Hawkman is a classic DC character. But, he is a character with lots of baggage and a messy continuity. Hawkman is also a character that DC has failed to properly figure out and market. Hopefully, all of that will change with Hawkman #1. For starters, DC is not messing around and has blessed Hawkman with a heavy weight creative team. Robert Venditti is an immensely talented writer. Bryan Hitch is a huge name artist. This is an all-star creative team. While I have great respect for Venditti and Hitch, Hawkman is still a tall order. This is a franchise that has failed time and time again. Can Venditti and Hitch finally help usher in a grand new era for Hawkman and establish him as one of the core iconic characters of the DCU? Let’s hit this review for Hawkman #1 and find out!
Words: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Pencils: Andrew Currie and Bryan Hitch
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Hawkman flying over an island twelve miles south of Santorini, Greece. Hawkman thinks how he is Carter Hall. That he is Hawkman. Hawkman thinks how he has been reincarnated many times. That he has been an Egyptian prince, a medieval knight, and a western gunfighter. Hawkman says the is an archeologist, a scholar and a preservationist of history. Hawkman says he is history.
Hawkman then says that he is plagued by the feeling that he is missing pieces of his history. Hawkman then descends into a tomb on the small island. It is full of artifacts and sculptures of ancient Gorilla City. This is the Temple of Ooahk Kung, The All-See. It houses the Nautilus of Revealment. It can reveal the true past of any person.
Hawkman removes the Nautilus of Revealment from the hands of a statute of Ooahk Kung. Hawkman thinks how he has been searching for this artifact for weeks. Hawkman says that he has begun an adventure of outward exploration that he hopes to lead to discovery within.
Suddenly, the statue of Ooahk Kung comes to life and says, “Who dares steal from Ooahk Kung?”
We flashback to “Before.” We see Carter on a small fishing boat with an old Greek man names Yiannis. Yiannis takes Carter to the Ape’s Paw. This is the location of the island where the Temple of Ooahk Kung is hidden.
Carter thanks Yiannis for bringing him here. Yiannis mentions how is father used to tell him stories of Hawkman and how he helped them during their civil war. That the soldiers thought Hawkman was an angel. Yiannis says that his grandchildren have heard the stories and so will their grandchildren. Yiannis says that Stavropoulus will always help Hawkman.
Carter wonders if they thought he was Metraton the Angel of Life or Azrael the Angel of Death. Yiannis said that his father probably through Carter was the Angel of Life. The opposing army probably thought Hawkman was the Angel of Death.
Carter replies that if there is one lesson all the living and dying has taught him is that there can never be one without the other. Carter then dons his Hawkman costume and spreads his wings and flies off into the air.
We shift back to “Now.” The statue of Ooahk Kung is smashing through the temple trying to get Hawkman. Hawkman manages to make his wild escape from the underground temple.
Hawkman then flies into the air and says that it is too bad the statue of Ooahk Kung cannot fly. Suddenly, the statue spouts wings and takes to the air after Hawkman. Hawkman then thinks that during his research of Gorilla City he did come across the mention of mythic winged primates from another realm called the Wingors.
Hawkman then pulls out his Nth Metal mace. Hawkman smashes the magical third eye of the statue. Hawkman thinks how he takes no joy from destroying history. But, that sometimes he is forced to do so. To shatter one past in order to preserve another. The statue of Ooahk Kung then crumbles to the ground. Hawkman flies off with the Nautilus in his arms.
We cut to London. We see Carter entering Madame Xanadu’s occult shop. Xanadu is happy to see her old friend. Carter says that he is here because he needs Xanadu’s help. Xanadu brings Carter to the back of her shop for tea.
The two sit down at a table. Carter reveals the Nautilus of Revealment to Xanadu. Carter says that he feels like there is something about himself that he does not know. He feels like all of his research and ruin-running was never about history at all. That it was about his story.
Xanadu agrees to help Carter use the Nautilus in order to reveal his true self. But, that she wants to keep the Nautilus as payment for her services. Carter agrees.
