After surviving the frigid Siberian wilderness, our ragtag group of ‘boy scouts’ find themselves 10,000 feet over Afghanistan, readying to parachute in and lead an ex-spy to safety in Black Badge #3.
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Tyler Jenkins
Colors: Hilary Jenkins
Letters: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Release Date: October 17th, 2018
PULL QUOTE: First North Korea, then Siberia, and now the dark heart of Afghanistan as our Black Badgers lead a spy to safety and seek to find one of their own in this action-packed issue of Black Badge #3!
Previously in Black Badge – first it was retrieving a dirty bomb from North Korea then tangling with Canadian Mounties in Siberia and now air-dropping into Afghanistan! The life of the Black Badge team, a group of boy scouts cum secret agents is never a quiet one. In Black Badge #3, the team venture into Afghanistan, and along the way, try to locate a missing former member of their team.
Black Badge #3 is a strange beast of a comic. Aside from newcomer Willy, the main characters are hard-bitten secret agents. And yet they’re teenagers. So far, they’ve ventured into North Korea, then the Siberian wilderness, on missions that would tax their adult compatriots. And yet they’re teenagers. Even for comics, it can feel like a hard ask to swallow.
That said, it’s not as if they breeze through their adventures. The advantage of having a lost Boy Scout troop show up and be ushered across the border doesn’t diminish the hazards they face along the way. Retrieving a dirty bomb in the first issue, tangling with the Canadian version of themselves in Siberia, and now air-dropping into Afghanistan isn’t by any means a walk in the park.
SHAKEN AND STIRRED
In this issue, after a week re-training at Camp Wayword as punishment for featuring in the press, the gang is tasked with parachuting into Afghanistan and leading an ex-spy to safety across the border in Pakistan. But team leader Kenny has an ulterior motive for volunteering his squad for this mission – to retrieve a former member named Jimmy, who vanished and hasn’t been seen since. And when they do find Jimmy, he’s not the kid he used to be.
The central conceit in Black Badge #3 and the overall series is handled very well. Of course, using the cover of the Boy Scout uniform to insert children into dangerous territory is ludicrous. But writer Matt Kindt handles it with such a straight face you go along with it. The character of Willy, who only a few weeks before was a regular scout, is our viewpoint character, his disbelief at the situation designed to mirror the readers.
While the jump into Afghanistan is the motivating factor in Black Badge #3, it is the backstory to Jimmy’s disappearance that provides the heart of the issue. Kindt constructs a flashback that is as moody as it is mysterious. Kenny’s guilt at falling asleep while on guard at the same time that Jimmy was taken is never dwelt on, but it is a palpable force in the issue.
Elsewhere, the issue is standard fare for this genre. There’s some interpersonal angst as Willy tries to fit in. Vomiting over Kenny and Cliff during his first air-drop doesn’t endear him, and the humor of the scene is handled deftly by Kindt. These are kids who don’t necessarily have to get along on a personal level, but it’s evident that they are experts in what they’re doing and keep it mostly professional. Otherwise, the issue ends on an explosion and a cliffhanger as Jimmy makes his triumphant return.
NOBODY DOES IT BETTER
The highlight of the issue for me was Tyler Jenkin’s artwork. His thin, wavy lines lend a sketchy, evanescent quality to the art. You sometimes feel the scouts will simply vanish into the wilderness, such as their light footprint on the page. Only on a couple of occasions did it feel that Jenkin’s technique let him down, where one headshot of a character looked very much like a hastily drawn sketch. Otherwise, the art, and the panel layout work really well to push the story along. Finally, colorist Hilary Jenkins does some amazing work – specifically the moody night scenes that are in stark contrast to the orange and brown tones of the daylight hours. Of special note is the night air-drop, against the starry sky. Jenkins’ work gives a real sense of space and place.
BOTTOM LINE – SCOUTRAGEOUS
Black Badge #3 introduces a new thread into the series, the search for a missing former member. So far, the series has used the missions to introduce the characters. Now, with the discovery of Jimmy, Kindt seems ready to take the story in another direction. The same same feel of Black Badge #3 indicates the series is ready to move onto another track. The introduction of Jimmy, in full on warlord mode, indicates that Kindt recognizes this as well. Black Badge #3 is a good issue, but hopefully, now the scene setting is out of the way, the series can become a great one.