This week, the return of an iconic ’90s Marvel Comics character continues with the launch of the new Darkhawk series! Does the new wielder of the Raptor amulet live up to his predecessor’s legacy?
We’ve got a review of Darkhawk #1, as well as a Rapid Rundown of other noteworthy new Marvel titles, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Juanan Ramírez
Color Artist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Iban Coello & Jesus Aburtov
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
Darkhawk #1 faces several uphill climbs as a series launch. Celebrating the hero’s 30th anniversary (oh god, I’m as old as Darkhawk) by passing the mantle to a new character risks rubbing longtime fans the wrong way. New Darkhawk Connor Young living with Multiple Sclerosis is a heavy subject for a teenage superhero comic and rife for potential missteps. And Kyle Higgins, while wildly successful both with the creator-owned Radiant Black and his stint on BOOM!’s Power Rangers line, has an uneven track record with Marvel’s superhero roster. Thankfully, the debut manages to dodge all these potential pitfalls and deliver a surprisingly meaty and engaging origin story for the Marvel Universe’s latest hero that left me excited to read more.
Where Darkhawk surprises most is in its structure. Unlike a lot of modern origin stories (Ms. Marvel being a notable exception), this issue is very much in line with a classic Marvel Tale in that it spotlights the human drama first and foremost. Connor doesn’t even suit up as Darkhawk, in a slick new design from Juanan Ramírez, until page 23 of the extra-length issue. The bulk of the story is focused on his diagnosis with MS and the impact it has on his life given his role as a star basketball player with a full-ride college scholarship on the table.
To be clear, I do not have MS and cannot speak to the accuracy of the issue. I found Connor’s experiences and struggles incredibly compelling and enlightening as to what living with MS can be like as a story and look forward to seeing opinions on its accuracy and perspective from those who are affected by the disease. The most impressive portion of the issue came after Connor’s story ended, when Kyle Higgins interviews Brooke Pelczynski, an artist who lives with MS and helped with the creation of Connor Young. The interview itself is given ample space and provides a very human, honest voice to a disease I knew very little about going in. When a frequent criticism of comics writing is the unfortunate tendency of writers to tell stories featuring marginalized leads or themes when they are not themselves affected by or a part of those groups, it’s nice to see a sensitivity reader used, credited and given a space to tell her own story within the comic itself.
As for the story within the comic, it’s just rock-solid teen superhero drama. Connor is a charming lead, charismatic and funny without feeling like a bog-standard quippy superhero, and the stakes always maintain one foot firmly on the ground to keep things centered. Ramírez’s art, with effective if a bit washed out at times coloring from Erick Arciniega, is expressive, energetic and perfectly fits the tone of the story. Whether it’s Connor coping with the weight of his diagnosis or slashing up goons with his new Darkhawk laser-claws, the book holds up great visually and always feels appropriate for the Teen Hero genre it finds itself in.
I’ve always liked Darkhawk. I’m not going to pretend I’m a mega-fan, but between the character’s killer designs and his exciting usage in the mid-’00s cosmic Marvel saga I’m usually happy to see him. When this new Darkhawk series was announced I was skeptical. A new hero seemed ill-advised given how underutilized Chris Powell has been and the added wrinkle of Connor’s MS diagnosis seemed like a potential disaster waiting to happen. I’m happy to be proven wrong. Darkhawk #1 is a fantastic reinvention of a long-wasted heroic identity and a compelling introduction to a new hero who provides a much-needed new perspective in the Marvel Universe. It’s easily my favorite book of the week and one of Marvel’s strongest debuts of 2021.
Final Verdict: BUY.
- Cable: Reloaded #1
- Kid Cable is gone, and Old Man Cable is back. After the events of the last Cable series, the Cable we have known for decades has come back to step into the void left by his younger self (now in the future on the path to become our Cable, time travel) and help defend the expanding galactic power of Krakoa. Known for his cosmic storytelling, writer Al Ewing is the right person for this time-traveling crusader’s re-introduction into the mutants’ struggle for survival. As a tie-in to The Last Annihilation, Cable’s first mission is to help save the universe from Dr. Strange’s arch-nemesis, the Dread Dormammu. To do this Cable must lead a team of his former X-Force teammates into enemy territory to steal alien technology for stopping Dormammu’s forces. This issue is a smart set-up with a ton of action and some humorous bits for Old Man Cable’s return. —GC3
- Marvel’s Voices: Identity #1
- This entry in the ongoing Marvel’s Voices series has fewer individual comics (but each story gets a few more pages in exchange). With a Shang-Chi story that incorporates elements from both the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s large and small screen offerings, a flashback story that uncovers meaningful insight on Jimmy Woo’s psyche, a potent comic about the personal side of legally changing your name, and even a cute tale about finding substitution sushi ingredients on Krakoa, this anthology has plenty of variety. Plus, an introduction by Rina Ayuyang and an interview with Larry Hama are nice supplementary additions. Finally, shout out to the final comic, “New York State of Mind,” for both building on Maurene Goo’s outstanding run on Silk and addressing the theme of Asian American identity head-on – with uncompromising results. —AJK
- Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1
- I never thought about there ever being a definitive J. Jonah Jameson writer, but between the work he did on the character in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man and this week’s Spider-Man: Life Story Annual #1, the argument could certainly be made that Chip Zdarsky is it. The annual follows a J. Jonah Jameson who is arrested and jailed for his role in turning Mac Gargan into The Scorpion and for his own turn as the Spider-Slayer. Zdarsky and returning Life Story artists Mark Bagley and Andrew Hennessy are joined by colorist Matt Milla and letterer Travis Lanham for a story that explores how far one man is willing to go in pursuit of his obsession, and how much he’s willing to lose along the way. —JG
- Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #13
- Last week, it was announced that War of the Bounty Hunters was just the first in a trilogy, with the second volume, Crimson Reign (centering Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra) beginning in November after this crossover concludes in October. This issue begins to highlight just how thoroughly these two narratives will be intertwined, making the breadth of the many tendrils of Crimson Dawn more clear while building on the groundwork previously laid by the preceding Doctor Aphra issues in this crossover event. With two of Han Solo’s exes in the mix, you know things are bound to get messy – and fortunately, no one handles messy better than Aphra. Better yet, we get concrete hints of a romance that we all want to see play out. Steal her heart before stealing away from Vader, Chelli! —AJK
- Winter Guard #1
- Ryan Cady seriously impressed me with his Hyperion tie-in to the recent Heroes Reborn event, and thus I was pretty excited to read this, especially since I’m not too familiar with the Winter Guard. This was a pretty clean and digestible entry point into this side of the Marvel Universe, and read pretty well as the beginning of a standalone story despite tying into the current Avengers arc. After a frankly rough-looking prologue, the story kicks into high gear with some neat Jan Bazaldua artwork, which I thought was some of the best work she’s ever done. I found the attempts at movie synergy to be pretty laughable since the relationships of certain characters do not compare well to the Black Widow movie. As the start to a four issue miniseries, I’m excited to read more. —HW
Next week, the Dark Ages begin!