Review: Nighthawk #2
If Nighthawk #1 was an action movie, then Nighthawk #2 fits more squarely into the detective genre as Nighthawk, his tech help and much needed comic relief Tilda Johnson, and the pretty good cop Sherman Burrell dive into the mystery of the Revelator, a serial killer, who kills white people that commit crimes against people of color. Writer David Walker doesn’t back down in drawing parallels between Officer O’Neil’s murder of Latron Stanis in Nighthawk with the actual shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African American child from Cleveland, who was killed by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann in 2015 and cleared of all charges. The connection to this real life event adds a righteous fury to Nighthawk’s actions beginning with a brutal beatdown of a police officer, who beat up a teenager depicted with power and vigor by artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain But Walker casts some doubt on Nighthawk’s actions as Tilda compares him uncomfortably to the Revelator because he doesn’t have a no-killing policy. This adds a moral dilemma to the sociopolitical psychological thriller that just happens to star a superhero.
Along with furthering the mystery plotline, Walker, Villalobos, and Bonvillain show how Nighthawk is perceived by some black teenagers in Chicago compared to the establishment as well as starting to flesh out his ally Sherman Burrell and who will likely end up being the Big Bad of the series after the serial killer plot concludes, Dan Hanrahan, or a less orange Donald Trump that calls Chicago, not New York home. Like the previous, Nighthawk #2 starts off in a visceral, political way as a cop pulls a gun on two teenagers. Villalobos frames the actual beating in the background of the panel to signify that sometimes we forget about police brutality. Bonvillain’s color palette is almost hellish as the cop and his victim are framed in warm red and then cold blue light like a police siren. And then Villalobos takes a page out of all the great Batman stories by showing other characters’ reaction to Nighthawk’s vicious attack before cutting to a powerful full page splash as Bonvillain’s blacks overwhelm the reds in the background. However, the gushing blood and pained poses of the cop that Nighthawk beats up shows that he is a character who has a rock solid set of beliefs, but goes a little too far in acting on them. This is echoed later in the issue by Tilda Johnson, who tells him that he is “one bad day” away from being the Revelator. It’s the Daredevil/Punisher debate, but Walker reframes it by making them black men.
None of the rest of Nighthawk #2 quite reaches the heights of the three page flashback cold open except the last couple pages, which bring back the hellish red hue. However, Walker starts to weave together the different plot threads introduced in the series, such as the O’Neil trial, Hanrahan’s racialized gentrification, the Revelator investigation into a well-honed suspense engine by the end of the issue. He doesn’t plot by coincidence, but establishes a relationship between Burrell and Nighthawk that started when Nighthawk saved the police detective from a gimp masked supervillain that puts Villalobos’ fluid fight choreography on display with oranges from Bonvillain that remind me of a tattered issue of Power Man and Iron Fist or a late night kung fu with a darker edge. They definitely aren’t friends, but they respect each other’s mission and also have access to resources the other doesn’t have namely police reports and working outside the law. Walker borrows beats from Batman comics and David Fincher films, but has the cleverness to have supporting characters make quick witted jokes about it. Dismembered bodies aside, familiar pop culture tropes are the life raft that we cling to as we are assailed by the realities of racial tension in Chicago, police terror, and the would be tyrant running for president, and Walker understands this by injecting a one-liner every now and then to break up the brutality.
Nighthawk #2 continues to weld together a bloody thriller with relevant political commentary and the realities of being black in the United States with a protagonist’s whose actions are unethical to say the least. David Walker uses supporting characters to remark on this fact instead of just focusing on the violence, and Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain turn the Marvel Universe’s Chicago into a kind of hell on Earth without falling headlong into overexaggeration.
Story: David Walker Art: Ramon Villalobos Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Story: 7.5 Art: 8.5 Overall:8 Recommendation: Buy