Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: BLACKHAWKS!
The Concept and Characters: I’ve written about the history of DC’s Blackhawk comic book for Tor.com before, so you probably know that this is a long-time aviator-of-vengeance series reconceptualized for a contemporary audience.
Another way of putting it is this: Blackhawks is that old Gregory Peck movie, 12 O’Clock High turned into a G. I. Joe spin-off.
DC did the logical thing and grabbed one of the writers from the actual G. I. Joe comic from IDW to write this thing.
I have no idea if Gregory-Peck-movie-as-G. I. Joe-series sounds off-putting to people, but it sounds like a potentially interesting take to me. Of course, it’s not the official description of Blackhawks. No, the official press release talks about an “elite group of mercenaries” and “brave men from around the world” and “cutting-edge hardware and vehicles.” But that just sounds like every episode of G. I. Joe I’ve ever seen in my life, so the fact that this particular series takes that approach WITH a musty-but-classic old concept like John Blackhawk and his compadres makes it more potentially interesting.
Plus, it’s set in the DC universe, and that offers all sorts of possibilities, from superhero guest appearances to villainous H.I.V.E.s and even maybe the DC version of Kobra. (They spell it with a “K,” because it’s more evil that way.)
Writer Mike Costa has talked a bit about the book in the press, and he seems to understand that it’s really a superhero comic wrapped in the garments of high-tech modern warfare. But he’s also said that he wants the Blackhawk team to really interact with the kind of technology that could be possible in a DC universe populated by alien beings and time travelers. He’s said that he wants the Blackhawks to stand at the forefront of future tech in the DCU, or, as he put it, the “Blackhawks, in a way, are the custodians of the future.”
The Creative Team: Mike Costa is a relative newcomer to the comic book industry, and this is his first DC comic, though he has worked for the company’s Wildstorm imprint in the past. As I mentioned, he currently writes G. I. Joe comics (along with Transformers comics) for the publisher IDW. I’ve never read a single issue of anything he’s written, I’m sorry to say, so I’m going into this one blind. His background in the G. I. Joe universe may or may not be an asset when it comes to writing something similar at DC, but it would seem like his experience couldn’t hurt.
Some of Ken Lashley’s character designs and concept sketches for this series have hit the internet and they’re in keeping with what we already know about this comic: characters in vaguely military gear, equipped with plenty of guns, ammo, and compartments for their guns and ammo. Frankly, even if this series has potential, exploring parts of the DC Universe that you wouldn’t normally see in a typical superhero comic, it’s Lashley’s art that’s the most worrisome part of it all.
He’s a veteran artist, with 18 years of experience in mainstream comics, but his style is jagged and often grotesque at worst, and bland and under-dramatic at best. He draws as if his natural tendency is to do cartoony caricature, but his rendering leans toward the early-Image style of Jim Lee or Whilce Portacio. My fear is that Lashley’s sometimes garish pages could derail what might otherwise be an interesting take on something outside the normal superhero costumed melodrama of the DCU.
Recommendation: Wait and see. I know I’ll be checking out the first issue to see how well Costa nails the tone of a modern war comic set in the DC Universe, and looking to see if Lashley’s art detracts from the story. But this one might not even be worth reading in trade paperback. It’s too early to tell. And while that’s true of all of this new releases, this is one of the few series that I can’t even make an educated guess about. My gut says that it will be an ugly mess of a comic, but I’m certainly willing to give it a chance.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.