Xanadu cuts Carter’s hand and his blood drips onto the Nautilus. Xanadu then says a spell. Suddenly, the floor beneath Carter disappears and Carter falls through it.
We see Carter falling through all the images of his past lives. We see Prince Khufu Maat Kha-tar of ancient Egypt and various different forms like a medieval knight that Carter has had on Earth. But, we also see Katar Hol of Thanagar. Carter says that he thought that life belonged to another. Then we see Catar-Ol of Krypton. Carter says that he never knew this life existed at all. Carter then says that he has not been reincarnated across time. That he has been reincarnate across time and space.
Suddenly, Carter falls into a different reality. It is Earth at some point in the future. Everything has been destroyed. The skies are red. We see giant winged armored figures surveying their destruction of Earth. Carter says that it started with an origin long forgotten. One that will bring the slaughter to him and all fo the worlds he has known. Carter says that he is the only one who can stop it.
We then cut to Carter screaming out and lying on the floor of Xanadu’s kitchen. Carter asks Xanadu to do it again. That he needs to see his vision again. Xanadu says that she cannot do it again.
Xanadu says that she saw everything that Carter saw in his vision. Xanadu asks who is Catar-Ol of Krypton and Katarthul of Rann? Carter says that they are him. Carter says that there is something he is supposed to do. A mission. Or Earth will die. Carter wonders if this is why he has been reincarnated. Carter wonders why he cannot remember. Carter asks how is he supposed to stop something if he does not know what it is.
Xanadu replies that she does not know. That all she can foretell is that Carter will die a hundred more deaths before he knows the answer.
Carter thinks how this is outward exploration and discovery within. Carter thinks that the answer must be in his past. That he must find it. That there is more to his story. That he is Carter Hall. He is Hawkman. And that he is already too late. End of issue.
The Good: Hawkman #1 was an excellent read. But, that is no surprise given the talented creative team in Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch. What was surprising was how Hawkman #1 helped to recalibrate Hawkman’s character and present this franchise as new reader friendly. ’
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, Hawkman is an incredibly daunting franchise for any writer to handle. There are few DC characters who have been more poorly handled than Hawkman. DC has constantly bumbled Hawkman’s character. DC has constantly radically redefined Hawkman over the past several decades to the point that Hawkman’s continuity is an absolute hot mess. It is nearly impossible to explain Hawkman’s continuity to any new reader. It is hard for long-time readers to be able to understand and properly dissect all the different versions of Hawkman that we have been given over the past few decades.
There is no doubt that Hawkman is an iconic DC character. Hawkman is right up there with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman as classic and iconic characters with an incredible history. Hawkman first appeared all the way back in Flash Comics #1 in 1940. When it comes to pedigree, not many characters can compare to Hawkman. And this pedigree and iconic stature is what has made DC’s constant, and sometimes incompetent, mishandling of Hawkman’s character so maddening.
Venditti’s seemingly impossible task with Hawkman #1 was first and foremost to give Hawkman a clearly identifiable character and theme. Second, Venditti needed to effectively clean up the complete mess that is Hawkman’s fractured and sloppy continuity. Third, Venditti had to do all of this work and still make the story new reader friendly. This was a seemingly impossible task that DC had given Venditti. And it is a credit to Venditti’s writing prowess that he was able to deliver a hat trick with Hawkman #1 and pull of all three goals.
First, Venditti gives Hawkman a well defined personality and theme to his character. Venditti chooses the classic Golden Age version of Hawkman as the foundation for this new Hawkman title. The Golden Age Hawkman was originally an ancient Egyptian prince named Khufu. Khufu is killed and then reincarnated in 1940 as Carter Hall. Carter Hall was an American archeologist.
Venditti then takes the Golden Age version of Hawkman and adds a brand new twist to the character’s personality and theme. Basically, Venditti re-imagines Carter Hall as an Indiana Jones styled character. I love it.
