When someone raises the topic of 90s Marvel Comics, several characters immediately come to mind, with the amulet-powered Darkhawk among them. The character is beloved by many, including myself—despite never achieving the mainstream status of other Marvel heroes—thanks to his killer design and a run of exciting guest appearances in other titles. Now Darkhawk is receiving another moment in the sun in a rare, new ongoing series, but there's a new character inside the armor these days. Darkhawk #1 takes its time introducing readers to Connor before the superheroics kick in, and it's that patient storytelling which allows Darkhawk's bold, new era to achieve liftoff.
Writer Kyle Higgins is quite adept at introducing new heroes (just see Radiant Black for proof) and that skill is readily apparent here. To care about Darkhawk as a concept readers must care about the person who commands the armor, and while it is a slow burn in the early pages, I felt the inevitable transformation into Darkhawk benefited immensely because there is an established connection to Connor, his struggle, and the family dynamic that informs so much of who he is.
Connor's supporting cast plays an important role in how he looks at the future after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Whether it's Derek looking to support him in the only way he knows how (pizza never goes unappreciated) or his father lifting up his son after receiving devastating news, the people in Connor's life feel three-dimensional and avoid common family tropes. Sure, Connor's father is proud of his son's sports accomplishments, but the predictable basketball dad behavior is non-existent. Instead, Darkhawk chooses to showcase a father who wants the best for his son whether or not that includes sports. You don't always see this in comics or media, so it's refreshing to read here.
This connection between Connor and his father is also what allows one particular line to deliver its necessary impact. After Connor expresses immense doubt and despair about his future, his father delivers some stellar advice that feels like the kind of wisdom that can be found in every strong family, yet it feels distinct just to them.
His father says, "The reality is that change is one of life's great challenges...and certainties. No one likes it. No one wants to face it. But we do. And in this house, we do one better. We look change in the eye, and what do we tell it Connor?" This dialogue is integrated with images of Connor healing from his external injuries, expertly delivered by Juanan Ramírez and Erick Arciniega, but it's also a glimpse at the person within coming to terms with his new life. This comes full circle towards the issue's end, as after his transformation we see Connor answer that question, telling his father "We look it in the eye and we say what's next? That's what we tell change."
I mean, if that doesn't hit you in the feels just like one of those Rocky Balboa "it's about how hard you can get hit and still move forward" lines then I don't know what to tell you.
Now, when readers finally get to see Darkhawk, it's well worth the wait. Ramirez and Arciniega work wonders with the suit's new design, showing off some unique capabilities and stunning with poster-worthy splashes of Darkhawk soaring through the sky. Darkhawk feels fresh, yet already at home in a universe full of powerful heroes and villains. While the action is brief, it's stylish and effective at capturing the excitement of this character's reemergence.
How the world responds to Darkhawk's return, Connor's lack of context about his new identity and the successful introduction of the series' new villain creates plenty of intrigue by issue's end delivering one very promising debut.
Not everything is perfect. When I said the comic possesses a slow start, I meant it. Those first few pages establish how talented Connor is, but it certainly could have been trimmed some, and the same could be said for other sections of the debut's early pages. It would have helped to get to the latter half of this story sooner, which would have allowed more time with Connor as Darkhawk. It's not just about more space for fighting; readers need to see more of Connor coming to terms with his new status internally.
When Darkhawk is featured, the power of this gorgeous new design and thrilling potential of what this concept can bring to the current Marvel Comics landscape are clear, and with Connor grounding these cosmic elements, the future is quite bright indeed.
Published by Marvel Comics
On August 25, 2021
Written by Kyle Higgins
Art by Juanan Ramírez
Colors by Eric Arciniega0comments
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Iban Coello and Jesus Aburtov