One of my favorite comics from the 1970s was Defenders, and slapdash teaming of heroes who would never ever make up a decent or harmonious superhero team – it’s initial formation included Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer, just to give you an idea. One of my favorite characters in that series was a later member who became a mainstay of the book – Nighthawk. This week on “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” he makes his (serious) animated debut. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “Nighthawk.”
The Wild Weird World of Nighthawk
There is no simple way of describing the creation, history, or life of the man called Nighthawk. Just sit back, hold on to something, and try not to think too hard… it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Kyle Richmond was a millionaire who took on the identity of Nighthawk, who could see in the dark, fly, and various other gadgets to help in the crusade against (or for, depending) crime. That’s the easy part, now it gets complicated.
He’s also Batman. Created to be a Marvel other-dimensional doppelganger of Batman in a Justice League-like group called the Squadron Supreme. They were created by Roy Thomas as a way back in the sixties of having the Avengers fight the Justice League without all the legal constraints. Later, in a conflict against Kang and the Grandmaster, a new group was created, based on the original… the evil Squadron Sinister. It is this Nighthawk who emerges to become a major player.
Nighthawk Flies Free
When the Squadron Sinister later encounters the Defenders, Nighthawk defects and stops his former comrades, eventually joining the non-team known as the Defenders. He would eventually lead the team when Doctor Strange left for a while, lending his resources and even his riding academy as their new headquarters. Nighthawk was a big draw in the seventies, as much of a symbol of the Defenders as the Vision was for the Avengers.
Eventually the character lost his edge, and even as the eighties began, the Defenders ran out of steam as well, and eventually ended. Many attempts have been made to reboot or reinvigorate the group, even in the wake of the popular Civil War, but to no avail. Much like the Champions, the Defenders are a thing of the past. I wish they were back, especially Nighthawk. One item of note that may well tie this all into the Marvel Animated Universe is that Nighthawk’s teammate in the Squadrons was the Superman wannabe, Hyperion. Nighthawk is even seen in cameo in the episode that introduced the character.
Here in the Marvel Animated Universe, Kyle Richmond works for SHIELD, as their new ‘Director of Interstellar Operations.’ He has a bit of a man crush on Falcon, because of his SHIELD and Avengers work. Suspiciously, in a matter of moments of being introduced, he’s already insubordinate of Nick Fury and asking Falcon to join his new team, as well as calling him redundant on the Avengers. Somebody doesn’t want to make a good impression.
The Avengers are visiting the helicarrier regarding the ongoing subplot this season. It seems that the Red Skull had all the Infinity Gems in his possession when he returned to Earth and now they’re scattered across the planet. How cliche. Before the set up gets any further, something goes wrong and the helicarrier is going to crash into Chicago. Iron Man only reinforces what Richmond suggested by calling Falcon his back up.
Why Is Falcon an Avenger?
Hawkeye takes the words right out of my head early on in the episode when Hydra shows up, “Hydra again, I am so sick of those guys.” But I guess the heroes need a diversion between the comics readers who know Kyle Richmond as Nighthawk sabotaged the helicar-, oops, sorry, I forgot, they’re called tricarriers here, and the tired bit where Falcon asks Iron Man why he’s on the team when everything he can do, everyone else does better.
It is a good question though. Why is Falcon an Avenger? The answer of course is as blatant as the original reason in the comics, for diversity and to fill a quota. It’s all in the classic Avengers #181 if you don’t believe me. I have nothing against the Falcon, but let’s be honest, if we’re adding a member to the movie team, there are lots of better candidates. And if it’s about diversity and filling a quota, might I suggest Photon or the Black Panther? Both have long records with the team, could be the new eyes of the viewer, and unlike the Falcon, add unique skill and power sets to the Avengers. And I don’t think Monica or T’Challa would be put on crowd control.
Tower of Babel
Wow. This is the second time in the space of two weeks I’m forced to reference Mark Waid’s great JLA story “Tower of Babel.” In the tale, Batman develops counter-measures to stop each Justice Leaguer should they ever go rogue. Of course those plans get into the wrong hands, R’as Al Ghul’s in that case. Here, it seems that Sam (the Falcon) Wilson developed similar safeguards against the Avengers when he was in SHIELD training. Now, Richmond as Nighthawk is using them to take down the team one by one.
Yeah, get the irony? It’s Nighthawk doing a Batman trick. He’s even doing the Christian Bale growl. And he is, as one might expect, in cahoots with Hyperion. He invades Avengers Tower looking for Hyperion’s helio-cube, which is similar to Superman’s green crystal in the 1978 movie. It can make a fortress, or a warship. Nighthawk wants the latter, and he wants to rule the world, just like he did in other comic realities.
The Squadron Supreme
This was the plan all along, and Nighthawk says his team is on their way here. We see some of them as statues on the warship. Most of their images are i distinct as this show has weirdly done with statues before, but we can see Power Princess, Doctor Spectrum, and Speed Demon. That last one is odd, because it’s the name and costume that the evil Whizzer took on once he left the Squadron Sinister and made his home in this Earth.
I was kinda hoping for a cliffhanger with an appearance by the actual Squadron Supreme/Sinister at the end, but at least Hyperion showed up to free Nighthawk from SHIELD custody. I am sure they will all show up soon though. And it was a nice surprise to see Surtur even in cameo. This was a pretty good, if derivative episode. The show continues to improve.
Next: Two words that make most Avengers fans cringe… Teen Tony!