Issue(s): Darkhawk #10, Darkhawk #11, Darkhawk #12, Darkhawk #13, Darkhawk #14, Darkhawk #15
These issues are a major turning point. After last issue, i was expecting Chris Powell to tell his girlfriend Cheryl Colon his secret identity, but that doesn't happen. And looking at the covers and the title of this story arc, i thought we would learn some of Darkhawk's secrets, and that doesn't really happen either. But these issues do give us the full story on Chris's dad (and ties it in to the mystery of Savage Steel), and it also (seemingly) kills off both him and Phillippe Bazin, the crimelord that has been in just about every issue of this series so far. I honestly kind of expected these things to linger forever, so i was happily surprised to see them happening (of course, note the "seemingly", but the events here do change the focus of the series for a while).
This arc also features two Spider-Man villains, Tombstone and Venom. If you look through the issues so far, this series has had more established villains than new ones. And that's kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the use of existing characters firmly establishes Darkhawk as part of the Marvel universe, and that's a good thing. And it's also just fun to see him going up against villains we already know, especially when the alternative is Lodestone. On the other hand, a strong (and unique) rogues gallery is a big part of what makes a book successful. Sometimes an established victim can become part of the rogues gallery of a new hero, but let's face it: Darkhawk isn't poaching Venom.
We start with Tombstone. He's interested in Darkhawk's amulet, and naturally the first place to check is your local Mushroom Curio Emporium, where you can buy a really sweet Darkhawk blacklight poster.
Not pictured: Darkhawk Mask Bong
The curio shop owner surprisingly doesn't know anything about Darkhawk, but Tombstone continues his quest unperturbed.
Meanwhile, Chris' mom, who is an assistant district attorney, is ready to go to trial against Bazin. So he is arrested, and a key witness is stashed in a safehouse, guarded by the police.
But Bazin isn't going to take this laying down. So Chris' younger brother is blown up in a car bomb (this is what interrupts Chris from telling Cheryl about his secret ID).
This book can be brutally dark sometimes. Jason does survive, though (somehow!).
Last issue Darkhawk seemingly came to the conclusion that he didn't want to become a killer like the Punisher, but that explicitly goes right out the window after Jason is critically injured. He goes out on the town and beats up on same random thugs assaulting a restaurant owner. One of the thugs (amazing coincidence!) happens to be the brother-in-law of someone in Bazin's organization that knows about the assassins that Bazin has sent to take care of the witness.
Darkhawk heads to the safehouse and fights some armored goons...
...and he's pleased as punch with himself for being able to take them on by himself ("no help from Spider-Man or Daredevil or anybody") until he learns that the witness had a heart attack during the fight.
Chris' mom insists on continuing to handle the prosecution herself, despite being rattled by the attack on her family (and meant for her) and the loss of a key witness. At the trial, Chris bumps into his dad, but is prevented from chasing him by Harry Lennox, the private investigator that is nominally working for Chris' mom to find her husband. Chris doesn't tell his mom since she's distracted enough already.
Chris decides to investigate the situation with his father further, so he goes back to the derelict amusement park where he first learned that his father was taking bribes. He finds Tombstone beating up on St. Johnny, the homeless man that seemingly knows a lot about Darkhawk. St. Johnny is seemingly killed by Tombstone just as Darkhawk arrives...
...but it's quickly said that he's not quite dead. But first Darkhawk has to defeat Tombstone, which turns out to not be that easy.
One thing that was surprising and a little disappointing is that Tombstone is seeking the amulet for himself. I see Tombstone as someone that is pretty satisfied with his own abilities and wouldn't be going around looking for magic amulets. I could definitely see him trying to get the amulet for Hammerhead or another mob boss (Tombstone and Hammerhead have severed their relationship), but i'm surprised to see him bothering to do it for himself. Tombstone will later say that he came to believe that magic was real after dealing with the Hand, and he's looking for a way to get back at them. I would think that he'd be content to just rebuild his mercenary and/or gangster life, but i do like that writer Danny Fingeroth is acknowledging the events of other books.
