Friday, April 16, 2010

Shadowhawk, Poster Child for The Extreme

Oh Shadowhawk, you're so badass with your violent, anti-hero ways and your armored, yet mobile costume in your ongoing battle with crime that would make Jean Paul Valley cringe.

I love your no nonsense approach to taking out the criminals...

Breaking their backs so they'll never commit a petty crime again, or at least not one without ample wheelchair access.

I always feel like Shadowhawk is the red-headed step-child in the pantheon of Image heroes. Which is really saying something, when you think about it. With the exception of Spawn, none of those early Image books were more than just a flash in the pan. I mean sure, WildC.A.T.S has been around for a while in multiple incarnations AND had a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and Youngblood had the star power of Liefeld to keep it afloat even though no one will publicly admit to liking the book, but it's not like they've become cultural institutions like the X-Men, Avengers, JLA, or the Teen Titans. The point is, they were known more for the creator than the characters, while Shadowhawk was the other way around. What's even more ironic, is that even though Shadowhawk got the public's attention in ways that the others didn't, he stilled failed to make a lasting impact. Hence the red-headed step-child thing.

For whatever the reason, I'll never forget that hype:

"He's like Batman, but he breaks backs..."

There's something so simplistically beautiful about this that just edges itself in to the crevices of my mind. He could have even inspired AzBats, which is really weird if you think about it.

"And he's black."

Add in the Wolverine-like claws and mask and you got yourself a bonafide success... on paper. It's as if Jim Valentino turned to a focus group to create Shadowhawk, in an attempt to make him everything that the fans want in a character. Unfortunately when you create a character through that kind of grab bag approach, it just comes off as gimmicky.

"And he has AIDS!"

And the coup-de-grace, the socially relevant piece of the puzzle that really got him in the papers. He was a hero on a schedule and was going to take as many criminals with him to the afterlife as he could. I'm almost surprised he didn't bleed on them while he was breaking their backs, just to make that more shocking.

Shadowhawk embodies everything excessive about the 90s extreme movement (a movement I'm coining right now). His appearance, motivation, and methods were extreme TO THE MAX, attempting to engage the audience through that instead of good ol'fashioned character-building. The problem with such extreme traits is that they overshadow anything else the character has to offer.

I can honestly tell you all the things that make up Shadowhawk because of the extreme excess, but I couldn't tell you who he is or anything meaningful about him. And to me, that's the epitome of 90s: Lots of flash without any substance.

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