By: Mike Costa (writer), Cafu & Carlos Rodriguez (pencillers), Bit (inker), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: A “Keep Out” sign is pretty meaningless when you fly a plane into it.

The Review: It goes without saying that getting cancelled would not count among the top ten experiences of your life.  For any creator who cares about his work, there’s the heartache, of course, not only from the realization his baby has no support, but also from the fact he won’t get to see that baby grow up.  Also for anyone who cares about his work, he now has the difficulty of trying to wrap up at the last second stories he hoped would play out for a while.

What you often get is a mad scramble to draw the act to a close and finish with a bang, much like you do in this issue.  There’s a clear feeling of haste throughout, as Costa must rely on heavy exposition, much more than he’s done in any issue I’ve read of him thus far, to speed the action toward its climax.  Hence Lincoln’s narrative spiel taking the Blackhawks from their shaky recovery from a direct attack on their turf to their de facto final mission, all within five pages.

At any rate, Costa disguises the blistering pace of the issue pretty well, using a combination of lively dialogue (“Those guys are firing carbon-fiber needles at 3,000 meters per second…You were briefed to stay out of range!  They dissolve from friction after 4,000 feet.”  Canada: “How much math am I supposed to do here?!”) and meticulously timed action sequences, throwing in a few slow-mo panels to break up the rush just before you get overwhelmed.

If there’s one thing I’ll definitely miss from this series, it’s Costa’s writing, which is always active and frequently surprises you with details you don’t expect from an action-thriller title of this kind.  Example: Nikki’s concern that the guards firing upon her might get heart attacks from the electric rounds she jolts into them.  “At least some of these guys are probably just supporting families,” she frets.  Lincoln reassures her the rounds have pulse sensors, so “if the heart stops, they send out another jolt to start it back up again.”  It’s not just a fun detail; it lets you know the kind of team and heroes you’re dealing with here.

Yet this issue doesn’t display the Blackhawks’ compassion so much as their amazing grit.  Despite reeling from a fairly brutal attack, it serves only to amp up their motivation, if anything.  I love the shot of Lady Blackhawk striding out of sick bay, a doctor putting a hand to his bloodied nose behind her, as she forces herself into the mission, multiple injuries and all.  And how can you not love Canada diving in at the last moment and taking down the bad guy by flying his unpowered craft “[l]ike a kamikaze”?

You know, comic book death is so common now that often you don’t feel affected even when big-name characters die (sometimes especially when big-name characters die; it’s not like they won’t come back at some point).  So it’s to Costa’s credit that he makes you feel pangs over Wildman’s demise, not only as Nikki sobs over his still form in the opening, but also throughout the issue.  If you get the sense that the Blackhawks are acting out their swan song in this mission, you also know they’re dedicating it to Wildman in every panel.  Bittersweet, indeed.

One of the biggest crimes DC has committed over the last few years is cancelling nearly every series they’ve placed Cafu on (aside from Blackhawks, there’s also T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and—okay, so Grifter isn’t technically cancelled yet, but to be frank, it’s clearly not long for the world).  His cinematic vision makes every action comic feel like you’re watching The Bourne Identity on paper.  Rodriguez is no slouch, but even with Bit’s inks keeping his pencils strong and distinct, he only occasionally captures the Cafu’s full-throttle, adrenaline-pumping effects.

Conclusion: Frankly, I can think of any number of titles that deserve cancellation more than Blackhawks, and this issue is a good example of why.  Even when the creative team is rushing hard, they put out solid work.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Seriously, Lady Blackhawk wasn’t already busted enough, now she’s got “seventeen major lacerations, a concussion, three broken ribs and a shattered knee” on top of her missing eye?  Sheesh.