Darkhawk Annual #1: Review

Aug 1992
Danny Fingeroth, Mike Manley

Story Name:

Assault on Armour City part 1: Search

Review & Comments

4 stars

Darkhawk Annual #1 Review by (July 18, 2018)
Danny Fingeroth writes all the stories in this issue.

Iron Man is the central character of this 3-Annual crossover, and he's as much the star of the main story here as Darkhawk. But the complete collection of stories here give us a good overview of DH and his 1st 15 issues (plus the 1st half of #16).

The Marvel Chronology Project has this Annual after Hawk's involvement in Infinity War. And before that the rest of #16-18 vs Russian team Peristrike Force and #119-20 vs the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants guest-starring Sleepwalker in a tale which ended in his #17.

Iron Man Annual #13 makes it plain that this crossover occurs between IM#283 and #284. The MCP puts this crossover immediately before #284 with some other stuff after #283 ending with Avengers West Coast #84-86 after IM's minimal involvement in Infinity War.

The Secret Empire mentioned here has nothing to do with the much later event of that name featuring Hydra. It was the original red-hooded SE who débuted in Tales to Astonish (Hulk) #81. But I lied a bit in my 1st sentence because this Secret Empire was originally a branch of Them which was a subsidiary of Hydra.

Arthur Vale appears in a flashback in AWC An#7 between the main story in this issue and the Cabal story at the end. The various Cabal/Savage Steel chars will show up later in the Darkhawk run.
During #23-24 AV escapes from the safehouse and attacks some muggers. But they defeat him and trade him to the surviving Cabal who beat him up to get him to say where the others are.
In backup tales in #26-27 the Cabal led by Paul Trent attack the safehouse and get Harry Lennox, Jim Zafar and Johnny Leone. But AV breaks free and comes to the rescue, but then gets confused about which side he's actually on. Cops arrive, AV gets winged and the Cabal escape.
That's the end for AV and Johnny Leone as far as I know. But Lennox, Zafar, Paul Trent, the Cabal and the Savage Steel armour continue further in the series.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Darkhawk Annual #1 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This is part 1 of Assault On Armour City, a crossover with Avengers West Coast Annual #7 and Iron Man An#13.

The story begins with Tony Stark and James Rhodes watching via a flying spy-eye (we'd call it a drone) as Darkhawk attacks some mobsters at a car junkyard in Queens looking for Savage Steel. They know that Savage Steel was the strong arm of a Cabal of cops who 'executed' criminals. Tony is concerned that Savage Steel's armour might be based on his own tech. But he wonders the same about Darkhawk's armour, and who or what he is. He also wonders if DH is *really* a hero or just putting on an act. Rhodey notes that he saves 1 of his foes here from death, and he helped Spider-Man and Moon Knight against the Secret Empire (Amazing SM #353-354,357-358) and has been running with the New Warriors lately (since their #22). That last bit doesn't endear him to Stark because Rage switched from the Avengers to the NW at the same time and helped them 'borrow' an Av quinjet.

Tony remembers back to what has been called Stark Wars or Armour Wars I (IM#225-232) where he discovered that various bad guys were using armour based in at least part on stolen Stark tech. He built devices to neutralise such tech if detected and went after likely villains and even some heroes. It caused a major rift between himself and Captain America. And in the end he had to pretend to replace the person inside the Iron Man armour with a new man. He still feels it's his responsibility to check out new armoured characters. So he suits up as Iron Man and goes to do just that.

We now learn that someone new wears the Savage Steel armour. Members of the Cabal were arrested in #15 after the armour had been taken into custody in #12. But we are now told that Arthur Vale, a man who failed the psych exam for policework and made do with being a police van driver, stole the suit and has now carried on the 'job'. He's so far executed 6 victims. And it appears the armour *was* based on Stark designs.

Darkhawk wills his transformation back to Chris Powell and attends High School. But when 1 of his Social Studies classmates who believes 'superheroes' are menaces describes a project to expose the local 'hero' Darkhawk Chris can't help but rise up to defend him(self).

Meanwhile in Los Angeles U.S. Agent takes time out from the West Coast Avengers to surveil a drug factory. He's interrupted by his latest Commission On Superhuman Acivities handler Lou with another job for him. But we won't find out what it is until AWC Annual #7.

