Issue(s): Darkhawk #21, Darkhawk #22, Darkhawk #23, Darkhawk #24, Darkhawk #25
The first two issues don't deal with the origin directly. Chris Powell goes with his family to visit his father's grave, and stays behind and winds up having a close encounter of the sexy kind with Allegra Bazin.
Chris then goes home and screws up his relationship with his girlfriend Cheryl Colon...
..and then goes back to the graveyard to investigate the shooting, and finds one of Phillippe Bazin's former scientists digging up Phillippe's grave. He finds a strange artifact and transforms into one of the most terrifying things i've ever seen.
Here's what it does to a guy that helped him dig up the grave.
Chris has been getting incapacitating headaches as Darkhawk (which is related to his origin story), but he risks the transformation to fight the horror. The death of the other grave digger also attracts the attention of Ghost Rider.
During the fight, Darkhawk gets a vision of a spaceship to go along with his headache.
Darkhawk and Ghost Rider eventually notice the artifact that the guy took from Bazin's grave inside the monster, and they kind of dig it out to cause the creature to transform back into a human. That isn't depicted in as much gruesome detail as it could have been, which is probably a mercy.
In the aftermath, we see someone else snag the artifact and run away with it. So Darkhawk goes home, and that's when the homeless man St. Johnny turns into a Gobot.
The first two issues of this story feature Mike Manley's art as we saw it during the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants storyline, very Rob Liefeld influenced. But the feedback to that in the lettercols is very negative, and Manley drops that by issue #23. We also get what feels like Danny Fingeroth making up for lost time by dumping a years' worth of subplots on us all at once.
This book started out introducing what felt like it might have been an early Spider-Man level of supporting characters, but for the past two years they've been more or less ignored as Darkhawk ran from adventure to adventure.
Meanwhile, St. Johnny is talking about "the mind-death".
St. Johnny is trying to capture, not kill, Chris for the guy in the spaceship, whose name is Dargin Bokk.
Code Blue show up to help out with St. Johnny. But nothing prevents Darkhawk from releasing Dargin's spaceship from his amulet.
And we find that Dargin's other name is, ah, Evilhawk.
If you don't like that name, you can take some comfort in the fact that it's only supposed to be the name that Dargin gave himself in our langauge. And if that's still not enough, see the note in the Considerations.
Evilhawk wants Chris' body for his own, hence the talk of "mind-death".
Code Blue aren't much help against Evilhawk. It doesn't help that one of them saw Darkhawk without his helmet on and is terrified.
Evilhawk captures Darkhawk and takes him to his ship. Darkhawk manages to escape, and tries to fly back to Earth, but can only glide, so Evilhawk catches up with him.
Evilhawk is staggered when he also sees under Darkhawk's helmet.
Evilhawk recovers, but he loses control of himself, seemingly disintegrating Darkhawk instead of just capturing him.
Chris wakes up in a different spaceship.
A talking spaceship.
And now we get to Darkhawk's origin. Dargin was once an intergalactic crimelord, but he didn't like losing agents, so he got the idea to create agents that were repairable.
To implement this idea, he gathered a group of six scientists with different skillsets from throughout the galaxy.
And, along with Dargin Bokk's brother Dargin Ryne, they created five "Darkhawk" bodies. Then one day they rebelled against Bokk.
Bokk killed one of the original scientists, Majeda, and took her armor. But in the subsequent fight, an explosion occurred that badly injured his real body, which is why he needs a replacement. The same set of explosions transferred the consciousness of another scientist, Ocsh, into the ship they were in, so that's why the ship is sentient. We also know already that another scientist - we learn here it was Kistur - encountered Portal and had his armor stolen. It was Kistur's real body that Chris saw when he first woke up on the ship. That leaves two more: Byron and Mondu. Faced with the explosions on the ship, they tried to transfer their consciousness to Byron's homeworld, Earth, and wound up possessing the bodies of two existing people. One is the guy we've seen talking to St. Johnny in past issues, whose name is Ned Dobbs, and the other is St. Johnny himself, aka John Trevane. Both used to be scientists studying ESP. They actually tried to call the FF about their minds getting taken over but everyone just thought they were crazy.
While Ocsh is explaining all of this, St. Johnny uses his techno-organic body to send Evilhawk to the ship, and in fact that last scan is narrated by Evilhawk. Meanwhile, Chris' Darkhawk body has been regenerating on the ship. And since Evilhawk brought the Darkhawk amulet with him, Chris is able to transform back into Darkhawk.
In the subsequent fight, Evilhawk is seemingly disintegrated.
Chris takes his amulet too.
Darkhawk then manages to teleport from Null Space back to Earth. His family had been lingering around the amusement park during the fights with St. Johnny and Evilhawk, so he transforms back into Chris and goes to them. Evilhawk was forcing St. Johnny to work for him, and now that he's gone, Johnny is docile again. Chris also notices a marking on the face of Ned Dobbs.
