THIS REVIEW OF ‘HAWMAN’ #12 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Not since Prince Vultan’s roar filled the sky with winged warriors (backed by a Queen soundtrack, naturally) has an airborne fighting force rivaled the one assembled in the latest issue of Hawkman. It’s a crowning moment for an arc that’s expanded and expounded the nature of a veteran superhero. A hero once so convoluted by continuity adjustments that DC once considered him unusable.
The root of the Hawks’ problem stemmed from the 1960s reimagining of Silver Age characters as a science fiction concept rather than his Golden Age mystical reincarnation one. Most heroes given similar upgrades (Green Lantern, Atom) suffered few ill effects. But the Hawks bounced back and forth between the polar extremes multiple times over the decades, ending up a frustrating fusion of both. Thanagarian police officers, or rulers of ancient Egypt enduring unending reincarnations? The answer became an uncertain, “Yes?”
Hawkman wasn’t an A-lister, so why rush to fix something broken but mended enough for use? Repair was a daunting proposition, likely requiring the jettison of fan-favorite versions, and could as easily plummet as soar. With little fanfare, and a fandom not exactly sitting on the edge of their EZ Boys anticipating a new Hawkman series, Robert Venditti, Bryan Hitch, and the rest of the crew went to work.
The result is a nigh-infinite interstellar story of redemption. Of a reincarnated hero with purpose, and a scope spanning immense chasms of time and space. Venditti & Hitch have managed to be true to both Golden and Silver Age concepts. (Plus, they blew our minds doing it.) Their Hawkman is a hero worthy of A-list status.
There are still matters left unclear. The nature of participation in the Society and the League histories. The link to Chay-Ara/Shiera/Shayera. But it’s clear they haven’t been foregone nor forgotten. They just haven’t been addressed yet.
Previous issues established that Carter Hall was originally Ktar, general of a winged horde of cosmic Deathbringers. Millennia past, they flitted across the cosmos destroying entire populations as sacrifices to a dark Lord Beyond the Void. Growing weary of endless slaughter, Ktar fought his former flock and trapped them in another dimension before entering a soul pact. He would endure multiple reincarnations for as long as it took to save as many lives as he had taken. The various identities had only vague awareness regarding each other, the original pact forgotten over eons.
The impending return of the Deathbingers triggers Carter Hall to recall the full scope of his lives. It spurs him to various worlds and times, which uncovers a weapon capable of stopping the world-ravaging wingmen. Once freed, the horde’s search for their Great Betrayer brings them to Earth. For being a refuge to Carter, the planet and inhabitants must burn, a fate then shared with all worlds that ever spawned a Ktar incarnation.
Carter stands against them, battling his lieutenant and new Deathbringer commander Idamm. Hopelessly outmatched, Carter discovers he is the weapon, forged through his multiple lives. He releases them, channeling an armada of every Hawkman. But as Idamm’s warships power to devastate the planet, the Hawks are still outnumbered.
In the conclusion of the “Cataclysm” arc, Carter battles Idamm for leadership of the Deathbringers and proves that outnumbered doesn’t mean outclassed. Deathbringers attack in waves and fall to the Silent Knight. Nighthawk. Katar Hol. Prince Khufu. Avion. A peaceful historian named Catar-Hol. As a Kryptonian under the rays of a yellow sun, Catar boosts the Hawkmen cause significantly.
The conclusion is satisfying on multiple levels. It relishes Hawkman’s history as the series has; it’s nostalgic while being simultaneously neoteric, and witnessing Carter’s heroic personas come to full potential is a great climax. Venditti & Hitch’s conclusion leaves Hawkman forever changed in its wake with unlimited potential for the future. What this creative team has done should become a guidebook for the Revitalization of Established Characters. They bring all the feels in this culminating entry.
It’s hard to imagine this hard-edged redemption tale rendered by anyone else than Bryan Hitch. His talent in creating appropriately Hawkish apparel across planets and microverses has been a joy, as has his ability to faithfully recreate previously established Hawkman personas. It’s tremendous to see what he’s accomplished here.
Hawkman began as a Gordian knot of continuity needing a solutionist capable of loosening the bonds and enabling a classic hero to take wing again. Venditti, Hitch, and their creative alliance managed this miracle in a scant dozen issues. They posed: Could a hero be an alien police officer, a reincarnated ruler of Egypt, an Old West gunman, a knight errant, a warrior of Rann, a Kryptonian teacher, and thousands of others? Their answer became an unequivocal “Yes!”
DC / $3.99
Written by Robert Venditti.
Pencils by Bryan Hitch.
Inks by Andrew Currie, Norm Rapmund, and Scott Hanna.
Colors by Jeremiah Skipper.
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft.
8.5 out of 10
Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Hawkman’ #12, courtesy of DC!
Variant cover by Julian Totino Tedesco.