Saturday, April 6, 2013

New 52 Review: Blackhawks

Blackhawks Volume 1: The Great Leap Forward, paperback collection. Issues 1-8, by Mike Costa, Graham Nolan, Cafu and Bit.

I had mixed feelings about whether I wanted to read this comic. On the one hand, the New 52 version of Blackhawks updated the team to be a high-tech covert ops unit, fighting enemies who use nanotechnology and super-smart weapons. I like the high-tech spy novels of Tom Clancy, Brad Thor and others, and I don't mind comics that feature characters without super-powers. So there was reason to be hopeful.
On the other hand, I have read very few of the prior incarnations of Blackhawk or the Blackhawks, despite DC Comics' many efforts to revive the team over the past fifty years. And by the time I picked this trade paperback up, I knew that the series had terrible sales and mixed critical reviews. The first issue was the #48 seller among the 52 titles, and each of the remaining seven issues ranked wither #51 or #52. So there was reason to be doubtful.
To be fair, the book did meet my lowered expectations, but I can't see for sure whether I would have picked up the next collection, had there been one. There was not enough characterization for my taste, and for a team book, that is necessary. The political intrigue involving the place of the Blackhawks within the United Nations structure was interesting, especially after the team's covert cover was blown. But I did not get to know all of the characters in a manner that would have brought me back to future issues.
Reading this collection, I have not been convinced that the graphic medium is the best way to tell a spy story. Maybe novels and movies, and the occasional TV show, are the best formats for telling this type of tale. I enjoyed this particular story well enough, but I don't know that an ongoing series would have held my interest.
Mike Costa obviously knew in advance that the book would end at issue 8. The adventure wraps up with explosions and battles, and then the one-and-a-half-page denouement contains a nice metatextual conversation.

As the series wraps up, one character says "So the Blackhawks program ends in catastrophe and failure." and the response comes, "Don't be ridiculous. We saved the world a few dozen times over. We're just resting our wings. Trust me."
Source: public library.

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