[22 March 2012]
PopMatters Comics Editor
One of the timeless refrains of skeptics, dating back to the cynics among the classical Greek philosophers has been (to rephrase), “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. Dealing with the cliffhanger explosion that rounded out the previous issue of Blackhawks, series regular writer Mike Costa reminds us of how this lament really is a misdirection, and that the answer lies within that verbal formulation itself. Bad things happen to good people, because bad things happen. Our lives however, aren’t defined by what has happened to us, they’re defined by the actions we take to exceed situations beyond our control. There’s a great and silent human drama to this kind of action, and it is one that Mike captures in all its poignance and complexity.
“Immeasurable” is really the single word that captures this drama best. Within these opening pages we see a moment of human interaction. It’s Kunoichi and Wildman’s first meeting, nearly a year and a half back. The fans don’t work, so Kunoichi had the clever idea of calling in an IT complaint to tech-support. One of the eggheads could solve the problem of how to get the ventilation kickstarted again. And Kunoichi in her regulation-issue skivvies? Well that’s just pragmatism. Of course you’ll smile. Because you realize as with everything, there’s context and there’s subtext.
And while pragmatism seems to be the former, there definitely is an evolution of the latter when Wildman appears. Mike’s skill in crafting the kind of story that leverages the interplay between context and subtext to introduce a deeper, human drama of compression and decompression is genius. And it is purely the high art of comics—that while the unending tango between image and text isn’t half as engaging as how you animate yourself into those interstitial gaps between the panels. Scott McCloud really knew what he was doing when he coined the term “the invisible art” to describe comics in his seminal 1993 book Understanding Comics. And Mike Costa not only embraces this phraseology, but illustrates it.
The story that unfolds over the next few pages feels like it happens at speed, like a train in the distance, closing in, like that unbearable moment in Christopher Nolan’s genius Inception when Cobb and Mal lie down on the tracks. We see it all at speed—the personal sense of human loss flowing out from the explosion, like some angry, dead river spewing bile, and the human lives trapped in its path. We see a new arc in the relationship between Kunoichi and Wildman, a relationship we’ve become invested in since the first issue of Blackhawks when Kunoichi tried to wrest control of an upside-down low-flying personal air-transport. We see the search & rescue happen on the very next page. And then we see the team in the field remain in the field to produce actionable intelligence.
It. All. Happens. So fast. So very fast.
And that is the art and the power of Mike Costa’s writing. That emotional fatigue hits right from the very beginning. There are huge gaps in your understanding of events, you need more story time to process. But you don’t get it, because resilience here is what’s called for. And resilience is what you’re able to supply, even if you’re at the almost infinite distance across the great chasm that separates your world from the worlds of fiction you read about and enjoy.
Please, enjoy this rare treat of an exclusive preview of one of this most secret great titles currently published.