Nighthawk is arguably one of Marvel Comics‘ lesser known superheroes, originally created as a response to DC Comics‘ Batman. The superhero, who gains his powers through an alchemy serum that gives him enhanced strength at night, appeared alongside old issues of The Incredible Hulk, The Amazing Spider-Man and even created his own Defenders, before retiring and becoming a politician in other issues.
However, in predictable Marvel fashion there’s an alternate universe Nighthawk that, well, is nothing like its predecessor. For one, this revamped Nighthawk (originally introduced in 2003) is black. He briefly maintains the same name as the original Nighthawk (Kyle Richmond) before having a falling out with him and changing his name to Raymond Kane. Now, Kane watches his parents die a vicious death in a hate crime, therefore influencing him to become a physically powerful combatant (a la Bruce Wayne) and fight against evil — specifically white supremacists.
The result is a comic book that critiques and takes the billionaire-turned-superhero narrative of Batman in a new direction, with Kane fighting injustice not only because of the trauma he endured, but because of the racial tensions surrounding him. By day Kane is trying to revitalize neighborhoods being gentrified by racist real estate practices; by night he’s leaving white supremacist gang members bloody and incapacitated — more on par with The Punisher and Daredevil than anybody else in the Marvel universe. He’s pained by his psyche; the rage he manages to keep in check before he completely becomes unhinged. There’s times when you don’t know whether to cheer Nighthawk on or not, and that’s what makes the series standout from previous ones.
But what truly makes this iteration of Nighthawk so interesting is its timeliness and what it addresses. One of the central parts of the series thus far is a controversial police-involved shooting that left a young black man dead. Comics, like all art, have been a representation of the times. But seeing a police officer almost beat a black teenager to death until Nighthawk comes to the rescue, really puts what’s going on into perspective.
The series is written by David Walker and drawn by Ramon Villalobos, Tamra Bonvillain and Joe Caramagna. The second issue just dropped so if you want to play catch up you might want to start now.
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