Portals of Power is the three-issue arc that crosses over elements from several different Marvel Comics into Darkhawk. These elements include the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants playing the role of villains stepping over from the X-Men franchise, Spider-Man, and Sleepwalker. There are also multiple references made to an Avengers storyline, as apparently Portal himself was created as a character in Avengers story before he was used as the mystical Deep-Throat here in Darkhawk. Not only does this arc cross-over characters, it crosses over titles, with the first 2 issues taking place in the main Darkhawk title and the conclusion taking place in Sleepwalker.
I have conflicting feelings about this practice of Danny Fingeroth, the author, to use crossovers as much as he does. So far in Darkhawk Classic he used stand-ins with every Marvel hero you can think of in order to fill in for Chris’s missing father and help him figure out who he was going to be as a man. Because I understood where it was coming from from a plot perspective, I have it a free pass. In Heart of the Hawk, the Venom appearance was more than a little gratuitous, but again I gave it a pass for creatively taking place during that rare time when Venom had self-exiled himself on a deserted island. I can’t find a reason for these crossovers thematically or inventively, they just seem like a cash-grab.
The thing is though, I can’t figure out who they’re trying to grab the cash for. Are they trying to promote Darkhawk by having the X-Men and Spider-Man connections? Are they promoting Sleepwalker? Are they trying to cross-pollinate the readers of Darkhawk and Sleepwalker? I’m not sure. I think a little bit of everything, and perhaps if they’d been able to have a coherent marketing strategy that could have translated into Fingeroth and Budiansky having some idea of what he was doing, but as it stands it’s just kind of a mess.
The story is pretty simple, and goes like this: Portal, the dimension-hopping gent that wears armor similar to Darkhawk from Darkhawk Classic, shows up in New York again and attracts the attention of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, who want to capture and hypnotize him into using his power to generate portals to break into anywhere. At the same time, Darkhawk wants to find him and get him to reveal anything he might know about the Darkhawk armor, and it’s functions. And Sleepwalker wants Portal to use his dimension-hopping abilities to transport him back to his home dimension, which has been his source of grief in his own series. So it’s basically dog-pile on Portal, with Spider-Man thrown in for good measure.
The story proceeds as predictably as you think it does. There’s a pretty-cool moment at the end of the second chapter where Spider-Man goes trapped in an alternate dimension that would have made for a great side-chapter in a Spider-Man book that I’m surprised the marketers didn’t pick up on, which is quite the missed opportunity.
The only part that really surprises does so in an obtrusive way: after Portal is saved from the Brotherhood by Sleepwalker and Darkhawk, Portal grants Sleepwalker “just one favor.” Rather than using this selfishly to get back home, Sleepwalker asks Portal to save Spider-Man from the Dark Dimension, which he does. He then fucks-off into a portal himself and disappears as quickly as he arrived. It’s a w-t-f moment, and one that doesn’t really fit with Portal’s characterization. The only reason I can think for it is that had Portal helped Sleepwalker out, that would have essentially ended the Sleepwalker series. But that’s a lame reason for characters to act out-of-character. It would have been better for Sleepwalker to have made it to his home dimension only for some unforeseen complication to have arisen. But whatever, lazy writing is rampant.
Also one minor tidbit regarding the Sleepwalker chapter: omit the last two pages. The story clues up nicely on page 22, and the following 2 pages only serve to try and hook readers that crossed over from Darkhawk with an unnecessary ‘to be continued’ moment. If this storyarc is ever collected for real, I hope they omit those pages. Save them for a Sleepwalker trade.
Overall it could have been a lot worse, but there’s a lot of squandered potential. There was a one-page foreshadow of the next arc, Return to Forever, featuring what looks to be another character in Darkhawk armor, so I’m looking forward to see what that’s all about. That’ll also be the first storyarc that I didn’t read at least part of as a child, so we’ll get to see what I think without nostalgia goggles on, so that’ll be nice.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
“Overall it could have been a lot worse, but there’s a lot of squandered potential.”