Ahhhh, the 90s... Rightfully maligned for its over-the-top yet simplistic portrayal of superheroes, nevertheless it holds a special place in my heart. You see, I was just getting into comics around 1991. Of course, I didn't understand half of what was going on in the industry, but it was quite an exciting time! Being 13-years-old, I was also the perfect audience for everything that came out during the following years – Image, Valiant, Wizard Magazine, you name it! Luckily, I grew out of that phase (eventually).
But enough reminiscing...
Darkhawk is really Danny Powell, a teenager who found a mysterious amulet that transforms him into an armor-clad superhero with a distinct hawk motif. He has small wings under his arms that allow him to glide on air currents and a grappling claw on one hand that he can either use to climb buildings or as an offensive weapon. He can also shoot out a battering ram type of force field he calls the Dark Force out of the amulet embedded in his chest.
|Inker:||Aaron McClellan, John Heebink, Mike Manley|
This issue starts off with a meeting of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (the version comprised of Blob, Phantazia, Pyro, Sauron and the Toad). The first page is an extreme close-up of the Toad grinning with all 37 (with 21 on top but only 16 on the bottom) of his teeth and several strands of saliva stretched between his upper and lower lips. It's a hideous image, and that's coming from a fan of horror comics and films. Really, it turns my stomach more than a dozen so-called “shock endings” ever could! He's addressing his team, explaining that he's finally found the key to destroying all their enemies.
Meanwhile, some funky futuristic weaponry is being studied at a research lab in downtown Manhattan. One of these weapons is a helmet that looks similar to Darkhawk's. It previously belonged to Portal (last seen in Darkhawk #6), a Native American anti-hero who has the ability to warp in and out of any place he wants by using, well, portals. (This is a full 10 years before Half-Life made that particular mode of travel popular.) In fact, all the armor and weapons belong to him. And he wants it all back, right... about... now! He warps in on a motorcycle, takes out the scientists examining the items, and quickly grabs some guns and his helmet.
Before he can fully suit up, a couple of Guardsmen (think Iron Man wannabes dressed in green armor) arrive in response to the break-in. Portal shoots down the one in front of him, but is hit in the back by one that comes up behind. He is knocked clear out of the building and onto the street below. The melee attracts the attention of the local news. Which is how Darkhawk, in his civilian identity of Chris Powell, hears about it. He quickly grabs his amulet, changes into DH and glides off.
You know who else hears about the fighting? Our favorite web-slinger – Spider-Man! Actually, Peter Parker is in the middle of another argument about money with J.J. Jameson when it comes over the wire (via a conveniently chatty copy editor). Spidey knows about Portal's last fight with Darkhawk but is not sure whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. Spidey decides he'll have to find out for himself, after some liberal application of webbing, of course...
While we were away, the Guardsmen seem to have managed pretty well all by themselves. They now have Portal caught in an energized net that for some reason he can't teleport out of. Just then, who should come to his rescue but.. the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants !?! That's right, Portal is the secret weapon Toad was talking about earlier. With his power to warp anywhere the world will be their oyster. (I find it sad that Toad thinks the reason his team keeps being defeated is because they can't run away fast enough. Heh.)
There's only one catch: Portal doesn't want to be anyone's mule. The BEM make short work of the Guardsmen, but Portal takes advantage of the distraction and rushes back into the building so he can snag the rest of his armor. (I have no idea why he didn't just port there like last time.) While he is away, Darkhawk arrives and starts fighting the bad guys all by himself. But he's not alone for long because Spidey shows up on the next page to lend him a hand!
Meanwhile, Portal is fully armored up and ready to split the scene but is blocked by the Blob. Blob reveals that he thinks the power is in Portal's suit, but Portal informs the power is actually in his body. “That makes you a mutie,” says the Blob, and then adds, “We're gonna be good pals.” Portal is not exactly the friendly type, however, and shoots the floor from out under the Blob, sending him several stories straight down. Before he leaves he takes a look outside a nearby window and sees Spidey and Darkhawk still fighting against the Brotherhood. He's tempted to jump in and help, but turns away, saying the superheroes can take care of themselves. But then he turns back around, saying he owes them one for saving him from the bad guys in the first place.
They all join forces and make quick work of the BEM. Soon, Toad is the only one left standing and it's three against one. Just then, the Blob rams the heroes in the back with a car (?) he stole. He picks up his fallen comrades and hightails it out of there.
The heroes recover and wonder what their next move should be. Darkhawk begs Portal to stick around and help him learn more about his origin (a running theme in this series and one that is eventually resolved in Darkhawk #25). Portal is reluctant to trust anybody, though, and threatens to leave again. Just as DH finally talks him into a visit with Reed Richards to run some tests on his armor Sleepwalker appears with an ultimatum. “I am Sleepwalker... and I swear by the sacred thoughts of the Silent Ones that armor shall be mine!”
There's a lot of “shoot first, ask questions later” behavior going on here, which is par for the course during stories of this time period. This is as 90s as you can get. The artist must have been told to ape Liefield's style because there is crosshatching everywhere and everyone is gritting their teeth.
There's no good reason Spidey needs to be here except for his apparent contractual obligations to appear in at least 50% of Marvel products each month.
The Portals of Power storyline continues in Darkhawk #20.