Looking at the recent Blackhawks series from DC Comics

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I intended to go back and pick up the first four issues of the Blackhawks series published by DC Comics as part of their New 52 re-launch.  I found copies of those comics, and the final issue of the series, #8, came out last week.  So I’ve been able to take a look at the short-lived series as a whole, and put together a few thoughts.

Writer Mike Costa obviously put a great deal of thought and planning into this series.  It appears that he had developed personalities and back stories for the cast which he intended to elaborate upon over time.  Unfortunately, the sudden cancelation of Blackhawks put an end to those plans.  That’s really regrettable.  I would have enjoyed learning more about the team, especially Andrew Lincoln and the new Lady Blackhawk, who Costa never really had the chance to examine, leaving both of them enigmas.

Costa also utilized some cutting-edge scientific theory in the series.  He seems to have done some serious research into technology and hardware, giving the book a very authentic-sounding feel.  Nanocites, microscopic machines that could enter the body and manipulate it, jump-starting evolution at an ordered, lightning progression, are a key element to his eight issue arc.

The area where Blackhawks falls short is in the artwork department.  The first four issues feature pencil layouts by Graham Nolan, and he does a very good job with these.  However, each of these issues has a different inker / finisher.  The result is a very inconsistent look to the artwork on the first four issues.  Really, it would have been better to let Nolan do full pencils and then pair him with a talented inker such as Scott Hanna.  The two of them worked very well together on Detective Comics back during the “Knightfall” storylines.  Reuniting them on Blackhawks could have given the series some high-quality art.

It’s a bit of a pity that Ken Lashley, who drew some nice covers for issue #s 1-7, wasn’t able to do more interior work.  He provided the finishes for the first issue, and the results were quite good.

This situation with the artwork greatly improved with issue #5, when CAFU and Bit came onboard as the new regular art team.  In addition to finally giving Blackhawks some much-needed consistency in the art department, their work was extremely well done.  CAFU had very good storytelling to his work, and he gave the characters real emotional qualities.  The inking by Bit was especially polished.  I wonder if, had they been the art team starting with the very first issue, sales would have been better and the series might not have been canceled.

Then again, as I mentioned in my previous post, I feel that Blackhawks got lost in the shuffle of the gigantic New 52 release.  DC debuted eight different Batman-related series last autumn.  I really don’t know if it was necessary to have that many.  This fixation with the number 52 on DC’s part really led to a glut of new titles, and most readers probably paid much more attention to the numerous titles tying in with Batman, Superman, and Justice League.  If there hadn’t been so many of those, other titles such as Blackhawks might have stood out more.  I mean, the only reason I ended up reading Blackhawks is because CAFU and Bit did that signing at Midtown Comics.  If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have given the series a try, and I would have had no idea that I had missed out on a really great read.

This touches upon a huge criticism I have of DC as well as Marvel.  Both companies will promote to death titles like Justice League by Geoff Johns & Jim Lee, or all those Batman books, which are guaranteed to be big hits in any case.  But they will give little exposure to a series like Blackhawks, leaving it to sink or swim on its own.

Thinking about this, I have no idea if there are any other New 52 titles that I have not given a chance which might actually be enjoyable.  But I simply do not have the time or, more importantly, the money, to try all of them.  So, yeah, I have to rely on word of mouth from reviewers or, in this case, a signing at a comic book store, to catch my attention.

Okay, end of that rant… for now.  I know I will be returning to in a future post, when I write about what comic book series I am currently reading.  In the meantime, getting back to Blackhawks, it was an exciting title with intelligent writing by Mike Costa, plus some superb art from CAFU & Bit on the second half.  If you have not read it, I recommend tracking down those eight issues.  They’re a fun read.

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