We turn instead to the backroom of an electronics store in Forest Hills, Queens where Jim Rhodes has gone undercover as Mr Joad. To prove their credentials the villains demonstrate their own armour called Force Ten. Tony Stark got a lead on this place from Clay Wilson, the man Iron Man 'rescued' from life as Force, an armoured minion of Justin Hammer, in IM#223-224. It was the discovery that the Force armour contained Stark tech which triggered off Stark/Armour Wars. (Presumably the Force Ten armour is a descendant of that suit.)

'Joad' has brought along the Mauler armour for these guys to upgrade. This was an armour confiscated by Iron Man in the opening salvo of Armour Wars in IM#225. But the villains know this and are suspicious about how 'Joad' got hold of it.

Rhodey doesn't have to think of an answer because Savage Steel bursts in demanding replacement parts for *his* armour. But he doesn't know what actual parts to ask for, and starts by asking for an instruction manual. Then Force Ten attacks him but is easily beaten.

But then Iron Man enters and takes the fight outside and into the air, coincidentally just outside Powell's classroom. Chris pretends to need a loo-break and uses his amulet to transform to Darkhawk. Just in time to catch the falling Steel as IM knocks him out of the sky. Hawk rips Steel's helmet off to reveal a face he doesn't recognise. But Vale isn't in a state to answer any questions.

Iron Man descends and throws 2 negator packs which attach themselves to the armoured forms below. 1 quickly reports that the Savage Steel armour is based on the Stane version of Stark tech (from when Obadiah Stane took over Stark International in IM#170-200). It takes a bit longer for the other device to admit that Darkhawk's tech is unrecognisable.

This just makes Stark even more intrigued to find out what Darkhawk actually is. But Chris is tired of villains trying to learn the secrets of his amulet and armour so he starts a fight. He gets to demonstrate the force blast and force shield generated by the amulet on his chest. And his glider wings and the claw on 1 wrist that also shoot out a grappling line. Plus his superstrength and an ability to survive underwater.

Iron Man ends the fight and claims he was just giving his device time to finish scanning Darkhawk's armour. Stark wants to go check on Rhodey now but Powell wants some answers too. So Shellhead lets him hitch a ride with his grappling hook and explains as they go that he was checking Savage Steel and Darkhawk for stolen Stark tech.

But when they get to the electronics store they find the building burned down and no sign of Jim except for his (clunky-looking) pocket computer in which he's left a message saying that he's switched on his location tracer and Stark Enterprises is about to be attacked. Darkhawk offers to help and they set off together ...

... to SE's New York Division where IM contacts the West Coast Avengers. He brings them up to speed and asks for their help. He wants Scarlet Witch and Spider-Woman to come help in NY. The rest of the WCA should defend the SE plant in LA.

AT WCA HQ we see the two women plus Living Lightning and Wonder Man (but Hawkeye's there as well behind the scenes). WM remembers Armour Wars when Tony was thrown off the team because of his obsession. And he wonders if history is repeating itself.


Story #2

Deadly foes of Darkhawk

Writer: Danny Fingeroth. Penciler: Reggie Jones. Inker: Andy Mushynsky. Colorist: Ariane Lenshoek. Letterer: Susan Crespi.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Chris Powell muses over the enemies he's fought as Darkhawk. As soon as he found the amulet that transforms him he fought the demonic version of Jason Macendale's Hobgoblin. Then semi-Darkhawk Portal, Savage Steel, Midnight (Jeff Wilde) & fellow cyborg Lynn Church as part of the Secret Empire, the U-Foes, Lodestone, the Folding Circle (while with the New Warriors), Venom, Tombstone and his persistent foe Philippe Bazin.

Story #3

Cold Fire

Writer: Danny Fingeroth. Penciler: Phil Gascoine. Inker: Phil Gascoine. Colorist: Steve White. Letterer: Jim Novak.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Chris goes on a camping trip with his pal Headset and 2 others. But he leaves them with the excuse of fishing for supper. He really wants to test the powers of Darkhawk's armour. He lifts a big boulder and then blasts it to smaller and smaller pieces - and then shields himself from shrapnel. He then tests the range of his claw cable, and lets it reel him up to the top of a cliff.

