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WHttDCnU? – Blackhawks: The Great Leap Forward

WHTTDCU-Titles-052

Birthed onto paper during war times by Will Eisner for Quality Comics and later DC Comics, Blackhawk was an american pilot that headed a special ops airforce under the same name. For years the Blackhawks remained mostly unchanged, being more military and less super heroic but still having many a uniformed adventure in the same universe, sometimes either allying with or clashing with capes and cowls.

But in the new 52 quite a lot has changed, even the team’s classic member Lady Blackhawk, and now the group stands as less uniform and more a myriad of unique characters. Seems familiar, in a different way… Will Wasusa and the Keeper fall into line with this new special government group? Or be subject to an organization lacking all coordination? Find out now on:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE DC NEW UNIVERSE?

– QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

wasusa-rATTACK ON AIRPORT
DEPLOY THUNDERBIRDS
Wait. Blackhawks.
DEPLOY BLACKHAWKS.

We have: 1, 2, 3, 4 wisecracking sterotypes. Dyed hair crazy girl with Japanese code name. Red hair sideburns with cap, obviously irish and called so, clearly badass guy of minimal description, and home base tech guy of no description. They take out various obvious badguys with supertech (guns we don’t see fire, x-ray goggle mask things) with basically no effort, just injuries. Oh, then they crash a plane into a building and return to base, but not before someone takes a picture of a logo on a helicopter.

Seriously, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to brand secret organisations. It’s got to be in the top 10 worst ideas of all time.

Oh, and Irish is Ukrainian. Anyway, Blackhawks is a UN organisation, and a delegate is getting a tour. He’s grumpy, as most delegates seem to be when touring super-secret money sinks. We jump back to the team, there’s a little bit of “hey look at us recovering from serious month long injuries in weeks”, we discover Japanese name (Kunoichi) has super strength too. We meet the guy in charge (Lincoln), and the delegate and he are unhappy at the picture of the logo. Then Kunoichi glows, and is unhappy about something.

A prison explodes. The team goes to the exploded prison, a weird ship thing appears and shoots at the team. A dude called Titus also jumps down and ruins them, then kunoichi crushes some super strong suit material, and he starts laughing before he’s knocked out saying “they’ve already won”. He’s then captured and interrogated. Because while the fight on the ground happened, a bunch of other team members were captured. Kunoichi Is apparently infected with nanocites and put into isolation. We jump back to the rest of the team, who seem to be in some kind of citadel.

The grumpy delegate wants to be assigned to blackhawks. Lincoln and Lady Blackhawk have an argument of no consequence. The captured team members play with dogs, and meet “Mother Machine”. Lady Blackhawk loses her temper and spills titus’s blood near an airvent. Mother Machine boasts immortality and luxury to lure the captured team members, then we get moderately useless backstory before the blackhawks base is attacked. Kunoichi then plugs herself into the base with a needle and somehow has control of it. Somehow. Because nanocites in her blood, or something.

Titus has escaped, killed some dudes, and stolen a control rod from the nuclear reactor. This one failure means everything is going to melt down. Panic, jump to citadel. Conversation, all will be upgraded, hey is this an aircraft BAM, steal aircraft. Back to Blackhawks base, Kunoichi fights titus, loses, accesses plane behind him remotely and shoots it at him, base explodes. Other team manages to launch stolen craft into space.

Craft dudes reach a bad station, attacked by dogs. They get a message back to earth, only to be interrupted by the important part because they thought monologueing was a good idea. Mother machine cuts them off. They get de-orbited. They’re in a kinetic launcher satellite, and decide to fire it at the base they launched from. “I’m a pilot” line used for I think the third time in as many issues. They jump out of the satellite as it’s passing through the atmosphere and are picked up by a plane. Kunoichi is communicated with by mother machine.

The team is fighting an unshown thing. Kunoichi does a thing, which is unexplained. We cut to a press conference. We have a discussion about the danger of “misuse of emergent technology”. Cut to a bar. Backstory about characters we haven’t really seen since issue 1. Musings over how their particular skill sets (Shooting/punching things) doesn’t matter in a world of nanomachines. Actually the most impactful single conversation of the series, as it does provide a view as to how skillsets can be superseded by new technology. Anyway, publicity at blackhawks, some encrypted code on cameras, cameraman taken out, cameras taken to security central, plain text message saying hello from person supposedly behind the airport attack in part 1, and BOOM, more explosions.

Team is pissed. Go straight after person behind the attack. Various fighting, guys who were discussing how useless they are now are made useless by the exact threat they were talking about, as if to prove the point. Kunoichi is knocked out by a cloud of nanocites similar to her own but less advanced, so Mother Machine says she’s got this. Pilot “I’m a pilot” crashes into the building. It’s fine, there was a crash bar or something.

They capture the bad guy, return to base. Kunoichi is now mother machine, and in the base, and in control of everything. While this happens, Kunoichi is trapped in her head. Wildman is trapped there too, and neither of them like the idea of Mother machine running things. So while the fight with mother machine happens outside, it happens inside two. It’s a nice thing. The art style is also distinct between the two worlds. Anyway, they kick her out of kunoichi’s mind, and they all escape, and they nuke the base, and that’s the end of the story.

WHTTDCNU-art

keeper-lBlackhawks is a comic about a government program that deals in high-tech terrorism and threats to American safety. They are the first – and last – line of defence, the unseen heroes who do what they must to protect us. So surely this is a mystery spy thriller of dark shadows and alley brawls, dark dealings in far-flung taprooms?

Nope. Blackhawks art is good. Colourful, correctly formed and laid out, but it’s generic. There’s nothing wrong or objectionable, and I even like the significant use of lines in a high tech environment, as if the whole is formed out of well, a bunch of small parts. The backgrounds are great and anytime the Blackhawks are fighting on their nemeses ground, the architecture seems wrong, slightly off and flat. I choose to think its a stylistic choice that works well.

