INFINITY COUNTDOWN: DARKHAWK #1 / Writers: Chris Sims & Chad Bowers / Artist: Gang Hyuk Lim / Letterer: Travis Lanham / Released: May 23, 2018 / Publisher: Marvel
Comic books are a team effort: artists and writers working separately to create a product that tells the story the writer conceived. Neither the art nor the writing can achieve that goal on their own, and when the two are not in tandem the final product often suffers. Such is the case in Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1 where writing and art fail to work together and result in an unbalanced first issue, pulling in too many directions to be effective.
Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1 begins sometime after Infinity Countdown #3 and opens with the Fraternity of Raptors. The Fraternity is one of the main villains of Gerry Duggan’s Guardians of the Galaxy/Infinity saga, and they goad Talonar (Robbie Ryder, brother of the original Nova, Rich Rider) into using the Nega Bands which ultimately releases the true Raptors, who then kill all of the Fraternity except Robbie. Nothing about that scene will be relevant this issue.
Cut to Earth. Chris Powell, the former cosmic hero Darkhawk, is now a cop involved in a high speed chase. His car gets wrecked and he turns into Darkhawk to snag the criminals. That arrest is Chris’ last before he and his fiancée Miranda go on vacation, which includes a trip to Project PEGASUS where tests are run on Chris. What Chris really wants, though, is to get to space to settle a score with Robbie Ryder. Conveniently, after the testing, Chris is attacked by Death’s Head, an interstellar bounty hunter who has a ship.
The most effective part of Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1 is Gang Hyuk Lim’s art, which he also inks and colors. Lim creates a vibrant, living world. The characters have a “larger than life” quality—Lim’s Death’s Head redesign is emblematic of this. Facial expressions are emphasized just a touch bigger than necessary, but this allows Lim to detail characters’ eyes with strong emotion—they may be his biggest strength in the issue. And while Lim’s style pushes toward anime and manga sensibilities (most notably with the character of Miranda), such instances are few and limited in scope. Lim’s coloring adds to that rich world he created with his pencils. Like Infinity Countdown: Daredevil #1, this is a bright, colorful Hell’s Kitchen. That choice works especially well here, since color is a part of Darkhawk’s costume and powers.
Unfortunately the art is not well supported by writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers, who deliver a tonally confused story. Much of Infinity Countdown: Darkhawk #1 reads like an origin issue. The comic is undeniably a Darkhawk comic, but it’s unclear what it has to do with the Infinity Stones. The closest Sims and Bowers get to the Infinity connection is the prologue with the Raptors. The Fraternity of Raptors recently fought and lost the battle for the Power Stone, but after their death we are left with the real Raptors, who want to destroy Earth. The prologue, amounts to nothing but the faintest of connections to Infinity Countdown.
Not helping this already confused issue is a noticeable tone shift near the end. For most of the issue Sims and Bowers play it straight, but once Death’s Head, already over the top by virtue of Lim’s design, arrives the tone shifts to “comedic” quips which itself becomes a meta joke for Darkhawk to make. Unfortunately the comedy is so poor that even a Spider-Man reference doesn’t save joke.
Sims and Bowers do succeed in one thing: introducing the reader to Chris Powell. They also introduced the Darkhawk persona while providing technical details, but the charm of this issue was getting to know Powell. Sims and Bowers provide nice slice of life moments as he handles his police work and discusses a promotion. His interaction with his fiancée at the labs has just the right amount of sentiment. A Darkhawk book featuring Chris Powell is what Sims and Bowers should be writing.
If this were Darkhawk #1 rather than a Infinity Countdown tie-in, I think it would have been a more successful comic for me. Unfortunately Sims and Bowers’ success writing Chris Powell can’t overcome their story missteps. The prologue scene feels out of place and, like a tomato that’s hanging from the back of the sandwich but refuses to fall out, creates anticipation throughout the issue while providing no payoff. The joke that is the Death’s Head scene doesn’t help. Regrettably this uneven scene crafting does a disservice to Lim’s superior art work which is consistent in style throughout the issue and in most cases conveys greater feeling than the words on the page.
Verdict: 2.5 out of 5 Unpaid Off Prologues
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Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he’s published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.