Thursday, September 11, 2003

Hawkman #19 - A Review

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Scot Eaton
Inked by: Ray Kryssing
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Bill Oakley
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

Geoff Johns has become something of a wunderkind at DC Comics. He is writing Teen Titans, which has sold out three printings of issue #1 and just sold out it’s second printing of issue #2 as of this writing. He writes The Flash, which has garnered tremendous critical support in the wake of the “new start” made with the title in #201. He co-wrote JSA which is agreed by many fans and critics… even the Marvel-friendly guys running Wizard Magazine… to be the best team book published by ANY company today. And he also writes Hawkman, which for some reason doesn’t seem to get nearly as much press or acclaim as any of the titles I just mentioned.

I can think of no logical reason for this as Hawkman remains one of the most consistently enjoyable books published today. The only explanation I can think of, however, is that after years of confused continuity and the “we’re going to pretend he’s not there” stance taken by DC Editorial, fans are either ignorant of the character’s rich history or wary of embracing what may be a potentially confusing train wreck of a story.

Thankfully, each issue so far begins with the quick summary of the conceit created by Johns in the pages of JSA, that dealt with all the conflicting versions of Hawkman and has neatly stabilized some very troubled continuity. In short, Hawkman is Carter Hall; an archeologist who has been reincarnated throughout time, along with the spirit of his true love. They were once the King and Queen of Egypt, and empowered my a mysterious metal from another planet. Slain by a treacherous priest with a knife of this “Nth” metal, the two are destined to be reborn again and again, meet each other and fight on the side of justice before being slain again by the reincarnated priest.

This book is rich in history and Johns has fun explaining away certain snafus in the DCU continuity. He manages this and the very neat trick of making this history accessible to the new readers. Case in point; in this issue Carter and his team examine a ruin in Egypt. After some rather interesting discussion of how the natives view archeologists and the tools used by modern day explorers of the past, things take an interesting turn when Captain Marvel baddie turned militant good-guy Black Adam shows up. For those who don’t read JSA 51, there is quite a bit of tension between Hawkman and BA… tension that only increases when Adam introduces his new friend and teammate; someone very familiar to Carter from the days of Infinity Inc…

This someone, his history and the reasons for his current appearance (aka Kindgdom Come Home) are neatly explained away in a few panels. And while you really have to have been reading JSA and know something of Black Adam’s past to fully appreciate all the facets of this issue, it is still accessible to the new reader.

While I miss Rags Morales, and the rest of the usual art team on the title, Eaton does a fair job guesting on this issue. The early scenes, for some reason beyond the subject matter, remind me of the old “Further Adventures of Indiana Jones” comics from the 80s and the later scenes depicting great, winged superhero battles are as action-packed as Kirk’s work on JSA.

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