Monday, April 7, 2003

Hawkman #14 - A Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Prentis Rollins
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

This is one of my favorite books, and until this month I have had no idea why. I have never been a Hawkman fan. As far as powers go, there are a lot of heroes who can fly and a lot who are masters of ancient weapons. I never liked him as a personality, always having sided with Green Arrow in every argument the two ever had. And his costume is one of the most impractical in a business that has never boasted efficiency in dressing. In fact, on reflection I think I only picked it up because James Robinson had something to do with its’ creation. And even though Geoff Johns is the solo writer on the title now, at times, the book feels a lot like Robinson’s Starman.

Consider this issue which continues the plot from last time, with Hawkman and Hawkgirl having finally discovered the identity of the killers of Hawkgirl’s parents and their efforts to hunt him down, while arguing over whether or not it is proper for them to exact “eye-for-an-eye” justice. Without giving too much away, this issue ties the killer to another Hawkman villain from the past as well as tying him to a figure from the Hawks’ past life as featured in Issue Seven: Gentleman Jim Craddock, aka The Gentleman Ghost.

Okay, now I know the Gentleman Ghost is a silly villain from a lot of best-forgotten comics. And yet, in this issue, Johns remakes him into not only a formidable enemy but also a more sympathetic character than Carter Hall himself. He is a scoundrel and a thief and a killer but he does have a code of honor. In fact, he reminds me a lot of The Shade from Robinson’s “Starman” and indeed notes that he will be a friend and foe to the Hawks as it best amuses him. Still, corrupt as “Gentleman” was in life, you cannot fault him for his anger over his unjust execution and the curse that has made him a ghost ; an interesting change from the more typical slighted villain story where any wrong-doing the hero committed is all in the mind of the villain.

The guest art team of Kramer and Rollins do a fantastic job. Everything is marked in lush detail, with the Louisiana swamps vividly described. I also liked the way the Hawk helmets were drawn in this issue, clearly showing the class in the masks and the eyes of the heroes underneath. The character expressions are perfectly matched to the dialogue, the action scenes convey a real sense of motion and the shadows are just exquisite.

My one complaint with the book is that skillful as Johns is, I still cannot find myself sympathizing very Carter Hall. He has shown some surprising hypocrisy in the past, berating Oliver Queen for going after the younger Dinah Lance, but now he is chasing after the equally young Hawkgirl. He dates an employee at a museum purely in an effort to make Hawkgirl jealous. And in this issue, he very quickly drops his edicts about not killing and stops the “learning from his mistakes” talk he gives Hawkgirl once he is angry and has the killer cornered. His behavior is more childish than heroic and I don’t see much relating to that. Still, I find his trying to change even as he fights habit to be quite interesting and I think this title will be on my subscription list for a long time yet.

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