Out of everything I read in 2016, David F. Walker’s Nighthawk has been one of my favorites. Coates’ Black Panther is another one of my favorites. My favorite thing about these two comics are the plots. Black Panther shows the King of Wakanda, T’Challa, struggling to keep his throne. The politics, the themes, and the pervasive messages really speak to me. In Nighthawk, racial tensions continue to rise ever since the acquittal of a white cop who killed an unarmed, black teenager. That sentence rings in my head too often nowadays in America. Laquan MacDonald, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, no matter the name the story always seem to stay the same. All while this is going on, a crooked real estate developer known as Dan Hanrahan is trying to push his weapons into the city so he can cash in on the chaos. On his payroll is a crooked cop. Officer Dixon has been in contact with Hanrahan from day one. He’s not much in terms of character. Just another dumb cop who thinks he can make an extra buck. With all of that going on, Nighthawk is still dealing with the Revelator. The Revelator is a serial killer who is killing any person who harms minorities. He’s killed at least eight people now including a judge and the white cop who killed the unarmed black teenager. The battle lines have been drawn. A riot is on the horizon.
I want to talk a little bit about riots. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you know that all I want is for people to realize that this country, this world is filled with flaws. Sure, there are beautiful things in life, great people doing great things, but humans are flawed all over. The only way we can EVER get past those flaws is to accept that they exist in the first place. Without acceptance, things will continue to happen as they always have. Business as usual.
There have been a number of riots in America over the past couple of years. Ferguson, Milwaukee, Charlotte, and a couple of other cities. Most, if not all of these riots, spawn up after the murder of a black male. These riots then happen and the divide is quite clear. On one side of the fence, black people (sometimes whites as well) gather together and try to explain to everybody, whether via social media, news stations, or whatever, that these riots are a result of months, sometimes years of build-up. A riot doesn’t just happen when a murder happens. The murders tend to happen in cities that have horrible race relations to begin with. There are a couple of factors that lead a city to horrible race relations. One is the relationship between cops and blacks. In these cities, cops target blacks. Why? There are a multitude of reasons that I could write a ten-page paper about. One of the main reasons is simple. Racism. These cops are trained to treat black citizens unfairly. Black men are seen to be vicious and more dangerous than the average citizen. Another factor these cities deal with that leads to racial tension is an enormous wealth gap between whites and blacks. Every time a riot happens in one of these cities, reports come out about the wealth gaps in these cities. Now, throw in the murder of a young black male in a city with cops pulling over every minority and wealth gaps the size of the Grand Canyon and you have a riot. Someone may be coming home from work one night, tired as hell from their 2nd shift job when a riot pops off. This man or woman has been busting their butt for years now, but continue to get stonewalled in regards to a promotion or a new job. They are just as qualified as any other person in their field, but can’t seem to escape their situation. When they turn on the news, they see that some black teen was killed by a white cop who pulled them over. Or even worse, it wasn’t a cop at all, but some punks who thought they were being funny. This person looks outside, sees a couple of fires going on outside and says, “Fuck it.” There are thousands of stories, some more simple, but most complex, like this one in regards to why black people choose to riot. Am I justifying a riot? No, I don’t think a riot accomplishes much. But humans do a bunch of things in life that don’t accomplish much. Although I don’t think I would ever participate in a riot, I’m not sure how I’d react if I found out my younger brother or best friend was murdered.
I mentioned the two sides of the fence. People on one side aware of the origin of these riots. People who can empathize with cities that have resorted to violence. The other side of the fence are the people I have talked about multiple times before. These people judge the entire world based off of their choices. Mainly the good ones. These people, most of them are white, tend to be the first ones on social media condemning the rioters to the fiery pits of hell. Chimp-outs are what the people on social media call them. We’ve gone past the days of Steve the unemployed graphic designer who weighs 500 pounds sending these messages from his computer. Social media has given a voice to everyone. These people who call blacks animals for rioting are our co-workers, our friends, our bosses. They don’t want empathize because they “would never” do anything like that. It’s annoying, but white people like this are the reason this country will never grow. I don’t want to associate with these people. I never will. Donald Trump and his followers can keep preaching the importance of a “united” America, but as I said earlier, we must accept the flaws of our country.
