Image Comics 30th Anniversary Review: ShadowHawk Volume One Spoilers!

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Image Comics 30th Anniversary Review follows.

ShadowHawk Volume One Spoilers!

ShadowHawk #1 debuted in 1992 and appears to be part of a three-way tie with Jim Lee’s Wild C.A.T.s #1 and Rob Liefeld’s second series debut in Brigade #1 as the fourth / fifth / sixth comic books released under the Image Comics icon, with it’s first mini-series’ issues collected in 2001.

Mystery was the operative word to describe the ShadowHawk #1 synopsis.

A Shadowy figure voyages in the city seeking justice. Who is he? Why is he seeking Justice, and is he even human?

This was another gritty down-to-Earth offering from the most unsuspecting Image Comics founder Jim Valentino. There was much debate on whether he join the “hot” six Marvel artists at the time to form Image.

Valentino admits, even in his concluding comments of the collection, that he was the only Image founder who hadn’t cracked at least 500K, let alone 1M, on comic book sales of an issue(s) at Marvel. However, (1) he knew the most about comic book production of any founder at the time and (2) Rob Liefeld was a studio mate and friend at the time who pushed for Valentino joining Image. In fact, the argument was made that Valentino was taken the most risk of any founder as he had the longest comic book career at the time and was seen as reliable hand who received regular work from Marvel.

The back matter explains how the ShadowHawk came to be; basically a more understandable Batman. If he wants to be feared, he can’t be seen or be befriended by police. While he may have strong morals, it would be justice to allow the villains to incarcerated and escape over and over to kill and maim again; so ShadowHawk broke spines in those early issue. He wouldn’t have fancy cars or brightly garbed children as sidekicks. In fact, this concept was Valentino’s pitch first for a new take on Archie Comics’ MLJ super-hero the Fox and later as a Marvel property; rejected both time.

It was reworked for Image Comics with Valentino deliberately working on a solo character since there were already three books with super-hero teams by the founders (Rob Liefeld’s Youngbook, Jim Lee’s Wild C.A.T.s and Marc Silvestr’s CyberForce) and only two with solo lead (Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. Whilce Portacio is not factored into these early discussions despite being a founder as his Wetworks team book didn’t debut until 1994.

ShadowHawk was interesting choice for Valentino as his most recent hit for Marvel was a cosmic team book in the Guardians of the Galaxy.

While the art was not to my liking in this collection, no just pencils, bit colors, etc., I found the character designs weak too particularly with new villain Arson.

That said, the stories were gritty and compelling with the major hook being the mystery surrounding ShadowHawk’s secret identity. It actually stayed secret for the whole first mini-series collected here. And, later, Valentino was able to do add some sci-fi and a generational legacy to the character who become one in a line of ShadowHawks throughout history.

Nonetheless, ShadowHawk provides a contrast to the other Image Comics founders’ creator owned opening salvos. 5.5 out of 10 (7 out of 10 for story and 4 out of 10 for art; sorry).

John is a long-time pop culture fan, comics historian, and blogger. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief at Comics Nexus. Prior to being EIC he has produced several column series including DEMYTHIFY, NEAR MINT MEMORIES and the ONE FAN'S TRIALS at the Nexus plus a stint at Bleeding Cool producing the COMICS REALISM column. As BabosScribe, John is active on his twitter account, his facebook page, his instagram feed and welcomes any and all feedback. Bring it on!