There’s possibly no character out there that is more famous for having a convoluted history than Hawkman. Maybe Cable. Though I’ve noticed personally more people complain about Hawkman. Especially when people tried to reconcile the bare-chested mace wielder with, like, Thanagarian science cop. I think it usually works best when you either ignore the history all together and just try to tell your own story. Or meld it all together and have everything be true.

The 2002 series launched by James Robinson, Geoff Johns, and Rags Morales out of the success of the JSA series kind of did the latter. Not quite to the extent of the later 2018 series, but this Carter Hall was definitely an amalgam. As part of it, they incorporated previous incarnations under the banner of Past Lives that gave an opportunity to go into some of that history. For the most part, adding new depth to some of the Hawks’ timeline.

It was raining when the train finally got to St. Roch that night.”

Hawkman #27 from Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Brian Miller, and Ken Lopez is one of these Past Lives tales, following an incarnation of the Hawks from 1917. This incarnation of Carter is a Pinkerton detective, investigating the theft of the Black Bird statuette, running into a gun moll version of Shayera/Kendra, and another familiar face from their past.

Outside of the present day Hawks stealing the statue back, this story is pretty much a straight-up hardboiled detective tale. To the point where it’s essentially a condensed pastiche of The Maltese Falcon. While Gotham Noir avoided the over-the-top homages and almost parody of the genre, this revels in them. From the hardboiled narration to light resemblances of the characters to Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet.

Hawkman #27

It’s fun. And it shows through Lopez’s dialogue boxes of Brubaker’s text, the change from colour from Miller and layout of the superhero framing story into the past lives sequences, and Phillips’ astounding use of lighting and shadow, the level of craft that has gone into this story. It shows that even in a single issue in a series that was in transition between two creative teams (Johns and Morales had finished their run and Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and Ryan Sook were to come aboard in the next issue), what could be considered a throwaway fill-in could still be magic.

…I know that my love will never leave my arms.”

I think working through some of the influences here, of paying homage to Dashiell Hammett and The Maltese Falcon, we see a hint of what can come later in both Fatale and The Fade Out. Hawkman #27 from Brubaker, Phillips, Miller, and Lopez is a highly entertaining way to take a superhero story, particularly one steeped in reincarnation, and play with those former lives.

Hawkman #27

Classic Comic Compendium: HAWKMAN #27

Hawkman #27
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colourist: Brian Miller
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: April 21, 2004
Also available collected in DC Comics Presents: Brightest Day 100-Page Spectacular #1

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!


  1. I agree. I’d love to see a new Hawkman series that takes a kind of back to basics approach again. I did like the Venditti/Hitch series, but I kind of want to see a series that goes back to mostly ignoring the history and just gives us a winged warrior bashing things with his mace.

    I’ve been enjoying the Jadzia Axelrod/Amancay Nahuelpan Hawkgirl so far, it has a different kind of feel to it.

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