Darkhawk is rescued by someone throwing smoke bombs, and that person drags him to safety. It seems pretty obvious that it's St. Johhny, but his face is deliberately kept obscured. The rescue gives Darkhawk a chance to switch to human form and back, which as we know causes Darkhawk to instantly heal all his wounds. The mystery rescuer tells Darkhawk to get rid of his amulet, comparing it to crack. He also says that he was the previous Darkhawk.
But Darkhawk doesn't listen and is attacked by Tombstone again.
Tombstone is able to tear the amulet off of Darkhawk's chest. We saw this as a potential vulnerability during Darkhawk's very first fight with a super-villain (Hobgoblin).
Meanwhile, Bazin sends another assassin after Jason, but he's stopped by daddy Powell.
Let me pause here and call your attention to the cover of issue #12, specifically the rat under Darkhawk's leg.
That is one badass rat. Sadly, he doesn't appear in the comic.
Inside, Darkhawk is rescued (again?) by St. Johnny, who manifests a bionic laser claw.
Seconds after doing that, though, St. Johnny denies it, and also denies that he helped Darkhawk earlier. But he does patch Darkhawk up.
One of the biggest missed opportunities of this arc, i think, is that for the rest of it Darkhawk has a No Parking sign strapped to his chest holding back his green goo insides, and the sign is obscured from view the entire time. A completely missed action figure opportunity.
Darkhawk can't transform back into human form without the amulet, so he goes home and gets into the classic Marvel civilian disguise.
The Thing would be proud.
Darkhawk goes to the hospital to see his brother Jason, and convinces his other brother Jonathan that he just has a cold.
The case against Bazin continues to go poorly, but Mrs. Powell suddenly gets notice of a new witness for the prosecution. It's Broderick Bazin, Phillippe's son. Broderick has been involved in his father's criminal activities, and he says that he's now had a change of heart and spills the beans on all of his father's operations. What's really going on is that Phillippe's daughter, Allegra, who has a rocky relationship with her father, has started to believe that the things about him are true, especially after the attacks on little Jason. And she's subsequently overheard things confirming her suspicions. But the jury is aware of her bad relationship with her father, so instead she's convinced her brother to testify, saying that she'll spill the beans on him if he doesn't.
This wins the case against Bazin. As soon as the sentence is given, though, Savage Steel shows up to execute him.
Darkhawk shows up to stop Steel, and is surprised at how easy it is.
But then Bazin's men show up to break him out. And then Mr. Powell shows up again, and leaps for Bazin's helicopter, trying to stop his escape.
Darkhawk is suddenly weak, and his grapple-claw falls short, so his father is taken away with the helicopter. Savage Steel says that he's suffocating and needs help, so Darkhawk removes his helmet, revealing Harry Lennox.
Darkhawk now has to choose between going after Tombstone to get his amulet back or tracking down his father and Bazin. He chooses his father. And if you're wondering how Venom appears in this book given that he's currently self-exiled on a tropical island, the answer is that Darkhawk smuggles himself on a plane heading to Bazin's Caribbean hideout, and he's discovered by goons on the plane, and in the resulting fight the plane crashes on Venom's island.
Venom's choice of pronoun has Darkhawk wondering if Venom is working for Bazin.
But he then hears that Venom (thinks that he) killed Spider-Man and now just wants to be left alone, so i assume that's when Darkhawk realizes that Venom isn't working for Bazin. Darkhawk keeps his mouth shut about the fact that Spidey is still alive.
Darkhawk notices that Venom is keeping a wide berth from the fire caused by the plane crash, so he tries to use fire to repel Venom. But Tombstone has been going around taking the Darkhawk amulet to various scientists and mystics, and when they try to use the gem, it causes Darkhawk's powers to wane, and that coincides with Darkhawk's attempt to use fire.
However, Venom eventually determines that Darkhawk is an "innocent", so he plays possum and allows Darkhawk to think that he's dead.
Darkhawk leaves on an inflatable motorboat that was on the crashed plane. Venom has also determined that Darkhawk only has a day to live.
