Seriously Out of the Shadows

*All of the cool kids in my apartment building are hanging out on the porch because the porch is the new place to chill and just be yourself while you talk about being friends and what you hope to accomplish in your life. So I think I’ll review a “Shadowhawk” comic.

The Return of Shadowhawk #1 (of 1)

Ah, how things have remained the same. I’d forgotten all about how far creator Jim Valentino was afield from the typical Early Image style; his is a flat, unadorned look, very basic, almost like a slightly more burnished spin on a typical 80’s b&w boom comic, but in color. And from the bleeding edge Image Universe, circa 1992. A stranger in a brave new world, he was. “Shadowhawk” was one of the Image books I followed up until the death of the first version of the title character, from complication relating to AIDS; the book had always seemed a little torn between the grit of the streets and glowing superhero color, and this event marked the final battle won by Realism before Fantasy took the campaign.

This new “Shadowhawk” book is informed largely by ideas Kurt Busiek and Alan Moore brought to the table during the book’s second major run, although creator Valentino is back in the writer/artist seat for this issue. The title hero’s armor now writhes and flows around the body of Eddie Collins (the newest new Shadowhawk) and shapes itself into shields and blades, like Venom’s living skin. Eddie also hears the voices of every prior Shadowhawk throughout history in his head, including the now-dead Paul Johnstone who helpfully explains that he didn’t hear the voices hiself because AIDS blocked them (no, seriously). Eddie can even pick and choose which former avatar for the Shadowhawk spirit he wants to help out: a detective for a mystery, a sword master for a duel. Perhaps the book is really a statement on how the Youth of Today are all a bunch of freeloading punks, living high off of the hard work of earlier generations? Nope, it’s just a lighter and friendlier, more Spider-Man of a wisecracking teen Shadowhawk. He fights an awfully silly swordswoman/jewel thief. He shows things off to his extraordinarily understanding father (“It sounds like a bad new age book!”). He’s also apparently the Chosen One who will break the centuries-spanning curse or something, just so we know he’s a really important Shadowhawk.

This is as indefensible a nostalgia purchase as you can hope for. Valentino even includes an 8-page Reader’s Guide in the back so you can track the entire history of the book’s development from arc to arc, perfect for filling up the holes in everyone's Shadowhawk databases. I’d never heard of the “Sonic the Hedgehog” crossover, for one thing, but it did happen and it’s noted here among other assorted appearances, plenty of which I’ve missed. It’s remedial “Shadowhawk”, great for maybe re-hooking a few escaped fish like myself, curious to see what we’ve been missing since the book got extra light. The art and story are no better then before though (the dialogue in particular feels worn out), with even the old nice ideas/bad execution paradigm reinstalled. It’s the same near-miss as it ever was, tonal shifts and all.

Oh! But to flip to that back cover and see an ad for Valentino’s website! It’s just like before, when the back cover was either hyping some other version of the book itself or some valued independent series, the sort of books I didn’t get exposed to often at that age. These $2.95 memories: balance those out with the quality of the book itself and it’s like you’ve gotten what you paid for!