By Bo Stewart — Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ Black Badge has been somewhat of a surprise hit for BOOM! Studios, in my opinion. As a fan of the creators’ previous collaboration, Grass Kings, I was initially thrown off by Black Badge’s premise, which is essentially super spies but with boy scouts. It just didn’t seem to fit into their existing body of work. Three issues into this series, however, I am now confident that there is much more to Black Badge than the premise lets on.
That’s not to say that Black Badge has a weak premise. The notion that scouts would make the perfect spies is hysterical, and the creators play off the natural comedy of that scenario without beating the reader over the head with it. Scouts pretending to get lost in the woods truly is a perfect cover for espionage. Kindt sometimes winks at how silly the situation is, but the world is so well developed that he can rest assured that his readers will go with it. The gadgets the scouts use, the casual attitude the team has toward missions (including a trip to North Korea in #1), and the character dynamics of the team all add up to one of the most charming spy tales I’ve read in quite some time.
Like most of Kindt’s work, though, Black Badge’s real charm comes from its central cast of characters. In this issue the scouts are still recovering from the loss of their teammate, Jimmy, desperately trying to figure out how the team will continue, knowing that their friend is no longer with them. They clearly haven’t figured it out yet here, but their superiors don’t seem to care. Instead they hit the scouts with the old I’m tough on you because I care about you argument, and send them out on their next mission. All throughout, this book does a great job of covering up normal teenage struggles with spy thriller trappings.
The highlight of this issue comes from the reveal of how Jimmy died. A mysterious figure called Hook Hand has been sneaking into camps, kidnapping a scout, and leaving only a little red flag behind. The team’s leader, Kenny, fell asleep while on watch the night Jimmy disappeared and has been trying to prove Jimmy is actually still alive ever since. Kenny blames himself for Jimmy’s disappearance, and, over the course of the issue, he makes some rash decisions in an effort to fix things. When little red flags start to literally appear around the scout’s camp, we can’t help but wonder if Kenny is leading the team further down a dangerous path.
Overall: Black Badge mixes spy thriller and coming-of-age conventions to great effect. The mystery of Hook Hand plus The chilling cliff hanger has me eager to continue on with this story. I think you’ll enjoy this book too—scouts honor. 8.0/10
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Bo grinds for the man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros