Issue(s): Darkhawk #1, Darkhawk #2, Darkhawk #3
Darkhawk was conceived by Tom DeFalco but this series, which lasts into 1995, is written exclusively by Danny Fingeroth. Mike Manley, fresh from Quasar, will have a long run on the book as well, until issue #25. Ricardo Villagran begins inking with issue #3 and also remains on the title for a long time.
My interest in Darkhawk was nonexistent until Marvel's cosmic revival of the 2010s, where Darkhawk's armor was tied in to an ancient order of the Shi'ar. So i'm experiencing the majority of these issues for the first time; my experience with him prior to this have mainly been from guest appearances and the like.
As i was reading these first three issues, the point of comparison that came to mind was with the 1970s Nova series. That series was an attempt to return to the teen drama that made the original Amazing Spider-Man issues so popular. The Nova series felt old fashioned for the late 70s. By contrast, this series is very much a product of the 1990s, to the point where it's kind of surprising that Tom DeFalco and Danny Fingeroth are the creative forces attached to it. Darkhawk's costume is scary (he even has a Wolverine-like claw), his origin story is pretty dark, and the main internal conflict of the book is whether or not he should use lethal force. Spider-Man is brought in to be a foil for that conflict.
As for villains, the book kind of ironically starts off by saying that you "judge a man by his enemies" while giving Darkhawk a Spider-Man leftover instead of his own.
To be fair, the Hobgoblin is coming off a high profile gig, so his generous appearance here can only help Darkhawk. Actually the first issue of this arc was published the same month as Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #6-7. And Hobgoblin starts off this arc pretty rational, not at all the religious nut from the McFarlane appearance. He's working with a gangster, Phillippe Bazin, to find an artifact that will increase his powers.
Meanwhile we have a typical suburban family. Dad's a cop, mom's a beautiful redhead, our teen-aged boy soon-to-be hero, and two precocious younger brothers. But there's more than an undercurrent of grittiness to this. The city is getting more and more dangerous.
Chris is supposed to watch his younger brother but he goes off with his friends for milkshakes instead. And when he returns, they've run off to hang out at a local closed down amusement park. Chris goes to find them and instead stumbles across his father getting a payoff from the gangsters.
When the kids are seen, Chris and his brothers hide, and Chris finds the amulet that turns him into Darkhawk.
Chris experiences an otherworldy feeling while he's Darkhawk, like it's not really him.
He finds himself to be super-strong, able to shoot an energy beam from his chest...
...and able to dodge bullets. But he can still be cut by a knife.
The guy threatening him with the electric wire winds up electrocuting himself. Darkhawk subdues the other two and ties them up, and then panics when he sees his reflection and realizes that he's covered in armor. He pulls the amulet off his chest and reverts to being Chris Powell.
As he's leaving the amusement park, a homeless man identified earlier as Saint Johnny calls him Darkhawk.
In many ways, a generic origin story. In others, pretty gritty. A father who is a corrupt cop. A criminal that dies a gruesome death. A family that quickly becomes a broken home once the father's actions come to light.
Darkhawk goes after Bazin, and finds that his powers also include a force shield.
His claw also works as a combination whip/grappling hook.
Darkhawk has no evidence on Bazin, but considers throwing him out a window. Actually, he does throw him out a window but, for now, catches him with his claw and tells him, "I'm making you my hobby." But speaking of hobbies, that's when the Hobgoblin shows up.
Hobgoblin demonstrates the problem with wearing the amulet that transforms you on your chest, but Darkhawk blasts him away with what is called a Darkforce blast.
Hobgoblin still manages to beat Darkhawk pretty badly. Darkhawk escapes by transforming back into Chris and giving the Hobgoblin a 'he went thataway!'.
As Darkhawk, he was injured pretty badly. When he turns back into Chris he's no longer injured, but he's afraid that if he turns back into Darkhawk he'll be dying.
It's about midway through issue #2 that we get any sense of "continuity" between the Hobgoblin appearing here and the one in McFarlane's Spider-Man. Frankly the character is still way too rational compared to that story, but he is talking like he's a force for "good" (and there's a footnote).
Maybe it was Spider-Man's mention of Nova that made me start comparing the two series.
Spider-Man has heard that Hobgoblin is around, so he's out looking for him. When Spider-Man starts getting into trouble, Chris risks turning back into Darkhawk and it turns out that he's totally healed.
That sort of thing is always troublesome. Wolverine's healing factor is powerful enough, but does simply transforming to Chris and back fully heal Darkhawk? That would essentially make Darkhawk unstoppable. Hopefully we'll see that develop further.
The amulet on the chest continues to be a problem.
I guess the Hobgoblin is in the unique position of being aware of the amulet as the source of Darkhawk's power, since it is what he had been looking for.
Darkhawk makes a distinction between himself and Spider-Man.
And more of that when Hobgoblin gets away for now.
At school the next day, Chris starts to be more aggressive, picking a fight with someone that was teasing him a bit and alienating his friends and his girlfriend, Cheryl.
Then Chris overhears some kids in the locker room talking about how one of their older brothers is going to be at a deal with Bazin at the Playground Club. Darkhawk goes to the club and finds a weapon sale. The number of goons at the Club turn out to be too much for him, and on top of that the Hobgoblin shows up again. This time he's much more religious-ish, calling Darkhawk "Satan-Spawn".
Luckily Spider-Man shows up again. It turns out he had a spider-tracer on Darkhawk, but it went dark while Chris was in his civilian identity. Hobgoblin is focusing his ire on Darkhawk, leaving Spider-Man to fight the armed goons.
