Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hawkeye Limited Series #1 (September 1983)

Cover: Mark Gruenwald, Brett Breeding
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Mark Gruenwald
Inks: Brett Breeding
Colors: Bob Sharen
Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Cover Date: September 1983
Release Date:  May 1983
Synopsis: In his time away from the Avengers, Hawkeye is employed as head of security at Cross Technological Enterprises, a technology conglomerate that competes with Stark International.  The issue opens with Hawkeye putting his security team through the paces of an assault drill while showing off his exceptional marksmanship, a dizzying array of trick arrows and his new flying rocket sled. The 11 year-old me loved every bit of this!

We meet Hawkeye’s new love interest, Shelia Danning, who is head of public relations at CTE.  Hawkeye reminisces about his past relationships with the Black Widow and Scarlet Witch and his lack of luck with love over the years, thinking that things are finally going his way.  While the couple settles in for a romantic evening in Clint Barton’s new apartment, Hawkeye shares his origin story with Shelia.   I’m not sure how much of this was already known, but it was definitely new to me at the time and a great synopsis of his back story.

After getting a security alert later that evening, Hawkeye heads back to CTE where he surprises an intruder in a vacant warehouse.  The intruder turns out to be Mockingbird, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned hero, who was last seen in Marvel Team-Up #95 (July 1980).  As the two heroes spar, Mockingbird tries to convince Hawkeye that CTE is up to something sinister, but the CTE security crew shows up and takes Mockingbird into custody before they can talk any further.

Returning to his apartment, Hawkeye can’t shake the suspicion that Mockingbird may have been right, so against his better judgment and the temptation to spend the night with Shelia, Hawkeye returns to CTE to investigate.  No sooner does he start scouting around the warehouse than his security detail shows up and attacks the surprised bowman.  Hawkeye shoots out the lights in the warehouse and is confident that he can win the fight, but he surrenders when the security team reveal that they have Shelia as a hostage.

Hawkeye is tossed into a containment pit with Mockingbird. And, adding insult to injury, Shelia reveals her role in the plot and dishes out an absolutely scathing bit of character assassination.  “I could sooner love a dog than a cornball Romeo with delusions of adequacy like you.” Ouch! Initially incredulous, Hawkeye sinks to his knees in despair as the villains start to pump toxic sludge into the containment tank.  Mockingbird manages to roust Hawkeye from his self-pity and he summons his rocket sled to the rescue in the nick of time.

Hawkeye easily defeats the CTE security team and flies to Shelia’s apartment where he confronts her.  Shelia tells him that he’s fired and that CTE won’t rest until they get their revenge, but the hero can’t bring himself to harm his former lover.  The issue ends with Hawkeye and Mockingbird facing an uncertain future that feels all too real because it’s not just the hero/villain dynamic, it’s unemployment and heartbreak. To be continued next issue!

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dakota North #5 (February 1987)

Title: Cats Among The Pigeons
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Max Scheele
Letters: John Morelli
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: February 1987
Release Date: October 1986
Synopsis: Dakota North #5 opens with Dakota, Amos and Ricky bound to chairs in Sheik Ibn Bheik’s Grindelwald, Switzerland castle after being captured at the end of the last issue. The Sheik’s henchmen search the prisoners but are unable to find the pen containing the top secret nerve gas that they’ve been seeking.  After explaining the situation to her very confused brother, Dakota goads the Sheik into attacking her with his hunting falcon and she manages to break free of her bonds after breaking her chair while dodging the vicious bird.

Back in New York, SJ North bickers with Major Cooper at length about the situation in which he’s placed Dakota and Ricky.  Major Cooper is amusingly nonchalant about the whole thing, saying “But SJ! The boy can’t do much damage! There’s only enough gas in the pen to wipe out a few city blocks!”  SJ North is not amused.  SJ learns from Mad Dog that Cleo Vanderlip is involved with the mystery. “Cleo Vanderlip!? I thought she was dead! If shes’s involved in this affair, then heaven help us!”  Clearly there’s some history between the two.

Heading west on an airplane over the Atlantic, Daisy Kane stresses that Cleo is going to kill her when she find how badly she messed up her job since she was supposed to trap Ricky, not fall for him.  In New York, fashion designer Luke Jacobson unveils his latest designs for Cleo who reacts badly when she sees that they all look like Dakota North. Luke says that he can’t get the detective out of his mind and that she’s the woman of the 1990s. While this exchange occurs, SJ North sets up for Rycom’s headquarters, determined to confront Cleo.

In Grindelwald, Dakota frees her brother from Sheik Ibn Bheik while Amos manages to trip the villain who is electrocuted by a TV when he falls in a puddle of water.  As the three fight against the Sheik’s henchmen, Ricky plucks the missing pen from the pocket of one of the minions where he hid it while they were being searched.  The boy threatens to unleash the nerve gas and the thugs surrender, providing the opportunity for Dakota, Amos and Ricky to make their escape to the Sheik’s garage where they find a fleet of cars read and waiting.

Dakota tells Amos that it was sweet of him to help, but he replies “Dakota, I didn’t put my job in jeopardy and traipse halfway around the world for a peck on the cheek.”  Cue the80's make out music.  As the three prepare to make their escape in a yellow Ferrari, Ricky realizes that the pen is missing.  One of the Sheik’s henchmen picked his pocket and now finds himself in a position of power for the first time in his life.  “I have the pen, now I shall rule the world!” he declares. “Not while I live, small one.” replies the Sheik.  The nerve gas is released in the ensuing scuffle, leaving all the villains dead.

Dakota, Amos and Ricky fly back to New York where they brief Major Cooper and Mad Dog on their adventures and Ricky reminds Coop that he still owes him $500.  Dakota and Amos plan a romantic evening and Ricky is thrilled when Daisy shows up, asking for him to hide her.  The issue ends the following morning with SJ North and Cleo who have obviously spent the evening catching up on lost time.  Their history is never revealed and it’s unclear what Martha Thomases had in mind as the last panel of the issue shows Cleo holding a fun behind SJ’s head while saying “Oh, Sam. Promise me you won’t hurt me again.”

Where teaser for the next issue would be, it says “This is where we usually put the blurb for the next issue, if there was a next issue, but there isn’t.”  Not even the Fashion Statements letters page had any further explanation, but we now know in retrospect that Dakota North was canceled due to lackluster sales.  Despite its many flaws, Dakota North as a series is a great artifact of the 1980s and an interesting attempt by Marvel to expand into a new genre.

Dakota North as a character remains active in the Marvel Universe and has appeared many times over the years, most recently in the fantastic Daredevil run by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark where she played bodyguard and then love interest to Matt Murdock.  While the series ended after only five issues, colorist Gerry Turnbull had some fun with the Dakota North paper doll that appeared in Marvel Age Annual #2 (1986) and produced another three mock covers.  Michael Lark also did a number of great 80's inspired Dakota North commissions for me in in 2012.

Source: Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics
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