I actually like this origin for Darkhawk. Take away the name "Evilhawk" and it's hard to see why Abnett & Lanning later got rid of all this backstory. But i guess here is the thing: when i read Abnett & Lanning's version, i had never read this story, or much Darkhawk at all, and if it wasn't for this project, i probably never would have. Abnett & Lanning's origin gave Darkhawk a tie to an existing Marvel concept, the Shi'ar, and that made the character inherently more interesting to me. Danny Fingeroth's origin here has an alien that we've never heard of going around and collecting a bunch of (mostly) alien scientists we've never heard of, all with technology without ties to the Marvel universe (excepting, and this would be a stretch, the "techno-organic" work). It's more original, i guess, but i'm reading a Marvel comic and i want to see ties to the Marvel universe. That's still no excuse for Abnett & Lanning to blow the origin away entirely, though. Why not say that the research that Dargin Bokk funded actually led him to the Shi'ar amulet or something like that?
There's also a subplot in these issues about Arthur Vale, one of the Savage Steels, running away from his witness protection program only to get captured by members of the Cabal.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 209,433. Single issue closest to filing date = 181,500.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: After the fight with the thing from the grave, Ghost Rider leaves before the police arrive, saying that they "can only hamper my more urgent goals". That is accompanied by a footnote pointing to Ghost Rider #32. Ghost Rider #32 is the issue where Ghost Rider is having surgery performed on him because Danny Ketch has been dead, and that story continues directly from the Rise of the Midnight Sons storyline, and i can't imagine anyone thought that this story could take place directly before or during Ghost Rider's surgery. So I'm assuming his "more urgent goals" reference just means that now that he's whole again, he needs to be able to do his Ghost Rider duties. So i'm kind of ignoring the reference as a placement consideration, or at least i'm interpreting it in a very general sort of way.
Ghost Rider's appearance should take place before Spirits of Vengeance #4, when he meets up with Johnny Blaze again and they stick together for a while. Spirits of Vengeance #4 begins soon after Infinity War while Darkhawk #20 has to take place during Infinity War. That means that this also takes place during Infinity War, or least right afterwards.
Due to the Arthur Vale subplot, this takes place after Darkhawk annual #1, which has implications for all of the Assault on Armor City event and, therefore, Avengers West Coast #84-86, all of which needs to go before Infinity War based on Ghost Rider's appearance as noted above.
Everything about this origin will eventually be retconned, with Darkhawk's amulet actually being part of an ancient order of Shi'ar called the Fraternity of Raptors. All of the characters that Darkhawk meets here, including Evilhawk and Ocsh, are retconned into being hallucinations that Chris Powell had because of the amulet. Since St. Johnny and Ned Dobbs interact with other characters and appear in scenes without Chris, i assume they are not hallucinations. Of course, Code Blue interact with Evilhawk, too. I'll track all the characters.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAllegra Bazin, Andrew 'Jock' Jackson, Cheryl Colon, Darkhawk, Evilhawk, Fireworks Fielstein, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Grace Powell, Jason Powell, Jonathan Powell, Kistur, Mad Dog Rassitano, Marcus Stone, Mitch 'Madman' Marley, Mother Majowski, Ned Dobbs, Noble Kale, Ocsh, Rigger Ruiz, Savage Steel (Arthur Vale), St. Johnny, Steve 'Headset' Rubino, Traci Fields
The villain's name really is Evilhawk? I've seen it mentioned online, but I've thought it was a fan nickname, like Skrullverine...
Do we ever get to see what's under Darkhawk's helmet?
BTW. That monster from the cementary is a quite good design!
Posted by: Piotr W | May 3, 2016 4:03 PM
It's possible that while the amulet that would become the core of Darkhawk came from the Shi'ar, Bokk created the other five -hawk-type bodes, along with support features like the spaceship and upgrade parts/bodies, with the kidnapped scientist's "help".
Posted by: D09 | May 3, 2016 6:08 PM
Although I liked the idea behind the War of Kings retconned origin of Darkhawk, I found the retcon itself to be very inadequate because almost no effort was made to explain away the previous origin story. The idea that entire storylines are just hallucinations is a really lame way to explain away those stories and, as fnord12 pointed out, it doesn't account for those in which "hallucination" characters interact with people besides Chris Powell.
Personally, like D09, I believe that the new origin can be revised so as to integrate it with the previous origin story. For example, it could be that Darkhawk's amulet actually was one of those belonging to the Fraternity of Raptors but it had been damaged and so one of the Fraternity's followers (maybe one of the six scientists?) had manipulated Dargin Bokk into setting up his repairable agents project so that s/he could secretly use Bokk's project to repair the damaged amulet.
