comic. The designs of such characters as Kunoichi and the Irishman — from her spiky purple hair to his Wolverine-esque mutton chops — reeks of the Kewl influence of the 1990s. Obviously, this is a mode DC has embraced in several of its New 52 titles, and maybe it’ll appeal to those lapsed readers who last read comics in the ’90s. But DC ought to remember those readers are a lot older now, and maybe the superficial qualities of that sort of fare won’t have the same cachet for them anymore. I could easily be wrong, but I do know this approach isn’t for me.
Ken Lashley offers a fairly standard cover image, but it’s one that captures the qualities of the characters and story within. Actually, I liked how it reminded me of the style of Stuart (Fear Itself) Immonen. There’s a clean look at play, and the character designs are clear for the most part. The same can’t be said of the interior artwork. It’s rough and sketchy, and it makes the action a little difficult to follow at key moments. In addition to the cover art, Lashley contributes finishes over Graham Nolan’s layouts. It’s clear Nolan didn’t provide complete pencils for this book, and his style isn’t apparent here at all. I thought maybe his style was eclipsed by Lashley’s inks, but given the credits of “layouts” and “finisher,” I suspect there wasn’t enough of Nolan’s style there to begin with for it to be overtaken.
So, you’ve set up a super-secret, covert military strike force, provided it with an impossibly huge and well-armed headquarters in a ridiculously remote location to ensure it remains invisible to the world. It’s time to outfit the team with uniforms, so what do you do? Why, incorporate a recognizable symbol as the team’s brand, something nice and shiny so when the operatives do come into contact with the public, they’ll focus on that emblem, photograph it and spread it all over the Web. Secrecy fail — not to mention logic in plotting.
Costa’s script is an accessible one, which is vital given this incarnation of the Blackhawks is a completely new one. All of the characters are new as far as I can tell. For a moment, I wondered if the leader, Andrew Lincoln, was someone I was meant to recognize from DC’s history. The name certainly struck me as familiar. A quick Google search revealed why: Andrew Lincoln is the name of the actor who plays Rick Grimes in the TV adaptation of another comic book, The Walking Dead. As far as I can tell, the Blackhawks name isn’t meant to pay tribute to the original team of pilots from DC’s Golden Age (well, Quality Comics’ Golden Age, but DC acquired them), and that begs the question: why bother using the name? I suppose DC wants to maintain the brand and reel in longtime readers with the (unfulfilled) promise of a link to its past, but the name doesn’t really say anything about the premise.
As far as I can tell, DC decided it wanted its own G.I.Joe-like team, and it turned to one of the guys who’s been writing G.I.Joe stories in the 21st century. And DC got what it was looking for, complete with sci-fi tech and a cool home base (some assembly required). Blackhawks is G.I.Joe right down to the memorable nicknames and codenames — Attila, the Irishman, Canada, Wildman, etc. What sets this apart, I suppose, is incorporating the elite military unit into a world of super-heroes. That begs the question: why launch this series and the new Sgt. Rock concept in Men of War, which is also about top soldiers fighting wars in a super-hero setting? 4/10
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.