DC ROUND-UP: A hero in perpetual crisis gets the homecoming he deserves in HAWKMAN #1

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DC Comics is trying something new. In the wake of their Rebirth initiative, the publisher has rapidly expanded its content to include diverse new imprints such as Young Animal, Wildstorm, Black Label, Ink, and Zoom. As their lineup expands, it can be hard to figure out what to pick up each week. That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to help you with!

THIS WEEK: Louie keeps the conversation going about Hawkman’s triumphant return. You’ve heard the buzz. You’ve read the interviews. Does the first issue live up to the hype? Yes. Yes it does.

Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict. 


 

Hawkman #1

Writer: Robert Venditti

Penciller: Bryan Hitch

Inkers: Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch

Colorist: Alex Sinclair

Letterers: Richard Starkings & Comicraft

Well, Hawkman’s back again. The infamous continuity pretzel, the poster child for confusing comic book characters. The guy that makes Donna Troy’s origin seem straightforward. Who’s up for a history lesson?

Let’s see if we can unravel it briefly. In the Golden Age (1940), there was an archaeologist named Carter Hall who found out he was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince. He found a weird magical metal and made a hawk suit with it and joined the Justice Society. When most of the characters got rebooted in the Silver Age (1961), there was a different version of Hawkman — this time a winged alien policeman named Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar. This new Hawkman chased a villain to Earth and decided to stick around for a while, joining the Justice League. These were two completely different incarnations, tucked away neatly in separate universes.

Then the Crisis happened. As a comic book historian of sorts, I find myself typing those words eerily often.

After the Crisis (1985), both the reincarnated archaeologist Carter Hall Hawkman and the alien cop Katar Hol Hawkman (and their respective Hawkwomen) ended up on the same Earth together. Weird, but okay, until a third Hawkman showed up (with another Hawkwoman). This one was also a cop from Thanagar and also named Katar Hol and had pretty much the same backstory as the one we already had. But just kidding…that second Hawkman was a spy and a fake all along, and this third one is the real guy (and some other hand-waving).

Then the Crisis happened. Um, that other Crisis.

I don’t how else to put this, but a bunch of these extraneous Hawkpeople got stuck in a metaphorical cosmic blender and formed a Hawkgod (1994). Yep. Eventually the Hawkgod got split apart by the burden of reasonable storytelling and more hand-waving, until we ended up with only one of each character. Hawkman was now the archaeologist guy who had reincarnated a bunch but also had all the memories of the alien space cop guy, even though he was never actually that alien guy in any of his reincarnations. And Hawkgirl was a new person entirely, except she wasn’t.

AND THEN THE CRISIS HAPPENED. I thought this was going to be brief??

They died (2008), then they died again (hands are waving furiously now), brought back to life, and then they turned into wind spirits or some crap and floated away (2011). Then another Hawkman popped up, a new Hawkgirl was on a different Earth, a Hawkwoman came and went on the main Earth, and then I guess they died too (2016). It’s kind of exhausting, really.

Let’s all make an agreement with the creative team of Hawkman #1 right now, okay? Let’s promise to judge the book on its own merits as a fresh start, not by whether it matches our favorite incarnation of the character exactly or (worse) by whether it makes any sense of that tangled web of nonsense. They’ve signed up for a hell of a job, we can grant them some latitude.

But we’re going to ask for something in return. We, the bruised and weary fans, have a list of demands for the new creative team.

Make Carter dynamic. We don’t want an angry meathead with a mace. This most recent incarnation of Hawkman, as established in the suspiciously Crisis-like event Dark Nights: Metal, is described as a “great detective of history”. That’s a good start. This first issue picks up on that thread and shows that Carter Hall is an introspective, almost philosophical man as he’s pondering the mysteries both within and without. He’s not shy with the mace, of course, but he swings it out of need rather than blind emotion. We like our action heroes to have some depth, and Hawkman’s well runs very deep.

Make Kendra dynamic. The worst versions of Hawkwoman/Hawkgirl are redundant background characters who are presented as basically Hawkman with tits. Don’t do this to Kendra. Dark Nights: Metal set up Hawkgirl as a secret agent and leader of the Blackhawks (obvious, really) who had given up her wings and set about to destroy all traces of Nth metal. She has since taken flight again as a member of the new Justice League, sitting at the table with the big dogs. She remembers her past lives and is so far making bold choices in defining her current life. One hopes that her reunion with Carter doesn’t diminish her spark.

Explore. Hawkman is too big a concept to be confined to a single place and time. He comes with so many riches. The world of Thanagar is out there, with its airborne cities and its imbalance of fortunes — the powerful preying on the downtrodden masses. Ancient Egypt is a cornerstone of Carter and Kendra’s history, a point in their lives that evokes images of eternal love and dangerous enemies. We’ve already seen a promise of exploration throughout time and space in this debut issue, with even more past lives introduced than we knew about previously.

