Saturday, January 11, 2003

Hawkman #11: A Review

They said it couldn’t be done, but these two have done it.

Geoff Johns and former Starman scribe James Robinson have brought back Hawkman. After handling a very messy resurrection in the pages of JSA, the two set about cutting through the complicated back story and continuity that crippled the character for years in the pages of this: Hawkman’s monthly book.

Even though it is Johns who has done most of the writing for the series, this series reminds me more of Robinson’s Starman than Johns’ work on The Flash or JSA. Perhaps, this is due to the sense of building a new saga from the pieces of an old one, which Robinson did when he took several heroes who had held the name of Starman and forged a connection where none had existed before.

A box at the start of each issue explains the origin of Hawkman and Hawkgirl as it was redefined by Johns. In short, an Egyptian Prince and his Princess discovered a ship from another world (The Planet Thanagar). They used a mysterious element that powered the ship (The Nth Metal) to give themselves various powers, including the powers of flight and protection from the elements. The two would be reincarnated, time and time again, destined to meet and fall in love throughout time and to be protectors of the innocent. In this lifetime, their souls have come back as Carter Hall (The Golden Age Hawkman, brought back to life by Thanagarian Magic) and Kendra Saunders (Grand-niece of the Golden Age Hawkgirl). They are now archeologists and adventurers, as well as the super-heroes Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

Believe it or not, that is the short version. The long one is worse.

In fact, this story jumps right into one of the details of the long version. The Egyptian prince and princess were killed by an evil priest during an attempted coup, and it was the combined properties of his magical curse, a dagger of the Nth metal and their love that combined to cause their never-ending reincarnation. It is this priest, in his newest body, who has the Hawks cornered as the story begins.

The biggest and most obvious flaw with the book is that... well, it is involved. There is no way to discuss it without giving a Hawkman history lecture to explain who the bad guy is, who the man the Hawks are searching for is and so on. If you have the patience for it, it’s one of the best books you can spend your change on but I can see this book being very difficult for someone who hasn’t been here since issue 1. Or at the very least, since issue 10, this being the second part of a three-part story.

The writing style is pure super heroics with a little bit of pulp thrown in. Most of the stories so far have dealt with archeology and have a feel similar to all the Indian Jones books I read as a kid. Lost temples, magical artifacts and even a tribe of yetis are just as likely to figure in the story as spandex-clad super villains.

Speaking of the Silver Age, there is a cameo in this issue by a character who was a mainstay of the Silver Age, and it is just PERFECT. I won’t say whom, except to say that while I should have seen his appearance coming sometime in the book, I was surprised and delighted to see him here.

The artwork is nice, having a darker film noir feel to it while still holding true to the pulp tradition of big gestures and detailed forms. In fact, it is easy to tell the characters apart: something that can be difficult without masks with some artists.

Overall, I liked this issue. It had all the quality I’ve come to expect of the book. But I really can’t recommend it for a first time reader of Hawkman. There’s just too much back-story needed to enjoy this issue.

If you aren’t reading Hawkman, but want to see what you are missing without being so confused, go pick up the JSA: The Return of Hawkman Trade Paperback and see where it all began.

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