THE RIOT BEGINS
Nighthawk #4 starts off with our crooked officer, Dixon. He calls Hanrahan to let him know that Nighthawk has destroyed another weapons cache of his. Hanrahan is livid because he’s missing a golden opportunity. The opportunity he’s missing is the violence that will happen because of the riots. Hanrahan needs those guns on the street. Fast forward four more hours and Detective Burrell is tailing Dixon. Burrell is a good cop. He’s Nighthawk’s only ally on the force. Dixon is meeting with Hanrahan and the leader of the True Patriots. Dixon tells Hanrahan that he thinks Burrell is on to him. Hanrahan doesn’t care about Burrell. He tells Dixon to handle his colleague no matter what. Walker has done a fantastic job setting up this story. The plot is interesting and has a lot of moving parts even though it seems simple.
Our next stop is the city of Chicago. Downtown. The riot has begun and Nighthawk is patrolling the streets. A news report is being broadcasted as the issue shows us images of the city. Every panel talks about different aspects of this story. On one hand, the violence in the city has escalated due to the decision not to indict the white officer. Another panel talks about the killing of the white officer. The media speculates this is a revenge killing. Civic leaders in the state of Chicago claim the police are using this murder as an excuse to use excessive force on the streets. The last two panels talk about the continued looting in the city, and the targeting of minorities by the True Patriots. Hanrahan’s plan is coming into fruition.
Nighthawk makes his first appearance. He says, “Maybe this is the only way…Maybe we just need to let it all burn to the ground, and rebuild something new from the ashes.” I have had this thought too when I think about my frustrations with our current system. What would happen if everything could restart again? Knowing what we know now, how could we improve? It’s an interesting thought. Nighthawk doesn’t voice his opinions too often. He doesn’t talk too much at all. This was a negative for me in the issue. I would have loved for Nighthawk to talk a little bit more here, but Tilda, his partner, interrupted him. Usually, her humor is needed. Not here though. This issue should have focused more (even more so than it did) on the riots. More specifically, Nighthawk’s view. Tilda then tells him that Scorched Earth as a form of urban renewal never works out in favor of the poor. She tells her friend that some things just aren’t real. Tilda continues her plea from recent issues. She tells Nighthawk she can help his fight. Not just from behind a computer, but in the streets as well. While this is happening, Nighthawk is dealing with a group of white supremacists trying to kill a group of black people. A fight breaks out. I have said it before, but the art on this issue has been awesome. This issue brings the riots to life. The next page shows the black men putting their hands up saying don’t shoot. The white supremacists don’t care. Nighthawk swoops in to save the day. The imagery is brutal. Nighthawk doesn’t care what parts of the body he hurts or breaks. He then grabs a gun. The car the True Patriots were in was coming towards them. He picks up a gun and begins spraying the car. It lights up in flames, killing the men in the car.
The black man who Nighthawk saved is shocked that our hero killed them. This is a good showing of those who want to do, and those who do. That man (whose more than likely a teen) probably thinks he’s a badass. Waves a gun around on camera, all that stuff. But when it came time to dance, he froze. Nighthawk doesn’t know the meaning of that word. He tells the black teen that if he didn’t do what he did, the True Patriots would’ve killed him. Not only would they have killed him, they’d be vindicated in doing so since he was breaking the law, looting. Nighthawk tells them that they’re making it easier for the white supremacists. The response from the teen is a valid one, that relates to my points earlier. He says, “We just tryin’ to get ahead.” Nighthawk responds by saying, “This isn’t the way to do it.” Two clashing ideals. Two completely different lives. Nighthawk then says you can’t give them an excuse or a target. That’s all they need to make themselves feel good in killing a bunch of black boys.
