By: Mike Costa (writer), Cafu (penciller), Bit (inker), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Dogs on a satellite!  Hm…doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, huh?

The Review: Can you believe it’s been just about half a year since the new 52 premiered?  At what point do I stop calling it “new,” I wonder?  Anyway, quite a few titles I collected at the beginning have fallen by the wayside since then, so of course I’ve been scoping around for new ones to pick up in their place. Blackhawks was one of those I heard quiet praise about, and once I saw Cafu switch over from Grifter, I knew I had to at least give the series a shot.

In any case, the Blackhawks, much as it’s weird to say so, is one of my favorite properties, or at least the concept of them is.  Now that the vast majority of heroes in comics have superpowers of some kind, it’s actually kind of a big deal to have a team composed of nothing more than ordinary humans demonstrating extraordinary aptitude in their particular skill-sets as they take on the big baddies of the world.

And that they certainly do in this issue, facing head-on the big momma of them all, the aptly named Mother Machine.  Like most mothers, this villainess is ruthless in her desire to take her charges under her wing.  To chastise the Blackhawks for their disobedience, she lays on all kinds of punishments: “I’ve also shut down the oxygen compilers and internal heaters.  You’ll slowly start to smother, but in the hours it takes for that to happen, you’ll also gradually freeze.  Or else, you would, except…I’ve just disengaged [this satellite] from orbit.”  What’s hilarious is she sees this grim experience or joining her as a fair choice.

Any story that features non-powered folk in sci-fi settings requires a certain foundation of actual physics or chemistry to be convincing.  Costa incorporates these technical bits very well, without making it sound overtly like a science lesson.  It helps that his concepts are just plain clever.  Wildman may think it’s “ingenious” to use a kinetic harpoon (the launching of a bunch of massive tungsten rods from space at Mach ten) to create the same amount of damage as a laser or missile, without the nasty radiation signatures or expense, but it’s actually more ingenious for Costa to devise and/or use the idea in the first place.

To all this action there’s also a layer of dramatic complexity when Canada and Wildman debate the ethics of destroying an entire civilization, even one composed of “super-advanced cyborg pseudo-intelligences that want to colonize the planet.”  Canada’s not only hung up on the genocidal aspect of the action, but also the technological possibilities that will be destroyed at the same time.  Wildman views it, as he must, practically, and his reasoning, though rational, is gray enough to keep you feeling uncomfortable when the choice is made.

It says a lot that after one issue, I’m convinced of Costa’s writing ability.  As evidence, I’d like to point out the line where Wildman goes, “Oldest trick in the book, Mother [Machine].  A low-tech solution to a high-tech problem.  Doesn’t matter how sophisticated a machine is…if you hit it hard enough with a rock.”  This, all over a panel where you see the kinetic harpoon speeding through the atmosphere towards its intended target.  As a writer, I admire the rhythm of the line, its timing, its satire, its deft choice of words, its personality—it all just works.

It takes no convincing to make me a believer in Cafu’s art.  That title splash showing Wildman and Canada exiting their shuttle within the dark confines of a giant satellite, whose massive bay windows look out upon an eerily glowing Earth (kudos to Major’s ethereal colors for that) is just plain breathtaking, no matter how you slice it.  And no one makes a static image palpably feel like an intense, high-speed shot than Cafu.

Conclusion: While tempted to give the issue a slightly higher grade based on gut instinct alone, I’m going to apply some caution and say only that this is a very solid series, with strong writing and powerful art, and deserves attention.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I love that Canada doesn’t want to hear Wildman’s confessions because he thinks that’ll just jinx the whole mission.  I also love his way of shutting it down: “You just need to know in case anything hap—”  “Nope!  I’m opening the door!”