Meanwhile, Chris' mom investigates the connection between Harry Lennox and Savage Steel and winds up getting captured by a group called the Cabal, a group of cops who don't think the legal system goes far enough in putting away criminals (as we've already seen).
This leaves the youngest conscious member of the Powell family all alone in the hospital with his dying brother. Poor kid.
Darkhawk makes his way to the neighboring island where Bazin is hiding, and he fights Bazin's goons and his super-powered bodyguard, Lodestone.
"Perhaps this might be the time for the succinct simplicity of 'Oh yeah?!'" is the greatest Roy Thomas-esque overly verbose dialogue not written by Roy Thomas.
While Darkhawk is fighting Lodestone, Bazin stabs Chris' dad...
...but before he dies, he shoots Bazin.
When Darkhawk was fighting the goons on the plane earlier, he wasn't able to use his Darkforce blast since he didn't have his amulet. But above he is able to use it to defeat Lodestone, even though it causes him great pain.
Before he dies, Chris' dad makes Darkhawk swear to keep the Powell family safe. He also tells Darkhawk that Bazin is just the beginning, and that a hundred will rise up to take his place. And the "other side" are "almost as dangerous" and "can't be allowed to go on". He's referring to the Cabal with the latter half of that.
Darkhawk is given a ride back to New York by a pilot that lives in Forest Hills and is happy about Darkhawk's vigilantism. Darkhawk hunts down Tombstone, who is being told by his latest mystic that only people that possess the right spirit can use the Darkhawk amulet.
Darkhawk is able to take Tombstone out with a live wire, and he retrieves his amulet.
Darkhawk notes that a live wire was how the first goon that he ever fought died, and notes that it's been a "long, strange trip".
However, just sticking the amulet back into his open wound doesn't cause it to re-bond with him.
But he does replace the No Parking sign with the amulet underneath his bandages, and he goes and interrogates Harry Lennox about the Cabal and learns where they are and then goes and rescues his mom.
His mom was actually set free by a member of the Cabal, Johhny Leone, who she convinced that what the Cabal was doing was wrong, and it is her that swung the wooden board in the panel above.
After that, Chris finds out that the last page in his dad's diary, from Darkhawk #7, wasn't actually the last page. There was just a blank page before the journal continued (der!). So Chris keeps reading and learns that his father did decide to bring the hit and run victim to the hospital. After that, he and some other police officers formed the Cabal. They took bribes from Bazin to fund the Savage Steel armor so that they could take their fight against crime outside the law.
This doesn't really exonerate Chris' dad, since i assume those kickbacks didn't come without a price. But he and Harry Lennox eventually decided what the Cabal was doing was wrong, and the night that Chris saw him taking a bribe was supposed to be the last payoff.
After reading the diary, the amulet re-bonds with Darkhawk and he's able to turn into Chris again. Chris debates throwing the amulet in the river, but decides that he's going to remain Darkhawk and fight crime.
A year (plus) in on the title, i'm not 100% sold on the need for Darkhawk to exist. I think the book does get some good mileage of being the Spider-Man of the 90s, a solo teen book that does tackle the grim & grittiness of the era head on. But Chris comes across more like whiny than conflicted, and this book has not spent the time with its supporting cast that the Amazing Spider-Man or even Nova did. That said, seeing Chris' mom act as a prosecutor is interesting. Generally speaking, i'm not sure if this creative team was really able to pull off anything more than standard super-hero stories (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). But i am glad to see the book moving on beyond Chris' dad being on the run and Bazin as the ever-looming bad guy, so we'll see what the next year brings.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 98,611. Single issue closest to filing date = 185,500.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Chris told Cheryl that he would tell her his secret the "other day", so this doesn't need to directly follow last issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAllegra Bazin, Broderick Bazin, Cheryl Colon, Darkhawk, Eddie Brock (Venom), Grace Powell, Jason Powell, Jonathan Powell, Lodestone, Louie McPhee, Mike Powell, Phillippe Bazin, Savage Steel (Harry Lennox), St. Johnny, Tombstone, Venom Symbiote
"Chris' younger son"
Whoa so he won't tell his his secret identity, even after siring his 7 year old kid.
