Warning: Contains spoilers for Avengers #42 by Jason Aaron, Luca Maresca and David Curiel
As a fighter, Black Panther has few equals, but Marvel’s imitation Batman, Nighthawk, can now make that claim after going toe-to-toe with the King of Wakanda. Kyle Richmond, aka Nighthawk, was introduced to Marvel as a parody of the Dark Knight but has since become a U.S. Congressman and Ambassador to Wakanda. In his recent fight with T’Challa, both the powerful Phoenix Force and bragging rights were on the line.
The Phoenix has summoned an odd collection of Marvel characters to compete in a tournament to determine a new host. The cosmic entity’s selection process isn’t clear, as heroes are randomly paired off to fight until the Phoenix chooses someone to continue. Everyone who competes is temporarily imbued with the Phoenix Force, leveling the playing field and leaving skill and dedication as the deciding factors in most match-ups. In Avengers #41, Black Panther and Nighthawk of the Squadron Supreme of America are selected to compete and reveal they’ve been testing each other’s capabilities for weeks before the Phoenix appeared. Their political and financial jabs leave no true winner, and the issue ends without declaring a victor of their physical confrontation either.
Black Panther returns to the White Hot Room in Avengers #42, written by Jason Aaron with art by Luca Maresca and David Curiel. This indicates to the rest of the competitors that the Phoenix has selected him, but T’Challa tells them the surprising results of the Nighthawk fight himself. Panther states he and Nighthawk fought for hours to a stalemate, neither being able to defeat the other, and that the Phoenix simply choose the Black Panther in the end. T’Challa understands that his selection may be arbitrary, which shows that he acknowledges Nighthawk to be his equal. The two were evenly matched, wielding their powers as King of Wakanda and U.S. Congressperson, and their cosmic-powered brawl mirrored that result. Nighthawk may have lost out on the Phoenix Force, but certainly earned some deference from one of Marvel’s premier heroes.
The Squadron Supreme of America was secretly created by the demon Mephisto and is advised by the resurrected Phil Coulson, with goals to undermine the Avengers’ place as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There have been various iterations of the Squadron throughout Marvel’s history, but they all share the characteristic of being semi-subtle copies of DC’s Justice League. Nighthawk fills the position as the team’s Batman-archetype character. Considering the inspiration for the character, it will be difficult for Nighthawk to be perceived as anything more than Marvel’s Batman. However, for other characters in the Marvel universe, knowing Nighthawk held his own against Black Panther is an accolade in itself.
If battling Black Panther to a deadlock isn’t enough to raise Nighthawk’s profile, the upcoming Heroes Reborn event offers another opportunity. The Squadron Supreme appears to be front and center in the new reality where the Avengers were never formed. It remains to see what T’Challa’s status will be in that reality, although if Nighthawk is anything like Batman, he’d want another shot at the King of Wakanda.