I mentioned a few weeks ago that DC had announced several new projects that involve the Blackhawks, and last month, The Brave and the Bold 28 came out, which teams the Blackhawks with the Flash (Barry Allen version) in a story written by J. Michael Straczynski and drawn by Jesus Saiz. (I should note since this is a new comic that spoilers will be occuring.) As much as I was looking forward to this issue, it was a bit of a letdown, only partially because it broke one of my cardinal rules about Blackhawk stories:
Despite what the cover shows, the Blackhawks never once fly their planes in this story.
Now, that's not a huge problem, as there are dozens, if not hundreds, of Blackhawk stories where they don't go near a plane, and I have already shown a few of those in this series. But the paucity of planes in this story leads to what is probably the biggest problem I have with this issue: there is no compelling reason for the Blackhawks to be here. They are so little used, and most of the members aren't even named in the story, that JMS could easily, and more effectively, inserted Easy Company or the Losers instead, especially considering the story's setting.
The story opens with the Flash helping some scientist test a "multi-spectrum laser" in the fields of Ardennes, Belgium. The Flash is supposed to run alongside the laser beam and measure certain fluctuations, but the experiment goes horribly wrong, and Flash is sent back in time to World War II--specifically, the Battle of the Bulge. To make matters worse, the Flash has broken his leg in the journey and can't run forward to his own time.
While hopping around and escaping the Nazis, Flash ends up captured by the Blackhawks, who think he's a Nazi spy trying to impersonate the real, Golden Age Flash.
Flash tries to explain his story to them, but they don't buy it. Blackhawk, however, gives Flash one chance to prove his story's true. The team has recently smuggled some German scientists to New Mexico for work on a top-secret weapons project. Though this project is classified now, Blackhawk assumes it will be in the future's historical record, so he asks Flash to provide the name. Flash gives the correct answer--The Manhattan Project--so the Blackhawks don't kill him.
You know what I'd like to read? A story where the Blackhawks smuggle German scientists to New Mexico in order for them to develop the Manhattan Project. Unfortunately, that's not this story. In fact, there are a lot of moments like this, where JMS has characters tell about awesome events, instead of showing them. Like during a flashback, when the story stops just as the Blackhawks are getting ambushed by Germans, and Blackhawk then goes on to say that they escaped the ambush. Really? Would have liked to have seen that. And the whole Battle of Bastogne? Reduced to a one-page montage where Flash explains how the Blackhawks helped drive the Germans out of the town. That also would have been nice to see.
Anyway, the Blackhawks just happen to be in the Ardennes because they were supposed to be taking some R & R there, when the Battle of the Bulge suddenly broke out. So, we're meant to believe that, during a particularly terrible winter, the Blackhawks chose to take their vacation in this very section of Belgium.
When Flash is first captured by the Blackhawks, he's not really introduced to the team, and neither are we. Some characters are named, but few are actually identified.
Here, for example, I assume we see Olaf in the middle. But on the right side of the panel, we have a character that looks kind of like Chop-Chop, but talks about barbecue and Texas like Chuck. However, this character is never named, so I can only assume it's Chuck, now with dark hair instead of red. In fact, as far as I can tell, only 6 Blackhawks appear in this comic, with Chop-Chop being the absent one. That certainly gets JMS out of a jam by leaving out the most racially problematic character, but I do feel kind of bad that Chop-Chop wasn't allowed to go with on this team vacation.
While holed-up in a bombed-out barn, the Blackhawks and Flash are ambushed once again by Nazis. Chuck gives Flash a gun, but the Scarlet Speedster is not comfortable with the weapon, so he decides instead to chuck a bunch of bricks at the Germans. This knocks them out, but it also pisses off Blackhawk, leading to the most interesting part of the story:
I really like this debate that Blackhawk and Flash have about using lethal force. It highlights the fact that Flash, in his normal adventures, has the luxury to make certain choices that soldiers in wartime don't have. Flash's actions simply stopped the ambush, but they really did nothing to further the goals of the war, which was to kill as many German soldiers as possible. This moment really got my hopes up that this story would turn around.
However, that was not the case. Flash ends up donning an American military uniform and spends the next few weeks fighting alongside the Blackhawks at Bastogne. This exciting, potentially action-packed part of the story is, as mentioned earlier, limited to a one-page montage. Once his leg heals, Flash gets ready to return to his own time. Before he goes, though, he's asked some questions by Blackhawk:
Of course, anyone who has ever read a time-travel story will know what Flash's answer has to be, right? I mean, he couldn't possibly give Blackhawk information about the outcome of events that haven't happened yet, and by doing so, potentially change history, right?
Oh man, WTF JMS?
Flash goes on to reveal that war, in fact, keeps on happening well into the future, which really seems to boost Blackhawk's morale. Flash also explains that the planet of the apes is really Earth, that Kristin shot J.R., that Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker's father, and that Dumbledore dies. Then Flash runs back to the present, where he has only been gone for a few seconds.
This issue was disappointing, to say the least, and I have to wonder, for how many readers is this their first Blackhawk story? While I had read a lot of Blackhawk comics when I was a kid, the first one that really clicked for me, where I thought the Blackhawks were really cool, was The Brave and the Bold 167, where the Golden Age Batman teams up with the Black Knights during WWII. I'll be covering that issue later, but that's the comic that made me want to read more Blackhawk comics, and so it would have been nice if The Brave and the Bold 28 could have that same potential.