Also you double posted the pic of Darkhawk hugging his other 'son' in the hospital.
Posted by: JC | November 24, 2015 5:18 PM
Also it's funny that they keep hinting at the mystical origins of the amulet. Then when we finally do get to dat story, it suddenly switches to bad sci-fi, with absolutely no explanation for the magic aura it seemingly emminates.
Dat's also not to mention the amulet was specifically created by bad people to do bad things. So it's especially hilarious dat da mystic tells Tombstone he doesn't possess the spirit to wield da amulet but dat sum whiny high school kid with no sense of direction and a sliding moral scale does.
Posted by: JC | November 24, 2015 5:25 PM
Reading these in real time, this was when I started to get frustrated with the title. The story felt really stretched out at 6 issues, which was of course the style of the time for some reason, whereas issues 1-9 were fun, breezy one-offs for the most part. I feel like the quality is all downhill from here, too.
Posted by: Andrew F | November 24, 2015 5:48 PM
Chris Powell makes Hamlet look decisive.
Posted by: Michael | November 24, 2015 7:57 PM
Did this book really soar from 98K average readers to 185K for the issue nearest the statement of ownership deadline? I'm guessing the first number should be 198K.
I never read Darkhawk--I was more of a Sleepwalker guy--and it's a revelation to me that this book was going for a grim-n-gritty tone. The ads and covers I used to see didn't get that across, and the skinny birdlike design of DH didn't seem intimidating. Everyone knows to be really grim-n-gritty your design needs a skull, either on your shirt or on fire.
I didn't read DH because I was never clear on the concept: he seemed like Generic Hero #347. His dependence on other people's rogues' gallery and the lameness of Bazin as an archenemy contributed to that impression. (I did read the Marvel Age preview of the book.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 24, 2015 8:54 PM
The Statement of Ownership numbers are what's printed in issue #13 and there's no corrections in #14 or #15. I suspect the most recent issue was the Punisher guest appearance.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 24, 2015 9:02 PM
But that means 11 issues of Darkhawk (excluding the one nearest the statement of ownership date, whose numbers are big enough to change the annual average significantly) would have heen selling about 90K apiece. Not only does a Punisher appearance doubling sales seem unlikely, but 90K would be below pretty much any newsstand-distributed Marvel title. And that average has to include issue #1, which presumably would have sold at least as well as a random Punisher appearance--further driving down the average for the "normal" issues of the series.
I think the average in the SOO has to be a misprint. Not to harp on it, but the math just looks implausible to me otherwise.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 24, 2015 11:12 PM
Well at least it's established it's not a typo on my part. :-)
Posted by: fnord12 | November 24, 2015 11:23 PM
The retcon Abnett and Lanning did years later doesn't really jibe with the idea that you need a strong spirit to wield the power of the amulet, since we learn the amulets are merely tools used to reincarnate the Darkhawks, and they don't care who their host is. (And since the Darkhawks are revealed to be amoral and not heroes, Tombstone would've actually been a better host, since Chris's strong spirit and morals are what enable him to fight the amulet's influence.) Abnett and Lanning do a very slight handwave which is supposed to explain away these discrepancies, but I think they pretty much thought most of their readers wouldn't know or care about this original Darkhawk series.
Posted by: Tuomas | November 26, 2015 4:08 AM
Abnett's and Lanning's retcon had all sorts of problems- if Evilhawk wasn't real, then how do you explain Saint Johnny? This entire story hinges on Saint Johnny having powers and a connection to the Darkhawk amulet.
Posted by: Michael | November 26, 2015 8:57 AM
Regarding the sales figures, I was working at a comic shop in the early 90's, when DH came out. There was NO buzz going in, but did pick up quite a following as the title continued, so it seems plausible, if unlikely, that the sales could have doubled.
Though 90k is pretty dubious.
Posted by: DW | February 7, 2018 6:14 PM
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