New 52 Review: Blackhawks #1

Formerly a crack squadron of World War II pilots, the DCnU's Blackhawks are a high-tech spy team.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Blackhawks #1

Call it G.I. S.H.I.E.L.D. or Agent Of Joe, it seems DC has finally gotten themselves a spy team. Anybody with knowledge of the Golden Age will remember Blackhawks as a squad of ace WWII pilots. In the new rebooted age of the DCU, Blackhawks are a spy team involved in big action adventures with hi-tech weapons. The leader is a grizzled Nick Fury clone and the team is made up of largely familiar stereotypes from any number of spy movies. Blackhawks #1 contains hi-octane action, hi-tech weapons and lots of characters with the “I get the job done” attitude. So, if the spy formula is tried and true, then why doesn’t Blackhawks work?

The main reason for the failure is that DC drops you into a situation that’s sink or swim. Logic would follow if you’re going to introduce a new book, even one based on a familiar name, you’d want to hold the hand of the reader through each panel. Instead Blackhawks #1 opens in the middle of something and then just moves on to something else. There’s never a moment where we learn who anybody is or what they’re doing or why we should care. Action-wise, I give writer Mike Costa full credit for unleashing some nice eye candy. A terrorist team has taken over an airport and the Blackhawks are going to kick some ass. If it had stayed a huge action epic, the comic might not have felt so uneven, or if the issue had started slowly and the end had left with a cliffhanger regarding the terrorists, things might have worked out.

Instead, Costa tries to introduce the new Blackhawks gang at the same time our attention is focused on the non-stop action. The adventure ends and the title gets mired in a love affair, a possible mutation, and the typical spy team scene where some political bigwig has it out with the team leader over how they operate. It might not seem as though all of this would be confusing, and in reality it’s not hard to work it out. The problem is it makes a lousy first impression for a book that’s going to have a hard enough time finding an audience.

S.H.I.E.L.D. books have been around for nearly fifty years, feature an iconic figurehead, and they’re the backbone of a huge blockbuster franchise. With all of that, there’s rarely a modern S.H.I.E.L.D. book that lasts longer than a mini-series. Even G.I. Joe titles seem to come and go with ease. Spy books aren’t big sellers so how DC figured they’d corner the market by starting up Blackhawks via a muddled first issue.


The art from Graham Nolan and Ken Lashley is the real star of Blackhawks #1, but I’m not sure who to thank, since Nolan is given credit as layouts and Lashley as finisher and cover. Regardless, the pencils are detailed but not clean. The combination gives the art a bizarre sense of life, as if each character or machine is moving independently of the other. The work allows for considerable action to happen within a two dimensional medium. Outside of the art, there isn’t much to rave about here. In other words, Blackhawks down.