SCRIPT: Jim Valentino
PENCILS: Jim Valentino
COVER: Jim Valentino & Erik Larsen
This isn't one of my favorite ShadowHawk covers, but I really like the overhead view of the city. The artist gives this cover a true sense of height and scale. The main figures are well done, but the eye-catcher here is definitely in the background.
AAAAAAAAAAND IT'S CROSSOVER TIME!
After police Captain Frakes failed to prove Lt. Jacks was ShadowHawk, he calls in a favor from an old friend in Chicago and is loaned their Super-Powered Superstar cop. . .The Dragon. Upon arrival in New York, Dragon ruffles some feathers as he shows the NYPD how it's done by almost immediately tracking down ShadowHawk while the vigilante deals with a rapist.
A rooftop battle ensues while ShadowHawk insists he's not a criminal and The Dragon lets him know (between brutal punches) that the good guys don't sentence criminals to a living death with a broken back.
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
At Max Boldd's (AKA Vendetta) secret laboratory, we see that she's setting up a super-powered team consisting of failed Youngblood recruit BlackJak, the now constantly burning and super-powered version of Arson, and Tajana Juarez, who has been given super-powers by the alien technology in Boldd's lab and is now called Vortex. Each of them has a grudge against ShadowHawk, but Boldd tells them that her intention isn't to destroy him, but to recruit him for the team.
Since the televised battle between ShadowHawk and The Dragon is going badly for the vigilante, Boldd take the opportunity to reveal her plans for him and orders BlackJak to deal with Dragon while Vortex and Arson rescue ShadowHawk. The unexpected interruption of Boldd's team takes Dragon by surprise and they manage to grab ShadowHawk and take him to the safety of Boldd's headquarters.
Vendetta offers ShadowHawk a place on her team, but the vigilante continues to insist he's not a criminal. Vendetta mocks his righteous stance and tells him he can either join up or she'll turn him over to the police so he can see just how much of a criminal he really is. ShadowHawk doesn't like either option and makes his escape by jumping through a window. Vendetta doesn't pursue him.
AND IN THE END. . .
We get two epilogues. In the first, we see the Savage Dragon leaving New York, anxious to return to cleaning up Chicago, but with the NYPD grateful that he was at least able to narrow down ShadowHawk's identity to his being male.
In the second epilogue, we find ShadowHawk alone and wracked with doubt as he ponders his encounter with The Dragon and Vendetta. . .asking himself if he really IS a hero, or is he actually a villain?
The End. . .To be continued.
ShadowHawk is sort of a strange series in that it's actually a set of connected mini-series. . .sort of like what Dark Horse did with Hellboy. The next mini-series is called ShadowHawk II (3 issues), but actually connects directly to the ending of this one, so most comic collector sites just call ShadowHawk II #1 ShadowHawk #5 (And ShadowHawk III #1 as ShadowHawk #8). It's this strange way of publishing ShadowHawk that makes this issue a pretty unsatisfying "ending" to the first ShadowHawk mini-series.
In addition to an ending that's actually more of a "to be continued", this issue also drops ShadowHawk into his first full-fledged crossover, with Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon. Not that there's anything wrong with crossovers in general, but you can plainly see Image trying to drum up some reader interest in ShadowHawk with this one. From what I've been able to find out about the series, it was a bit of an underdog in Image's initial push. . .not backed up by a red-hot artist, it wasn't doing as good as Image had though it would.
What I'm trying to say is that the crossover with Savage Dragon is a pretty obvious sales tactic. It feels forced and ultimately inconsequential in the long run for either character. Add in Vendetta's super-criminal team and whatever gritty street-level feel this comic had initially is pretty much gone by this issue.
That's not to say it's ALL bad. I liked that we ended with the "hero" agonizing over whether or not he's actually a villain. It's a pretty good hook to draw readers into the next ShadowHawk mini to find out how he discovers the hero inside. . .showing that the character isn't just a black and white Image version of armored Batman. The ending of the story here makes me want to give the character another chance, despite the steady downward spiral of the writing through the four issues of this initial series.
Overall, the ending of this series is pretty disappointing in that it's not actually an ending at all. The crossover with Savage Dragon feels like a forced and pretty obvious sales tactic, and the colorful supervillains have sapped the gritty street-level vigilante feel from the story entirely. There are some good character moments at the end of it all that barely manage to save the story with the promise of interesting things to come.
When I finally decided to actually READ some of these ShadowHawk comics I've been picking up through the years, I had already decided that I was going to find an unreadable comic with excessive 90's art doing the heavy lifting for a story that didn't matter as long as the comic looked good.
What I found instead was a story that isn't great by any means, but is a pretty good introduction to a new character, backed up by art that has a bit of 90's flair, but not so much that it completely distracts from and overpowers the story. So for that, ShadowHawk is actually pretty good.
Unfortunately, the story progressively weakens through only four issues. . .going from a violent, gritty, street-level vigilante story to a colorful mess of supervillains and forced crossovers, where the initial reader hook of "Who is ShadowHawk" was all but forgotten.
The strong point of ShadowHawk is definitely the art by Jim Valentino. It's some very nice and solid superhero art that helps tell the story without trying to push its way to the front. As a 90's Image superhero comic, I was pleasantly surprised to find the art holds up so well 30 years down the road when many other comics from the era are eye-bleeding jokes that didn't age well.
Overall, I can recommend ShadowHawk as a decent read. It's definitely a relic of the 90's Image "We want to be Marvel!" era, but it has aged a little better than a lot of other comics from that time. The issues aren't hard to find at all. Like I said in the introduction, ShadowHawk is almost ubiquitous when it comes to bargain bins. It's more unlikely to NOT find an issue of ShadowHawk in a dollar box.
Up Next. . .
How about a Longbox Junk retro review?
Let's jump into the paper time machine and crank that dial backwards!
Be there or be square.