Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blackhawks #1

DC Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Mike Costa
Layout artist: Graham Nolan
Artist: Ken Lashley
Colorist: Guy Major
Letterer: Rob Leigh

With Blackhawks, DC revives a series of war comics created by—among others—Will Eisner in the 1940s and revamped by Howard Chaykin in the late 1980s. This time around, it’s not a straightforward war book, but more like the Thunderbirds with a black-ops tinge.

Now, I’m not sure what kinds of mishaps were involved in the making of this coming, but there must have been some. Layout artist Graham Nolan, for instance, wasn’t listed in the solicitation information for the first issue, but as of #2, he’s the sole penciler of the series. Ken Lashley has been around for 20 years in the U.S. comics industry, and when he can be bothered to deliver a comic, it usually looks okay—see the cover of the first issue.

His interiors for Blackhawks #1 look rather less accomplished, unfortunately, which suggests he was in a bit of a rush. Graham Nolan, likewise, is an artist who’s been working in comics since mid-1980s, so you’d expect him to be able to turn in layouts that are, if nothing else, solid. However, the action sequence that takes up the first eight pages of this issue is one of the most confusing and worst-choreographed ones I remember seeing. Half of the time, I can’t work out what’s meant to be happening here.

The thing is, we can’t be sure whether that’s strictly the artists’ fault, either, because Mike Costa’s script happens to be one of the dumbest ones among the “New 52” titles.

Here you’ve got the Blackhawks, a top-secret, elite type organization using big yellow logos on its uniforms and vehicles—which promptly becomes an issue when one of those logos shows up in a Youtube video. It’s somewhat remarkable that Mr. Costa—or his editors, for that matter—didn’t stop to consider how this plot point could maybe be problematic, upon reflection.

But good help is hard to find, obviously.

When one of the Blackhawks agents is bitten (!) by an opponent, she refuses to receive treatment for the wound, everybody else in her pro organization doesn’t care, either, and she’s promptly infected with some type of bug. So, yeah: This is one of those stories that hinge on the utter and total stupidity of its characters—and one of those stories where the Blackhawks commander wears sunglasses in his secret underground bunker.

There’s more, such as a complete lack of timing (the Irishman who’s actually Ukrainian may be an old joke, but it is funny—until Mr. Costa spends the rest of the page explaining it to death) or the general absence of any type of behavior among the cast that’s recognizable as being human.

If Blackhawks at least embraced its own the over-the-top stupidity, there might have been some Rambo III-type entertainment value here. Alas, the book never even gets close to that. It’s a dumb and ugly comic that’s just boring most of the time, and not very well-made overall.

Grade: D-

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