Posted by: Don Campbell | May 3, 2016 7:00 PM
Agreed with Don that it doesn't make sense for Evilhawk to be a hallucination- I don't think they even mentioned St. Johnny and Ned Dobbs or tried to explain if they were real. It makes no sense for them to be fake.
Posted by: Michael | May 3, 2016 8:34 PM
I wonder if the retcon is partially inspired by the 2001 12-issue non-canon MAX series "US War Machine", in which Darkhawk is essentially portrayed as hallucinating the events of Darkhawk #1 while in reality he's being used as a weapon.
Posted by: Andrew F | May 3, 2016 10:48 PM
It almost sounds like DnA only heard about Darkhawk's origin from a Handbook or something and dismissed it as nonsense they needed to clean up without having actually read these issues and understood the context.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 3, 2016 10:56 PM
My only knowledge of Evilhawk prior to reading this review was from his Marvel Masterpieces card with Hildebrandt art. He looked pretty cool there, and I don't have a problem with the name. But the background that he's a scummy alien gangster isn't too appealing.
Posted by: Mortificator | May 4, 2016 12:19 AM
The initially proposed origin, once you polish the shit off the story, was that years ago, an extraterrestrial crime-lord sought the means to create an army of self-repairing war-bots which he would sell to the highest bidder. He gathered the most knowledgeable scientists in the universe to begin work on his project. Through coercion, he recruits: Mondu, inventor of technology that could transfer a humanoid’s consciousness into a storage facility, Mandeja, inventor of transportation technology that could replace one being with another; Byron, human inventor of androids with built-in weapons; Graczia, inventor of telepathic devices; Kig, who had mastered a techno-virus; and Ocsh, discoverer of a dimension dubbed "Null Space."
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 4, 2016 6:23 AM
@Piotr, i don't think we ever see it. I've seen it said that rather than being something actually horrible, it's more like whatever is under the mask has a spell-like effect that causes people to be terrified. But i'm not sure if that's a fan theory or actually established somewhere. I'll of course note any developments when i cover future issues.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 5, 2016 8:21 AM
I have another question: are the "Darkhawk bodies" androids? If so, then... how come that Portal is wearing one of them as an armour? Did he, uhm, eviscerate that particular Darkhawk to use its outer layer only?
Posted by: Piotr W | May 5, 2016 3:41 PM
Yes, the five Darkhawk bodies were all androids into which the minds of living beings (like Chris Powell and Dargin Bokk) could be projected. Portal came into conflict with one of the five when it was being animated by an alien named Kistur. Portal "killed" it and took its armor for himself, an act which left Kistur's body suspended on the Darkhawk ship in Null Space.
Of course, the bodies used by the Fraternity of Raptors are androids as well, allegedly created long ago by Shi'ar scientists. Or were they sorcerers? I guess it depends on whether the Raptors were technological, mystical or some mixture of both.
Posted by: Don Campbell | May 5, 2016 5:52 PM
The five Darkhawk bodies actually being androids doesn't make sense when you consider that Darkhawk unmasked is supposed to appear absolutely horrific. Unless, of course, whatever species the androids were based on were also that revolting to human sensibilities.
If fnord is correct that "whatever is under the mask has a spell-like effect that causes people to be terrified" then that doesn't make sense, either. Why give an android that ability, especially when it also affects the person occupying the android's body? That would seem to be a real liability. If you get your helmet stolen or knocked off while you're using the body you'd have to avoid going near anything with a reflective surface, otherwise you're going to end up freaking yourself out.
It really feels like this is a case of Fingeroth coming up with the two ideas "Darkhawk looks completely hideous under his helmet" and "Darkhawk is an android created by alien scientists for a crime lord from outer space" completely separate of one another and then failing to reconcile the two.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 7, 2016 12:11 PM
Wild thought here: is it possible that the amulets that Darkhawk and the others (Evilhawk, Gyre, etc.) use actually came from the Lifestone Tree? Admittedly I can't remember if I got that idea from Marvel Wiki, Marvel Appendix, or that new site that I found called Writeups.org, but it's still an interesting one to ponder...
Posted by: D09 | October 6, 2016 2:31 AM
You may be thinking of the Marvel Wikia entry for the Lifestone Tree. In War of Kings: Ascension miniseries it is revealed that the "Fraternity of Raptors" (as noted by fnord and others above) all come from giant crystals hanging from the "Tree of Shadows" in "Null Space". Despite the similarities in concept, the Raptor tree and the Lifestone Tree from Thunderbolts #46 look different and have different purposes. But in Nova V2 #33 the/a Sphinx summoned a DarkHawk, Moonstone, Bloodstone, etc all at once, indicating some sort of connection. The whole thing makes my head hurt.
Posted by: Andrew | October 6, 2016 6:21 AM
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