But this is superhero art. It still fits the story well, it’s still good.People are drawn well, objects are fine. It’s solid, unremarkable art.

wasusa-rI’m not too sure what to put here, apart from “I liked it, it was good”. It was largely consistent, both in level of detailing and the detail itself.

There were no glaringly obvious omissions, obtrusions, or deficiencies in character anatomy. The panels were rarely too busy with background detail or too plain. The eye was drawn in the right direction largely through the art rather than directed speech bubbles.

While several of the characters looked like straight stereotypes, they were at least good and mostly anatomically correct stereotypes. The art style was distinct depending on what the subject was. Normal people and things? Largely squarish. Mother Machine? Lots of circles, slightly phased spheres, blue. Dream world? Colour blotchy, I’m not quite sure how to describe it. Oh wait, think of the style animal man was probably going for with the first issue, but failed at catastrophically. So like that, but actually good.

Look, it was solid art alright? I liked it. It was good.

WHTTDCNU-writing

keeper-lThis comic bought to you by Jonathon Siefer’s Adult Diapers, for keeping your butt shut. I have to say, dealing with actually being exposed as one of your first plots is actually a pretty smart move, especially in the overly crowded secret organisation pileup of the New 52. Of course, they’re fighting another secret organisation that appears to be only in this comic, so it’s a net nothing.

But our villains are a tech cult who claim that everything will be perfect, although given the use of a Kinetic Harpoon on a dude they infected, that basically means ‘anything not perfect is destroyed.’

As an actual plot hole, the nanocites infect anyone and can be spread via bodily fluid. But there was a… significant exchange of bodily fluid between Wildman and Kunoichi, so why wasn’t he infected? I mean there’s good reasons, The nanocites were busy etc. etc, but that was never explained.

Apart from that it works pretty well. They actually poke fun at themselves by the end, since the Eyrie gets infiltrated around 4 times by the time the comics over. that’s once every two issues. Still, everyone gets a chance to show off their abilities, people act in ways that are smart and perfectly in character. Their solutions make sense and they never seemed completely unbelievable.

Also a nuclear reactor that starts melting down after a single rod extraction? Pretty sure that’s not how even Chernobyl worked.

wasusa-rAgain, I actually liked the writing overall. The core premise was solid enough, everyone needs a good clandestine organisation acting more or less outside the law after all. The group of not quite superpowered misfits who are capable of dealing with not quite superpowered threats. An enemy who you can’t just rock up to and deck, solving all your problems.

And to top it off, multiple issues being worked on at the same time, but without overshadowing each other. In terms of cohesion of story, Blackhawks has done it the best of the new 52 for me. There were only a few moments where I had to go “Where are we, what’s going on here”, and I feel I can forgive those based on the issues in which they happened (later in the run, knowing they were being swapped out) as they attempted to resolve the story threads they’d opened. And I can say, even though the endings were abrupt, they were actually endings, so I need to give credit there.

I will however put some quick hate on “I have machines in my blood, I can totally control them even though they aren’t mine, also use them to plug into the base system and magically control everything”. I feel like a little bit of lead in there would have been appropriate.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

keeper-l‘I’m a pilot.’

Canada, you’re a wizard whose medium is things that move through the air at speed. But you’re still awesome. Just don’t expect me to believe that you can, among other things, eyeball a high-atmosphere extraction at 500 MPH. Or that you instantly know what to do in the event of a malevolent AI taking control of part of the base. Still, you’re cool. Wildman sounds like a guy who chose his own codename. It’s actually his last name, though, so I can’t complain.

The rest of our characters hit the stereotypes just as hard, and no, making Irish Ukrainian does not, in fact, make him not a stereotype. Now he just has a different silly accent. Still, it works well. Wildman’s smart, Canada is a pilot, Irishman and Attila are the side characters who lament that they’re ‘just human’, Kunoichi is a woman with nanocites in her, they’re all good. Just not that original.

wasusa-rHere, it does fall down a little bit, but I’m happy to put that one under time restrictions too. We get the classic action introduction, with team members showing of their large personality in the middle of a fight. We get bits and pieces of how they behave in a more tame group, and their individual interactions with each other. Heck, I normally hate flashbacks and backstories, chalking them up to filler in most cases, because that’s what they are, but Blackhawks actually used some to help some of the main cast to explain why they feel they’re useless. And you know what? They didn’t just talk about it. They backed it up the very next issue by placing them in that situation, and proving the point.

The characters stayed true to their alignment, and expected behaviour, actually showing some initiative, appearance of unique thought, and allowed moments of “So that’s why they asked about that” later when action actually happened.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

keeper-lIt’s good. Better than Teen Titans, and better at being a simple mature story than every ‘dark’ comic I’ve reviewed.

While I’m not a fan of the GI Joe-like stylings, I can appreciate that it’s done with a certain winking at the camera, a subtle hint of ‘we know it’s silly, but it’s FUN.’

And it is. I wouldn’t read it if it continued, but I’m sad to see it be cancelled, because it was still something different that worked well in the new 52. And at least the writers had an ending that wrapped it up, at least partially.

wasusa-rWell, the series kind of concludes itself. I’m not quite sure why it did that, unlike the other dead end I’ve reviewed (Hawk & Dove), this one actually had decent potential.

While lacklustre in places, and becoming very sketchy in places with science plot (removing one thing is not going to melt down a reactor) meanwhile being true to it in others, on the whole I enjoyed Blackhawks as an experience.

It’s worth a read, though it will make you disappointed there wasn’t more time to develop the concept.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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