From his vantage point he spies a kid being menaced by an angry bear. He extends his glider wings and swoops down to frighten the bear off. But in the process he gets a cut on the leg. However transforming to Chris loses the gash, and it's still gone when he goes back to Darkhawk mode again. Meanwhile the kid's run off and found his mom.

Now he dives into a lake to confirm that he doesn't need to breathe as Darkhawk. And while he's there he catches hold of a fish. But he lets it go because he feels it's unfair. As he exits the lake he also remembers that he didn't need to eat while he was stuck as DH for #12-15. And as he returns empty-handed to his friends he muses that he still doesn't know where the amulet and armour come from.

Story #4

Dawn of the Darkhawk revisited

Writer: Danny Fingeroth. Penciler: Al Bigley. Inker: George Wildman. Letterer: Jim Novak.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Note: 'D of the D' was the title of #1
Chris stands over his father's grave in Cypress Hills Cemetery, although he knows it's empty. Mike Powell died on a Caribbean island in #14 and was assumed washed out to sea. He had an empty coffin funeral in #16. (In true Marvel fashion he'll turn out not to be dead in #34.)

He remembers back to family life:- Dad the cop, mom Grace the DA, and the 2 younger twins Jason and Jonathan. And then he remembers his origin as Darkhawk. It was 1 day (during school holidays) when he was home looking after the twins while his parents were at work. But he slipped out to be with his friends. When he came home his mother was there but the twins weren't.

Chris knew the twins wanted to go to the old amusement park site so he went there looking. An old wino named St Johnny told him to look in the Hawk's place the Funhouse. Chris found found his brothers laughing at the distorting mirrors.

But on the way out they saw their cop dad taking a bribe. Then 1 of the thugs KO'd Mike with a gun and the young boys cried out. The bad guys chased them. Chris hid the twins and led the goons away from them. He came across the large diamond-shaped amulet and picked it up to use as a weapon ... and was transformed into Darkhawk. His unfamiliar powers still enabled him to win the day. And when he wished to become human again he did.

Dad couldn't deny what Chris had seen, and he went on the run. Chris resolved to use his powers as a superhero. On the way out cryptic St Johnny called him Darkhawk. And later Chris found out that Mike was only pretending to be corrupt.

Story #5

The Cabal

Writer: Danny Fingeroth. Penciler: Kev Hopgood. Inker: Bud LaRosa. Colorist: Ariane Lenshoek. Letterer: Jack Morelli.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Arthur Vale is in prison after his Savage Steel exploits. Not all the Cabal were captured in #15 and 1 of them named Vinnie has been sent to kill Vale. But another cop Jim Zafar stops him and helps Arthur escape. Zafar used to be in the Cabal but got disillusioned by their methods.

On the way out Jim stops at a storeroom where 3 cops are beating on another prisoner. He's ex-cop Harry Lennox who was unmasked in the Savage Steel armour in #12. We learn here that he stole the suit from the Cabal and tried to use it as a genuine hero. And the Cabal think he was working against them with Mike Powell. The ringleader here Billy claims to be the man who was wearing the armour in the earlier issues.

Zafar bursts in with Vinnie's gun and gets the drop on them. He and Lennox handcuff the others to pipes. Billy says Zafar is added to the list of enemies the Cabal will kill, like Johnny Leone who (behind the scenes) freed Grace Powell from their clutches in #15. Jim claims that he and Mike had helped form the Cabal and get the Steel armour because they wanted their own superhero to help cops. But the rest of the Cabal twisted that idea.

Zafar, Lennox and Vale leave but when they get outside they are gunned down from a passing car. The Daily Bugle reports that they were murdered by Philippe Bazin's gang. But then we find the 3 alive with Johnny Leone in an FBI safehouse. They're going to testify for DA Powell and then go into witness relocation. As long as nobody messes it up. But Arthur Vale has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic...

Mike Manley
Mike Manley
Kevin Tinsley
Mike Manley (Cover Penciler)
Mike Manley (Cover Inker)
Letterer: Phil Felix.
Editor: Nel Yomtov. Editor-in-chief: Tom DeFalco.


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
James Rhodes
James Rhodes

Scarlet Witch
Scarlet Witch

(Wanda Maximoff)
U.S. Agent
U.S. Agent

(John Walker)

Plus: Darkhawk, Living Lightning (Miguel Santos), Savage Steel (Arthur Vale), Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter).

> Darkhawk Annual: Book info and issue index

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