Thursday, December 6, 2012

Of Course You Realize This Means--Warhawk!*

*Come on, that's a Roy Thomas story title waiting to happen!

Tom Kiefer over at Comics Bronze Age is having such fun going down X-Men memory lane that I couldn't resist taking a look at an issue myself. Unfortunately, I'll have to bring back one of the X-Men's most forgettable villains:

Warhawk is a mercenary who made some waves with Iron Fist before infiltrating the X-Men's Westchester mansion. He has the dubious honor of making his X-Men debut in a fill-in issue, taking place between artist Dave Cockrum's departure and John Byrne revving up his own run on the book beginning with the prior two issues. But since writer Chris Claremont had previously scripted the character, even this transition issue reads pretty smoothly. And it starts out with a pastime that will become an X-Men staple.

I have yet to see a baseball game played by super-beings where the players all refrain from using their powers--which I suppose would be pretty boring for the reader, anyway. So when Colossus makes a successful hit, Wolverine isn't the most sympathetic baseman to be headed toward. Nor the most sportsmanlike:

Keep in mind that this was still when Wolverine was becoming acclimated to the X-Men--and he wasn't the easiest person to warm up to, even among his fellow mutants. We know, for instance, that he and Colossus will grow to become buddies. But right now, he still has a problem with even something as simple as horseplay.

A scene which might as well have FILL-IN ISSUE stamped across it, because it's the victim of its own bad timing. You don't hold a blood-grudge against someone who sprang to your defense against Weapon Alpha only one issue ago:

As for Warhawk, he's busy taking over the mansion's computer setup and planning his next move. Though apparently, his employer thinks he needs a little nudge to remind him who's boss.

We don't learn squat about Warhawk's employer in this issue. Later we'll discover it's Sebastian Shaw of the Hellfire Club, who's probably getting a little assist here from Emma Frost to contact Warhawk via telepathy. In fact, it's likely Frost herself who's speaking to him here, considering Warhawk's state of mind when he faced Iron Fist was fragile.

So Warhawk's got the drop on the X-Men, and proceeds to drop the "brains" of the team--arguably, Moria MacTaggert, Xavier, and Jean Grey--with his tranquilizer gun:

Jeez, taking out Phoenix with nothing but a "phut." That should make Firelord feel even more humiliated about Phoenix cleaning his clock.

As for the other X-Men, who have suited up and are headed to the Danger Room (thanks to Cyclops, who has a few things to learn about team morale if he thinks that a relaxing game of ball should be followed by a grueling workout where you try to disable devices trying to kill you), Warhawk seals them inside and lets the room do his work for him.

It's only when Wolverine escapes the room that we get some interaction with Warhawk, who gives Wolverine a run for his money:

I really can't swallow why Warhawk's steel body is so formidable to Wolverine, though. Hasn't it been proven that Wolverine's claws--made of adamantium--can cut through anything? And wouldn't that include steel? I guess we'll have to find out some other time, because Wolverine has successfully disabled Warhawk's tampering with the Danger Room and the team breaks free. And that's all she wrote for Warhawk.

That "thud" you heard was Warhawk being dropped from Uncanny X-Men for the foreseeable future, as quickly as he was dropped in. Since this is a fill-in issue, and with Claremont's and Byrne's kick-ass Magneto story waiting in the wings, Warhawk's presence in the mansion and his motivations will need to remain a mystery, with Claremont limited to laying plot seeds to perhaps sprout later at some point. With the benefit of hindsight, we can take that to mean that Shaw had become aware of the X-Men and had sent Warhawk to test their capabilities and potential, perhaps even recording the deadly Danger Room scenario to study. So we get an unsatisfying epilogue, and a very strange final panel:

Yes, that's Wolverine giving the X-Men war-whoop--Wolverine, who apparently has done a 180 in one issue and is now on board the X-Men in spirit as well as in name, when just an hour ago he was ready to put his claws through Colossus' heart.  These guys should play baseball more often.

We don't hear too much from Warhawk anymore, since as a soldier in Vietnam his origins tend to date him. (Though Iron Man seems to have dodged that bullet, so to speak.)  He later got into it with Iron Fist a couple of times, as well as Luke Cage--but a prison cell always seemed to have his name on it.

Warhawk appears in X-Men #110

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