• Airwolf Airstrikes : Volume One




    Released By: IDW Comics
    Release Date: September 22, 2015

    The Story:

    If you're old enough to remember watching television in the 80's, but not old enough to remember a time when television didn't exist, you're probably familiar with AIRWOLF, the highly experimental weaponized military jet-copter. From 1984 to 1987, Airwolf reigned supreme for kids like me who tuned in to see the magnificent piece of flying hardware and the only two pilots that mattered; Stringfellow Hawke and Dominic Santini (Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine, respectively). But the magic couldn't last, and AIRWOLF crashed and burned as issues with the cast, such as Jan-Michael Vincent's notorious alcoholism, sent it to syndication heaven.

    Thanks to IDW Comics, however, AIRWOLF is back...in printed form...in Airwolf Airstrikes: Volume One. Comprised of seven (sort of) one-and-done short stories, the various writers and illustrators have attempted to breathe some life back into the beast. What follows is a brief synopsis of each of the stories:

    EYE IN THE SKY: (Writer: Jeff Mariotte, Illustrator: Jean Froes) Hawke and Dominic are sent by Archangel to the Middle East to rescue Dr. Rahim Shirani, a Pakistani nuclear scientist, from a maximum security prison. Shirani has developed a new kind of nuclear warhead, but realizing that it was better suited in the hands of the US Government than his own, Shirani attempted to flee the country but was captured. The mission is to bust Shirani out of jail, retrieve the warhead that he hid before his arrest, and get back to safety. Only Airwolf is up to the task as the good guys square off against choppers that go THUK THUK THUK and TCHOOM TCHOOM TCHOOM, armed drones, and ancient radio technology that may be the surprise factor that takes them out.

    ARMY OF QUAH: (Writer: Mike Baron, Illustrator: Jean Froes) There's trouble in Indonesia when the insane General Quah takes over a US-friendly fort and seizes their weapons. Hawke and Dom are sent in to take him out, but it won't be easy, despite the assistance of the leather-clad Trinidad. The mission deep into the jungle requires Airwolf be left behind, meaning that the three are going to have to take on 800 of Quah's soldiers. Oh, and the soldiers are fuelled by Jag; a meth-like drug that turns Quah's army into supermen. There should be an easier way to TCB, but the rebel base is also sitting on a very angry volcano, making a bombing run impossible; but providing a nice setting for the final showdown.

    AIRSHARKS: (Writer: Rob M. Worley, Illustrator: Renato Arlem) The Firm sends Airwolf to the Arabian Sea to meet up with a UN Peacekeeping effort intent on destroying the piracy that has been on the rise since pollution ruined the fishing. With the UN cleaning up the ecosystem and fishermen slowly returning to the waters, pirates should be a thing of the past, right? Wrong. Head Pirate Gwyner has become used to being a wealthy tyrant, and he'll do anything to hold onto that power. When Airwolf is sent out to the ocean to discover what is destroying the fishing boats, they come face to face with mechanical sharks that scoop huge amounts of water with their mechanical mouths and use hydro-power to blast through hulls; AND THE AIR.

    FIREFIGHT: (Writer: Barbara Randall Kesel, Illustrator: Jack Jadson) Airwolf is back in the States, tracking down an underground paramilitary group called the Freedom Border Militia. After intercepting a major arms deal, the Militia ends up in possession of a stealth fighter with cloaking technology that rivals Dom and Hawke's sweet ride; and they're planning on using it to start an all-new civil war. Fortunately for the good guys, the Firm has a spy in the group, a feisty woman pilot named Lauren. But the situation quickly gets out of hand when the boys from Airwolf find themselves in a head-to-head battle with the stealth fighter, and it turns out that their Firm informant may be a double agent with enough tactical knowledge to wipe Airwolf out of existence. KaSHOOM and KRAK Whunk (thud), who will survive?

    SMASH AND GRAB: (Writer: Marc Andreyko, Illustrator: Fabiano Neves) After apprehending notorious Colombian Cartel player Jose De La Croce and his wife, The Firm experiences some dismay when Jose's son Carlos takes over the family business. Realizing that they can take out a major supplier if they nab Carlos, the Colombian government has other ideas; and Team Airwolf is sent in to liberate Carlos from a government safehouse. A few Whoom Booms and Rat A Tats later, Carlos is safe in Airwolf's back seat and on his way back to a Firm base. But when it turns out that their Firm contacts are really up to no good for financial reward, Hawke and Dom need to bust out some quick thinking and quicker moves to make it out of the jungle alive.

    SANCTIONED: (Writer: Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, Illustrator: Jean Froes) Sanctioned finds Hawke back in Pakistan, trying to convince the recently freed activist Al Waliq to accompany him back to the safe territory of Afghanistan. Waliq's refusal to take advantage of an Airwolf ride is quickly overridden by a sniper attack, and Hawke is forced to flee to the back alleys of the city with him, with a simple automatic pistol as his only protection. With a slew of heavily armed foes pursuing them, Hawke and Al Waliq must make their way to a rendezvous point with Dom, who is mysteriously ordered to stand down. Catching a bullet doesn't help matters much, and the wounded Hawke has no choice but to wait for Dom to make up his mind; his friend and co-pilot, or his country?

    BACK TO BASICS: (Writer: Shannon Eric Denton, Illustrator: Jason Johnson) The last story in Volume One finds Hawke and Dominic doubting the Firm and realizing that they're only being fed the most vague of information in regards to Hawk's missing brother Sinjin. Their fears seem to be further confirmed when Airwolf is attacked in Utah, with the enemy hitting strategic targets on the advanced jetcopter that only The Firm could know about. After being shot down, Hawke and Dom are discovered by the thought-to-be-deceased Michael Coldsmith Briggs III, who informs them that The Firm has been corrupted, and he was killed for his knowledge of this. With their recently terminated status, Hawke and Dom team up with Briggs, who promises to provide them with the resources they need to make The Firm accountable for their treasonous ways, and finally find Hawke's missing brother.

    The one surprising thing about the stories found in Airwolf Airstrikes : Volume One is the consistency. With the exception of Back To Basics, the writing and illustration (helped by Jean Froes' inkwork on more than one story) are more-or-less fluid, giving the book a cohesive feel. As such, it's easy to fall into the habit of regarding each story as an episode of the show, with Hawke and Dom piloting Airwolf into a troubled situation and emerging victorious. The final story in the book takes a sharp detour into different territory, with an illustrative style and tone that doesn't match the rest of the book; the writing instead harkens back to the show's darker days, as many will remember from the pilot episode. It does, however, set the series up for more adventure down the line, maybe with a more continuous storyline.

    Overall, Airwolf Airstrikes is entertaining, but let's be honest; it's not going to push any boundaries. The stories are basic, lacking substantial depth, and that's part of the drawback here. In a film medium, evasive helicopter tactics and firefights are fast, flashy and loud; in comic form, they don't convey the same excitement, despite the BUDDA BUDDAs and CHANG POP WOWs. The mechanical flying sharks are a nice touch; but there's not too much else to compel you to keep reading, especially due to the similarity of the stories. And where in the hell is Ernest Borgnine???

    Still, it's nice to see the high-tech jetcopter again, and the potential is here to do something better. Let's hope it happens.