Writer/Artist: Jim Valentino
‘Shadowhawk’ was the first Image Comics title I picked up back in 1992. I think I bought it just because the cover of issue #1 looked cool: A silver, pointed mask on a black cover that asked, “Who is Shadowhawk?” The story’s hook was that the reader didn’t know who Shadowhawk really was. The mystery of his/her secret identity drove the story in the first mini-series. It wasn’t revealed until the second mini. After that, I lost interest in the title. I could only go to one comics shop back then, and it didn’t always carry ‘Shadowhawk’ comics. Sometimes I’ll dig through dollar boxes for the old stories about Shadowhawk searching for a cure to his HIV infection. But then I’ll find an “Age of Apocalypse” tie-in or a DC crossover comic and forget all about it.
‘The Return of Shadowhawk’ is a good comic for those of us who remember the original character and readers who never heard of him. Teenager Edie Collins currently possesses a Shadowhawk helmet that “grows” a costume around him. He hears the voices of previous Shadowhawks from history, giving him advice and lending him their abilities. They help him stop a sword wielding jewel thief. They also tell Edie he is the reincarnation of an Ancient Egyptian priest who was murdered while communing with his gods.
Comparing this to the first ‘Shadowhawk’ comic, I’m sorry to say Valentino’s art style has not improved. Granted, he’s spent most of the last 12 as a publisher, which doesn’t give one many opportunities to draw. But when an artist’s craft doesn’t visibly improve or change after such a great period of time, you can’t help but be disappointed. Valentino’s figures still have that “mini-comics” look. They look like people, but lack any unique style or artistic “voice”. Even worse, there’s not much in the way of backgrounds. Many pages have characters against a solid-colored background or empty space. It’s a simple, basic art style that’s serves the story rather than works with it.
Unfortunately, the story isn’t any great shakes either. We get the flashback to Ancient Egypt, Eddie fights thief, goes home, communes with spirits of the mask, fights thief again and wins. *yawn* It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I’d call it a cliché, but it doesn’t embrace the whole cliché. Eddie thinks of his costumed life as an adventure. I think Valentino’s trying to inject some upbeat Spider-Man/Invincible-type humor into the story. Eddie’s dad is worried about his son’s crime fighting, and learning about the ghosts in his costume doesn’t make him feel better. But Valentino doesn’t go far enough to really make us feel what we’re supposed to be feeling. There’s no melodrama, no sharp dialogue, no pop-cultural references. We’ve seen it all before, so we know what’s missing.
Frankly, if it wasn’t for the “reader’s Guide to Shadowhawk”, I’d give this comic . The guide summarizes all past ‘Shadowhawk’ comics and appearances, including the “Shadowhunt” crossover, and ‘Sonic Super Special’ featuring the Image Comics heroes. (Damn, I’ve got to get that. I love Sonic!) It also tells how the idea of Shadowhawk as an immortal spirit of justice was conceived by Kurt Busiek in ‘The New Shadowhawk’. So the whole premise and origin of this hero didn’t even come from his creator. Not the best thing to admit to new readers.
If you ever wondered “What ever happened to Shadowhawk”, then drop the $3 on this book, pick out what looks good, and start searching the shops. (‘Shadowhawks of Legend’ might be hard to find because it features a story by Alan Moore). I don’t see much of a future for this series. Stick with the past.
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