It’s been a long (and expensive) month, but the fourth and final week of first issue of The New 52 has finally come and gone! I’ll be reviewing all 52 #1 issues released this month, and you can find all of the reviews on the Comic Book Reviews index page. If you had asked me what single book I had the absolute least interest in when the list of all 52 new titles was announced, I would have told you “Blackhawks” without hesitation. I was so disinterested in this book, I didn’t even read the solicitation and never even realized a favorite writer of mine, Mike Costa, was attached to the book until it was in my hands. Is that enough to turn my feelings about this title around?
This review will be as spoiler-free as possible.
Mike Costa’s experience writing GI Joe over at IDW Publishing shines through in Blackhawks #1, as we’re introduced to the codenamed members of the DC Universe’s elite operations team. I like the idea of a highly-trained team of special operatives in the DCU, as normal humans have traditionally been solely used as cannon fodder. I can see lots of great possibilities for this team, such as fighting the vampire army introduced over in I, Vampire #1, going toe-to-toe with the rogue Supergirl seen in Supergirl #1, or the alien invasion hinted at in Grifter #1 and Voodoo #1. A credible team of humans to fight superhuman/supernatural threats in the DC Universe is a concept I feel has a lot of potential, and is the greatest strength of the Blackhawks’ premise as a whole.
The central character of this issue is Kunoichi (the thousands of hours spent watching Naruto finally pay off, as I know that means “female ninja” in Japanese). This actually worked well for me, as Kunoichi is a skilled and tough-as-nails young female operative. Fiery and stubborn with flaming pink hair, Kunoichi immediately challenged my preconception of the Blackhawks as being a bunch of boring old men pilots. Kunoichi has a great character design and a strong personality. We’re not given any background for her, but I can certainly see her becoming a popular breakout character from this title.
The first part of the issue is an action-packed battle between the Blackhawks and a band of unknown terrorists. The battle is brief but exciting, and the Blackhawks are able to take down their foes pretty effortlessly, demonstrating their combat prowess. I would have liked a battle with a stronger opponent to give us a better idea of the Blackhawks’ combat capabilities, but this worked fine as a short introduction to the team in the field.
The rest of the book begins the “world-building” phase where we see the Blackhawks’ base, meet their support staff and commander, begin to learn the personal dynamics of the team, and see what kind of armaments the team has available. The government liaison for the team has no idea how the team can afford their armada of technology and vehicles, setting up what should be a compelling future plot-thread. While this all seems like a dump of expository information at first, if this series ends up being filled with twists like Mike Costa’s GI Joe: Cobra (and I suspect it will), then this is necessary set-up, as the groundwork needs to be laid for the kind of story that Costa is trying to tell here.
The most famous and well-known member of the team is Lady Blackhawk. I’ve never read anything with her but have heard of her, so I was curious about what type of person she would be. Well, I’m still wondering. Other than a zoomed-out shot of her back while she’s battling terrorists in one panel, we don’t see her at all in this issue. I wouldn’t have even known she was in the issue at all if she wasn’t listed in the field operatives in the first mission log. Considering that the Blackhawks team only has four field operatives (so far as we see in this first issue), it seems weird to totally exclude the only one with preexisting popularity.
Also, I don’t know how I feel about the nanocites as a plot device. I don’t have anything invested in any of the characters yet, so one of the Blackhawks becoming infected with nanocites doesn’t hold a lot of intrigue for me. I can see where Costa might be able to use this to set up some interesting subterfuge plotlines in the future, but I’m not there yet and I doubt the rest of the readers are either. And if this develops into a member of this team being a superhuman, I’m going to be very displeased.
The Blackhawks, the DC Universe’s new most covert team, stuck their freaking LOGO on one of their ships, which some guy immediately snaps a cellphone picture of. SERIOUSLY?!? This was just dumb. Mike Costa doesn’t have the Joe flying around in jets with the GI Joe logo on them over in the books he writes for IDW, so I can’t imagine why he thought this would be okay here.
“Where Can I Buy It?!”
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Overall: Blackhawks #1 is a decent first issue that begins to establish the premiere covert and special operations team of the DC Universe. The Blackhawks don’t have the pre-existing structure and background that GI Joe does, so Mike Costa has the unenviable task of building all of that from the ground up while trying to create an interesting enough plot to develop a readership. I’m possibly being too generous with my grade on this book, but I was expecting absolutely nothing and ended up being moderately impressed by this issue. Did Mike Costa win me over totally as a reader with this first issue? No. But he did impress me enough to earn a book and concept that I was absolutely certain I would never pre-order another issue of a second chance. That has to be considered a success.