God, I Miss That Miniskirt Already.
Blackhawks adds another military themed series to the New 52 along with a very, very obvious comparison to a certain other military themed intellectual property that DC does not currently hold the license for. That comparison aside, Blackhawks is an interesting new series that touches on a currently unexplored area of the DC Universe, though it will have to step it up a notch if it really wants to hold onto a place in the new continuity.
Yes, this is G.I. Joe. It's no coincidence that it is G.I. Joe. That is obviously how DC wanted it. There's no doubt in my mind that the premise passed around the DC offices for this series was expressly "G.I. Joe in the DC Universe." They even went so far as to hire one of IDW's G.I. Joe writers, Mike Costa, to do this for them. If you're going to do it, you may as well go all out and do it right.
The issue starts with a one page mission file that succinctly sums up the current crisis. I really like this page. It's a very effective way to get the story right into the action and feels like it fits in seamlessly with the tone of the book. Hopefully, Costa intends to use this device more than just this first issue. It actually would be really interesting and distinctive for the book if every issue started this way.
Even though we aren't dealing with characters in colorful costumes, the cast of Blackhawks stand out easily as separate characters. Costa and his art team have obviously put thought into making the characters distinctive from one another, and it's really no problem at all telling them apart when the action gets going. Not all of them get fleshed out in this issue, but a couple of them do to a nice degree, namely Kunoichi and the Irishman.
A problem here is that the Blackhawks organization itself is a bit poorly defined. It is a covert, U.N. sanction military unit. Okay. What else? What, more specifically, is its mandate? What is the unit for? G.I. Joe can get away with this kind of ambiguity because it's a concept that has basically been grandfathered into today's sensibilities from people's childhoods. Fair or not, Blackhawks has more of a burden. You can't tell me this is a covert unit that just does whatever. There needs to be a bit more definition here about what we're reading. It's like being introduced to a character without learning what it is they're trying to do and why they're doing it but on a team level.
Kunoichi feels like she gets most of the focus in this issue, and that is kind of a detriment to the book as a whole. Focusing so much on just one character in the first issue of a team book just doesn't work quite so well as the alternatives. We are dealing with pretty much an entire cast of all new characters here. At the very least, the book would have benefited from giving more time to Andrew Lincoln, the Blackhawks leader. Also, we barely even see Lady Blackhawk, though I get the feeling Costa has some purpose behind that decision.
Overall, the art in this issue is pretty good. I'm not sure how much that is worth given that the series is one of the books that will be apparently going through art changes in the months to come. But for whatever it's worth, this issue's art suits it well.
Blackhawks suffers a little bit from depending too much on its obvious similarities to G.I. Joe rather than putting more effort toward explaining itself in this first issue, but it does show a lot of interesting potential. I'm not sure there's room in DC's lineup for both this and Men of War vying for what is honestly the same limited pool of readers interested in military themed books. As someone in that limited pool, I would be happy to see Blackhawks endure along with Men of War. It may not have established itself completely to my satisfaction, but it really has left me wanting to read more.