DC has been making a minor push to reintroduce the Blackhawks and their legacy lately. And there are rumors that they’ll play a role in the pulp “FIRST WAVE” project. I don’t have much experience with the Blackhawks themselves, although I’d highly recommend tracking down Howard Chaykin’s BLACKHAWK
mini-series which he did in the wake of his success of his SHADOW reinvention. So, I was willing to renew acquaintances.
Unfortunately, what we get in this issue is a story that fails to answer two fundamental questions. Who are these people? And why should we care? Writer Royal McGraw, who wrote some OK fill-ins for Paul Dini during the latter’s run on DETECTIVE COMICS, takes an awful lot for granted in setting up his story. And because of that, sudden appearances and revelations lack punch. There’s perhaps a good idea buried in the story, the present being “haunted” by the past, but barely anything is done with the idea.
Instead the story seems to be built around a couple of set pieces, perhaps with the idea that the story will fill us in on the proper background in the midst of exciting action. An assault on Blackhawk Island in order to steal the plans for a state of the art aircraft propulsion system and Batman tracking down the transmitted information to a Polish cemetery, the resting place of Blackhawk himself, where he fights a Nazi squid robot. Even these sequences have problems. For instance, Bruce Wayne and Batman both showing up at Blackhawk Island is too big a coincidence for people to ignore, that whole secret identity thing. The cemetery fight fares better, but the ending is arbitrary in that Batman escapes from the robot and an explosion, pretty much “just because.”
The art by Marcos Marz fairs better though. He’s called on to do high tech action and moody nighttime investigation scenes and seems to have enough flexibility in his style to handle both. The cemetery investigation is the real highlight of the book as Marz’s use of solid blacks and even the design of the Nazi robot are reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s work. Unfortunately, he seems to struggle to portray motion at times. And, he really struggles to portray distinctive faces, which is a huge disadvantage in a mystery. He completely fails to make Lee Cheng look Asian and his inability to draw or not draw Asian features completely nullifies the last page revelation as I’m not at all sure who the big reveal is supposed to represent. There’s also the issue that Marz draws a Nazi swastika turning the wrong way which I found distracting.
Perhaps the story will make more sense and become clearer, but as of now it’s a muddled, inaccessible mess.