One of Marvel's best creations of the 90's.
Chris Powell is a teenager still in high school with a complicated life that becomes worse in the blink of an eye. His father is a cop working a case on notorious mobster named Phillipe Bazin, and his mom is an assistant DA working on Bazin's case. Chris stumbles upon his father during a bribery meeting that goes wrong; a scuffle begins which leads to Chris finding a strange amulet that transforms him into a super-powered being, which allows him to fight off his attackers. Later Chris learns that he has been changed into a warrior called Darkhawk. Where did this amulet come from and what is this armored like creature? These are things Chris will like to know but they may have to wait. -summary
Well here I go continuing with my 1990's Marvel kick. Around this time Marvel were creating newer characters or adding twist to older ones, and just taking chances with giving them either long or limited series runs. Darkhawk whom made his first appearance in 1991 is one of those characters, and I consider him their second best creation of that era behind Cable of The New Mutants and X-Force. Darkhawk went on to enjoy a 50 issue run; this TPB Darkhawk - Classic, written by Danny Fingeroth contains issues 1 - 9.
The story follows Chris as he gains his new powers and his single purpose is to take down mob boss Bazin. Their feud becomes personal once Bazin sends hitmen to take out his mother. Things get even more dicey when the Hobgoblin becomes very interested in the amulet on Darkhawk's chest, and his intention is to kill him and take it. The plot sees Darkhawk fending off different super-powered threats, meeting other heroes, and desperately seeking answers on the origin of the amulet.
I'm amazed at how well these stories hold up even now, but then again I shouldn't because Darkhawk had so much potential to become an interesting series, and it did feel a bit more mature in some respects. Besides the fact his strength is on Spider-Man's level along with a pulverizing energy attack emitted from his chest; he's a very conflicted young super being. Darkhawk wants to do well yet at the same time he's very emotional, and killing his enemies crosses his mind constantly. This brings him at odds with Spider-Man during a team up, and they begin a philosophical debate. Darkhawk respects Spider-Man a lot, but he's quick to mention that some evil people need to die and that Spider-Man's enemies always come back. The material definitely could have been examined further, yet Fingeroth doesn't want to take away from the comic book action, or the building of Darkhawk's world which is something I can appreciate.
Speaking of world building, Fingeroth was busy trying his best to make Darkhawk into a character that can stand on his own. The mystery behind the amulet and Darkhawk's face under his mask are interesting story elements merely brushed upon yet left open; and things become more interesting when he confronts a guy named Portal whom returns to Earth from dimension hopping with pieces of Darkhawk armor. I still remember being so hooked back then because of how well things were being set up.
It's possible to make a case that the guest stars in this book keep Darkhawk from standing on his own, but his meetings with other heroes are clearly working in his development towards helping him grow into a responsible hero. The guest stars also help in delivering some cool action too; there's even a battle with a team straight from the pages of The Hulk called the U-Foes, and this is a fun all out battle. There are also villain first appearances too. Action wise, there is just nothing here to look down on at all. The only flaws I can think of is that it gets tiring after awhile watching Darkhawk take down drug dealers again and again. I would have appreciated more side character development or more interactions with superheroes whom been at it for awhile.
Mike Manley's pencils look dated; they're muddy and gritty-like resembling more of that 80's style but it's so enjoyable. The confrontations against Portal, the U-Foes, and especially Lodestone are destructive and fun. The action panels are very easy to follow further adding to the enjoyment. Darkhawk has a pretty cool almost robotic like design, with a claw on his right hand that is used for a grappling look, and his diamond shaped amulet on his chest appearing to be an insignia. Visually it's a joy to look at.
I would love to highly recommend Darkhawk to everyone as a must buy, but I'm not really sure Marvel can be trusted at this point. For the last several years they have been introducing these TPB's and not finishing them. They began reprinting the 1990 Ghost Rider run featuring Danny Ketch as the new Ghost Rider, and they stopped at Volume 2 back in 2010 with no mention of a volume 3 in sight. They did the same thing to Deathlok, Bill Mantlo's run on Cloak and Dagger, and there's no release date of Darkhawk volume 2 which is really disappointing, because it begins and ends his first event Heart of the Hawk. So unless you're a hardcore completest or very, very, curious don't even bother until something is mentioned.
Pros: Good character development, lots of cool action and guest appearances
Cons: Small amount of uninteresting moments, no mention of later volumes