A cop appears after Nighthawk kills the men. He tells Nighthawk and the boys to freeze. Nighthawk doesn’t move at all. He tries to explain to the officer what’s going on. The officer doesn’t want to hear it. He fires a shot that hits our hero in the back. Luckily, his armor protected him. Once he gets back up, a fight happens between the cop and Nighthawk. 16 panels of hand-to-hand combat. While Nighthawk is fighting the officer, he’s having more flashbacks to his mother. The quote that keeps popping up in his head is in regards to his anger towards white people. I talked extensively about the concept of Black Rage in my review of the first issue. Nighthawk tries to channel his anger the best way that he can, but sometimes he lets his anger go too far. He beats the cop until he can’t get up. His mom is still playing loud in his head. He can’t take it. Nighthawk removes his mask halfway and vomits quickly before putting his mask back on. Tilda interrupts him again, but this time, it’s urgent. She tells him that the Revelator is close by, watching him. The Revelator gets into an ambulance that’s rigged to blow. He leads our hero on a chase down the street. Of course, Nighthawk is determined to catch the serial killer, but the Revelator has his number. Nighthawk has had a rough night. He’s only human. The only thing protecting his body when he goes out at nights is his armor. But he can only take so much. The explosion throws him to the ground. He can’t get up. The Revelator (who’s face hasn’t been revealed yet) says, “We meet at last.” The last page of this action-packed issue shows the Revelator carrying Raymond Kane aka Nighthawk away, singing his jaunty tune about John, the Revelator. Dead cops and burning rubble surround him as he disappears into the night.
David F. Walker is a fantastic story teller. I’ve wanted to read a comic like this for a long time. One that covers police brutality, racism, and the different views on racism. Nighthawk is a flawed man. He’s more vigilante than superhero. His past is shady, but his heart is in a good place. The Revelator represents someone who has had enough. So much that his life doesn’t matter to him anymore. All that matters is ending the lives of others who have wronged his people. Two different methods, but Nighthawk isn’t far off from the Revelator. Then we have the corrupt Dan Hanrahan. A realistic villain who represents men in society who have their claws in the system. Most of them are white, most of them are racist. Most importantly, most of them are silent. Their power is hidden, but felt. Felt most by the communities who inhabit inner cities. These people often tend to be black. Systematic racism is exhibited brilliantly in this comic. With every issue, the tension builds. This issue focused on the riots of Chicago. There are themes during the riot that are relevant today. I didn’t dive too deep down into riots earlier, but all I ask is for people to dig a little deeper next time something like this happens. This issue showed us the many, many sides that riots have. They can be analyzed through different lenses, through different angles. We are all entitled to our own opinion. But it is our job to do our due diligence when researching about things such as race or riots. Especially when we are talking about something we have never experienced. Directly or indirectly. It goes deeper than a 140-character tweet. Deeper than a Facebook post. And it’s damn sure deeper than a meme that appeals to your existing beliefs. We must dig deeper to understand these issues, because once we understand them, people who aren’t black will fight for social justice harder than ever before. This needs to happen in all aspect of social justices. Everyone deserves justice. I’m a huge fighter for gays, women, Muslims, and all minorities. But I am a black male. Society sees me as that first before they learn anything else about me. Cops see that when they pull me over. White bosses see that when I walk through the door for an interview. My only point is that you should care about who you are first. But it isn’t impossible to have compassion and empathy for other oppressed groups. If we focus on ourselves AND come together, this stops. Walker does a wonderful job crafting a character who is having a hard time focusing on himself. Nighthawk does his best to accept his flaws, better than most in our society, but he still has flaws. His meeting with the Revelator is going to show us even more of their opposing ideals. I’ll be reviewing it next week so stay tuned. This series is teaching me a lot about myself. I’m excited for you all to finish the journey with me.
Until next time, everyone! If you enjoyed the review, please like, share, and subscribe. If you hated it, let me know what you didn’t like. Please follow me @Hero_Review for more updates on future reviews and to see more of my thoughts on different topics. My next review is a throwback to one of my favorite X-Men films. X-Men: First Class.