Greetings, people. This is D.C. back for a throwdown on a Marvel piece.
Now, I understand the flack Marvel comics has had over the last year or so, especially with regards to its All-New, All-Different initiative. In spite of that, I try hard to give any book that interests me a shot. So when I hear there was a new Nighthawk series coming out, I had to check it out.
Who the **** is Nighthawk?
Haha. If you ask something that simple, you might get a complex answer. In the 616 universe, several versions of Nighthawk have surfaced since the 1960s Avengers run. This version, Kyle Richmond, starred in the Marvel Max version of the Squadron Supreme. It was there that the Batman-gone-wrong with a racist streak waged a violent war on crime. As the last survivor of his universe, Nighthawk and other “orphans” formed the newest iteration of the Squadron Supreme in the 616.
Why the flack for this series?
When word of Nighthawk floated the ‘net, I saw scores of people denouncing this series as inherently racist and forcing a political agenda.
It is my view that…there is NO comic book publisher that doesn’t have some sort of agenda. To complain about an agenda tells me that dissenters only complain because it’s something they don’t agree with, similar to the debate about Captain America and Hydra.
In an interview with the creative team, writer David Walker had a plan to address the sensitive racial and societal tensions that still live in our society today, and how a violent man like Nighthawk will fight this disease. Walker intended to write an angry Nighthawk who is at conflict with himself, struggling to reconcile his murderous crusade with the more pacifistic teachings of his parents.
Violence, deconstructing real life issues, and inner conflict and reflection? This story sounded promising, so what better way to see how it goes than to read?
Here’s where I got out of the first three issues.
In a word: ugly.
In two words: ugly and inappropriate.
When you think of a violent Batman pastiche, you might expect something consistent with a crime-fighting or gritty book–dark colors, somber or tense atmosphere, art that just screams violence. Books like Punisher, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Daredevil, and Sin City come to mind.
You get none of that feeling in this series. Ramon Villalobos draws a world that just looks cartoonish and in no way what I would expect a tense Chicago area to be. The colors by Tamra Bonvillain are just off-putting with a series of violence and dramatic tension. Even the blood is a cartoonish pink, rather than crimson or red. How can you take a violent series seriously when the blood spilled resembles pink Silly String or bubblegum?
I found many of Villalobos’ facial expressions to be inappropriate. Some characters who were attacked had expressions that didn’t reflect the acts or actions. A detective’s conversation with Nighthawk was terrible to read, just because of the expressions.
The most disappointing part is that the cover art is so, so much better than the interior art. I’ve enjoyed each cover I’ve seen, but it soured the experience even more once the book is opened. For example, the following cover: tense, dark, and colors resembling blood:
It might be too soon to say, but David Walker has not delivered well on this series. We see tales of the violence and racial tensions, but it seems as if Nighthawk isn’t as concerned with those issues, aside from just taking on weapons sales. I don’t see any engaging dialogue or how Nighthawk sees the racism and tension in this new world he’s in, or how it might have mirrored his own. There’s so little introspection of the character.
Speaking of weak introspection…There’s very little in Nighthawk’s introspection of his actions versus the teachings by his parents. If he’s been at this for 8 months by the time the series starts, we should be getting an eyeful of his internal struggle. We get perhaps a page or two of it in one or two issues, but not much past that. That is not good building on this character that should be three-dimensional. So far, we just have violent, racist, vigilante. There’s been too little of Nighthawk’s philanthropic identity, so it feels you’re reading a book purely on Nighthawk, not of Kyle Richmond. If that is the focus, we should be getting some dialogue as to why, or how that affect Kyle’s social and personal lives.
I hate the cast. I can’t stand these characters. A story can’t go well with a shoddy cast. Nighthawk’s assistant, Tilda Johnson, is probably one of the most vapid characters I’ve seen. She has terrible and terribly consistent one-liners about wanting weapons, praising destruction, and the like. Her other quips are hardly worth reading, and that’s even worse. There is absolutely nothing engaging I got out of her. Again…vapid.
The villain of this arc, a serial killer called the Revelator, doesn’t even seem to be Nighthawk’s focus. He will talk about him, but it doesn’t even seem as if Nighthawk’s making an effort to hunt down this killer, because the Revelator is murdering white people. The dialogue doesn’t fit the effort in this book. I would like to see more of the Revelator’s psychology revealed, so we’d get a better feel of just who we’re experiencing.
The Nighthawk series deserves plenty of flack. Writer David Walker has so far failed to deliver on an engaging crimefighter and an engaging environment. The issues Walker promised are addressed, but with little strength, emotion, or evaluation. The protagonist of the series is likewise not evaluated well, even in these beginning issues. The supporting cast leaves so little to be desired. With subpar art by Ramon Villalobos, this series is not even worthy of the character Nighthawk.
Subpar writing, subpar art, subpar colors, subpar cast, subpar protagonist. Nothing redeeming.
Going forward, I would hope that these issues do get recitified and that Walker can deliver on an organic character that is authentically struggling to reconcile his past and present. I need to see a better focus of how Nighthawk’s flawed character affect his own actions and mindset. I need to see this character really reflect on his own merit, not to just have snippets to show it’s there.
I am sorely disappointed by the execution thus far, but I will give this series at least till the end of this arc to see if the creative team can finally step up.