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Sunday, July 29, 2012


(NOTE: This review originally appeared in 2007.  It's based on a no-frills screener so there's no mention of the final disc's bonus features.)

It took me awhile to get into STORM HAWKS: HAWKS RISE AGAIN (2007), but once I did, it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable cartoon. 

Produced by Nerd Corps Entertainment and the Cartoon Network, this series comes to DVD on a five-episode disc that begins with a two-parter called "Age of Heroes."  Here we learn that the good people of the planet Atmos, where the people live in mountaintop cities called "Terras", are constantly under attack from the evil Master Cyclonis and her Talon warriors.  Defending against her sinister schemes for world domination are a high-flying force of heroes called Sky Knights.  One of these teams, the Storm Hawks, is made up of five callow youths (average age--fourteen) who must constantly prove themselves in order to be taken seriously by the older Sky Knights and become officially recognized by the Sky Council.

Aerrow, their leader, assembled the team to carry on in place of the original Storm Hawks, who were killed when a Sky Knight named Dark Ace betrayed them and joined forces with Cyclonis.  Other members are Finn, the wise-cracking sharpshooter; Junko, a big, reptilian dynamo who's really a pussycat at heart; Piper, the girl member of the team who navigates their carrier ship, the Condor, and plans battle tactics; Stork, ship's pilot and technical whiz who's a bit on the creepy side and would rather avoid danger; and Aerrow's co-pilot Radarr, a small furry creature.  In "Age of Heroes", the new Storm Hawks are denied membership in the Sky Knights due to their age but end up saving the day during a fierce sky battle with Cyclonis' minions. 

The animation, which looks like old-style cel art manipulated by computers, is beautiful, with great character design and dazzling backgrounds that create a richly-detailed fantasy world.  The main characters are likable and their funny, sharply-written dialogue and often slapstick-tinged interplay keep the stories light even in the most perilous situations.  And you don't have to worry about your tykes being traumatized, because nobody ever gets killed on this show--everyone involved in the mile-high mayhem is wearing a parachute.

One thing that bugged me during the initial two-part episode was the pacing.  There's a scene in THE CROW where a speed-fueled Skank is hyperactively pantomiming the story of his buddy T-Bird's demise and Top Dollar wryly comments, "Maybe we should just tape this and play it back in slow-motion."  That's how I felt during most of the sky-cycle dogfights and other action here.   The attention-deficit editing is so rapid-fire that scores of beautifully-designed images go by in a blur--it's like watching something that's stuck on fast-forward, and the excitement and suspense don't get a chance to build because you just get numb to it after awhile. 

Fortunately, by the next episode on the disc, "Gale Force Winds", the pace is slowed down a tad and we're give more time to enjoy the action and appreciate the visuals.  Bob Buckley's zippy musical score also gets a chance to stretch out and not be such a sonic barrage.  The airborne battle scenes are exhilarating once we can actually tell what's going on, especially as the personalities of the characters begin to develop more fully.

Next comes "The Code", a cool story in which the Storm Hawks are challenged to a competition by the foppish, conceited Sky Knights known as the Rex Guardians, who have a screaming fan following and even their own action figures.  When the evil Dark Ace gets into the act, there's a spectacular aerial battle over the fan-filled arena. 

The final episode, "Tranquility Now", is about a group of wizened timekeepers who tend a giant clock which regulates the navigational systems of all Sky Knight carrier ships.  This is disrupted when two of Cyclonis' main baddies, Ravess and her musclebound brother Snipe, invade the clock fortress and force the timekeepers to shut it down.  Junko comes to the fore in this tale when he loses his knuckle-busters, on which he depends for increased punching power, and must do battle with his own fists and fortitude.  There's a lot of good bone-crunching action in this episode and another exciting sky battle between Aerrow and the Dark Ace. 

As I said before, I didn't like this cartoon very much at first but it really started to grow on me after awhile.  Once you get past the frazzling pace of the initial episodes and settle in comfortably with these characters and their high-flying adventures, STORM HAWKS: HAWKS RISE AGAIN is a lot of fun.

Buy it at

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