Bring in some friends. Hawkman has sown a lot of goodwill throughout the ages, and this creative team seems intent to see him reap it. It’s a great touch that Carter has non-super allies across the world willing to repay Carter for his past life deeds. Karma in action. He’s also apparently (Metal, again) been involved with the new Challengers of the Unknown. The incorporation of Madame Xanadu in this issue whets the appetite for some other cameos. The Atom, Green Arrow, Adam Strange? Hell, bring in the entire JSA and let’s make this a party.

Let him FLY. Ignore all of this advice and bring us something we’ve never seen before. Take us to new worlds with colorful inhabitants. Bring the Earth to the brink of destruction and then hit us with a twist we don’t see coming. Travel in both directions through time. Spend some time in the clouds. Kill him, bring him back, make a mess. Keep Bryan Hitch drawing feathers and chest hair for years to come.

So. Where does Hawkman’s story go from here? We’re not sure and that’s pretty damn exciting.

Don’t sleep on this new Hawkman book. I think we’re in for a ride.

Verdict: Buy


The Immortal Men #3

Storytellers: Ryan Benjamin & James Tynion IV

Inker: Richard Friend

Colorist: David Baron

Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

I don’t like to write negative reviews. I really don’t. It’s always more fun to share thoughts on something you enjoy than to disparage something that other people are possibly enjoying. To each his own and all that, there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Sadly, that’s not how most of us use the internet (see: reviews of any Star Wars movie). We boil our opinions of stories/people/places/experiences down to a simplified scale of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We join our respective camp and aggressively debate the opposing side to prove that we’re correct and that they are wrong. Right/wrong is another concept I’m not so fond of. Heck, I don’t even like the “verdict” line I write at the end of every review. Who am I to say whether you should buy, browse, skip, or steal the book? All I can do is add something thoughtful to the discussion and attempt to describe my experience with the subject.

The Immortals #3 didn’t grab me in its first issue and it hasn’t done anything to win me over since. I’m not going to read any more of it.

I don’t find the heroes relatable. The PoV character is a rich kid who has visions and spends a lot of time running away from things. He’s the least interesting of the group, but that’s mainly because the others are so silly. There’s a female version of Apache Chief who can grow really big. There’s a cute little furry creature who gets mad. The guy with the hat has a nebulous green energy power that can teleport him and probably some other stuff. The most intriguing of the group is a hooded figure who can “rewind” his single bullet to fire it again and again, but the story’s explanation of this poses way more questions than it answers. If I’m being honest, I find myself rooting against them.

I don’t find the villains compelling. They are the kind of bad guys who radiate an aura of being SUPER EVIL without the most convincing motivations. A hunter with swords, a woman in embarrassing armor, an army of amorphous blobs with teeth. And that ridiculous Bruce Wayne Joker from a thousand Dark Nights: Metal crossovers. I don’t root for this crew either, which means I don’t have a dog in the fight.

Maybe it’s just me. The whole point of these New Age of Heroes books is to introduce fresh characters, but I don’t particularly want new characters just for the sake of having them. The reason I love DC Comics is that they already have such a deep bench of fascinating heroes and villains to pull from. Rather than creating an entirely new cast, I’d like to see them drop some new concepts into existing books and find what resonates.

I think this book was mishandled from the beginning. It came out four months late and for all the Jim Lee hype, he only contributed to part of the first issue. I hope I’m in the minority and people are really digging it.

Verdict: Skip


Round-Up

  • Gail Simone wrote Plastic Man this week, and it was as delightful as you’d imagine. The dialogue was just spot on. My favorite line: “Wait. Is wang good or bad? Does it still mean penis?”
  • Just in case I haven’t heaped enough praise on Robert Venditti lately, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps continues to hit home runs. This week we got an emotion-packed issue that focused on Guy Gardner’s confrontation with his abusive father. It takes range to alternate a character between comic relief, bad-ass brawler, and sympathetic tearjerker, and Venditti handles it effortlessly. I know, I know. Get a room.
  • The Fortress of Solitude got totally effed up in The Man of Steel #3, and Superman genuinely cried over one particularly painful consequence of it. I’d hate to be on the receiving end of the epic beatdown he’s about to deliver. Also: the reveal of what happened to Lois and Jon is a real slow burn and I dig it.
  • Are you reading Eternity Girl? You oughta. It’s a love song to comics and a touching, explosive, weird ride. The over-arching metaphor of a universal DJ establishing the beat of the cosmos is just plain brilliant.

 Miss any of our earlier reviews?  Check out our full archive!

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