In addition to his usual weapons, Hobgoblin has something new from the Tinkerer.
But Darkhawk is able to break out of it. And he doubles his attack on the Hobgoblin, shouting "No Mercy. Just Death!". Spider-Man tries to stop him from killing...
...but it seems that Darkhawk might have gone through with it if two passerbys didn't distract Darkhawk, giving Hobgoblin the opportunity to escape.
Spider-Man tells Darkhawk what he thinks of him in no uncertain terms.
Of course comparing him to the Punisher and Wolverine is just going to encourage him.
In the end, Bazin lies to Hobgoblin, telling him that Darkhawk didn't really find the artifict he was looking for ("He's just a man in a customized battlesuit- much like Iron Man or some such"), and promises that he'll keep looking for the real one. But Bazin really wants the artifact for himself.
At the beginning of issue #3, Darkhawk is training by tossing his own car around. When the car ends up getting destroyed and the police show up, Chris tells them that he was just doing a "road test" that got out of control. The cops, former friends of his father, let him go. One of the cops, Jimmy Zafar, will turn out to be a vigilante called Savage Steel.
I never really hated Darkhawk. I just kind of scoffed at him because he was part of an influx of new characters that i didn't want to get invested with. There's nothing horrible about these issues and i can see if someone started reading comics in the 90s that they may actually like the guy. He's interesting to me mainly as an artifact of the time period, a riff on the teen super-hero that struggles with being a product of the grim & gritty 90s.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Time passes between issues but i've kept these first three in a single entry because they are part of the same story, and because the MCP places both Spider-Man appearances at the same place in Spidey's chronology.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
those are some irresponsible cops. the kid just admitted to being in a flaming auto wreck and they just tell him go home.
Posted by: kveto | September 14, 2015 4:43 PM
Darkhawk and Sleepwalker were two of my favorite Marvel characters as a kid, mainly because in an age where most superheroes seemed like (and were) they had been around for decades, it felt kind of cool to have characters who were still figuring out their powers, their shtick, their rogues gallery. These Darkhawk issues seemed grimmer than I remembered the comic, not sure if that's just memory or if things changed.
I feel like this Bazin guy became a mid tier villain for a while in other books.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | September 14, 2015 5:13 PM
The MCP has Bazin in some behind-the-scenes appearances in Web of Spider-Man but he doesn't seem to appear elsewhere.
The grim & gritty theme seems to be baked into the concept. Per Sean Howe's book:
The company was now squeezing out profits everywhere it could, with editor-generated series like Tom DeFalco's Darkhawk (which, according to Marvel, combined the "gritty realism" of Ghost Rider with the "urban vigilante tactics" of Punisher)...
We'll see how it evolves.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 14, 2015 5:22 PM
1991 was truly the year grimdark took over the MU.
Posted by: Bob | September 14, 2015 10:22 PM
Did Darkhawk appear in Maximum Carnage? I remember there were a few 'whut' heroes I had never heard of.
Posted by: david banes | September 14, 2015 10:33 PM
This series is an interesting contrast with the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider that began almost a year earlier.
In some senses they are very much alike, but this book is far better by nearly any measure. Far less decompressed, much more focused a plot, much better characterization, a lot less cliches.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 14, 2015 10:48 PM
"Of course comparing him to the Punisher and Wolverine is just going to encourage him."
Will it? Why?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 14, 2015 10:51 PM
No David, Darkhawk wasn't in Maximum Carnage, hard as it may be to believe. You might be thinking of Nightwatch, AKA "I'm Not Spawn! Really!".
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | September 14, 2015 11:03 PM
Darkhawk does appear in an upcoming arc in ASM along with Nova and some others. It was called Round Robin or some such. I actually liked this title when it first came out but became bored with it pretty quickly. I picked the whole run up years later for pretty cheap.
Posted by: Robert | September 14, 2015 11:26 PM
I was ten years old at this time. Darkhawk #1 was the second comic book I ever bought -- the first, spurred by my love of the TV series, was Flash #48, which was not a good jumping-on point for a new reader. As much as Wizard made fun of him in the ensuing years, Darkhawk was my jam. I had literally every appearance.
Fnord, rest assured, there is an explanation for his healing power, and it even almost makes sense. Also, the ending of this series is completely insane, look forward to that
Posted by: Andrew F | September 14, 2015 11:26 PM
Oh, and the art in early Darkhawk is also much better than that of, say, the Saltares/Teixeira Ghost Rider.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 14, 2015 11:50 PM
@Luis, re: encouraging him. Because those guys sell well. Just a joke. ;-)
Posted by: fnord12 | September 15, 2015 7:19 AM
Why does Peter think Nova is an airhead?
Posted by: Michael | September 15, 2015 6:01 PM
"It was called Round Robin or some such."
Posted by: clyde | September 15, 2015 9:20 PM
I picked up #2 originally, due to Spider-man but didn't see anything interesting enough to continue with the series.
Posted by: Kveto | September 19, 2015 1:58 AM
I also had more love than perhaps was truly warranted for Darkhawk, Nova and the New Warriors, Sleepwalker, et al since I was a kid when they came out.
Spider-man's constant team-ups with them and mentoring of them are also why I've always thought of him as a more experience super-hero. Because of that I've always found it strange when some writers try to treat Spidey as younger or unseasoned.
And looking back on it, Darkhawk's origin and some of his powers like the chest beam are very similar to the manga character the Guyver.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 19, 2015 3:09 PM
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