This is the perfect way to view and define Carter’s character. Carter’s traditional role of being an archeologist and also having lived numerous lives going all the way back to when he was a prince in ancient Egypt fits perfectly with the role of an Indiana Jones style character. This also meshes wonderfully with Carter’s role as an archeologist.
This new addition to Carter’s character gives some spiciness to his character as an action/adventure style character who engages in Indiana Jones styled missions. This reimagining of Carter’s character helps make him a much more exciting and swashbuckling character.
This is a brilliant move by Venditti that helps give Carter his own unique role within the DCU. I am glad that Venditti avoided making Carter just another super hero or making Carter just another Sci Fi character. There are not any other Indiana Jones themed characters among the super heroes in the DCU.
This effectively gives Carter his own unique personality and theme to his character. This also helps Carter stand out among the crowded field of super heroes in the DCU. With this approach, Venditti gives Carter his own unique role to play in the DCU.
I dig that Venditti makes Carter a super hero who straddles the action/adventure genre and the magical/mystical genre. Venditti then adds a dash of the Sci Fi and super hero genres to the mix. It is a wonderfully unique and entertaining mixture that helps give Hawkman his own exciting and creative vibe.
The second goal of cleaning up Hawkman’s messy continuity was pulled off in brilliant fashion. Venditti succinctly and effectively acknowledged all of Hawkman’s prior versions in the two page splash shot of Carter’s vision. Venditti then has Carter come out of his vision with the revelation that he has not just lived many lives through time. But, that he has lived many lives through space and time.
In one succinct and clear moment, Venditti wipes away all of Hawkman’s continuity issues by having every version of Hawkman all being a prior life of Carter Hall. By adding the new dimension of Carter living prior lives through different points of space, Venditti is able to effectively explain away the numerous different non-Earth versions of Hawkman.
The first big reveal is that the Hawkman in Hawkman #1 is not the New 52 Hawkman. The second big reveal is that Venditti made Katar Hol just another past life of Carter Hall. Katar Hol was the Hawkman of the Silver Age who first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #34 in 1961. Gone was Earth born Carter Hall. Instead, DC gave us Katar Hol who was from Thanagar.
This is a big moment in Hawkman #1. Not only does Venditti effectively fold the Silver Age Hawkman into the Golden Age Hawkman, but Vendetti also firmly re-establishes the pre-New 52 Golden Age Hawkman back into the DCU.
The simple concept of Carter having lived many lives across time and space was such a neat and effective way to fold in the other main version of Hawkman’s character into one cohesive continuity for Carter Hall. This was an inventive way to streamline Hawkman’s continuity.
However, Venditti could not stop with just that. Venditti went ahead and teased a few other past lives Carter Hall has lived. Those include Catar-Ol of Krypton and Katarthul of Rann. I love that Venditti took this opportunity to not just clean up past continuity but also create some new continuity threads as well. I dig the concept of Carter Hall having lived different lives across space. I definitely look forward to learning more about these past lives of Carter Hall. These are seeds of what could bloom into interesting stories to visit in the future.
I also liked the touch of having Carter Hall be from Rann as well as from Thanagar. This is neat because Rann is the a long-time enemy of Thanagar. This rivalry even had its own mini-series in the Rann-Thanagar War.
The third and final goal was to make Hawkman #1 new reader friendly. This is vitally important. The fact that Hawkman’s continuity is such a mess and the fact that this franchise has been started and stopped so many times with large gaps of time between each attempt all combine to scare off readers from giving a new Hawkman title a try.
Amazingly, Venditti is able to take a character with a messy continuity and perform some serious continuity work in an effort to streamline things while still adding a few new wrinkles and to deliver it in a fashion that is very new reader friendly. It is impressive. The reader does not need to know absolutely anything at all about Hawkman in order to clearly understand and enjoy Hawkman #1.
Venditti goes out of his way to make sure that he clearly conveys Carter Hall’s personality. Venditti effectively conveys to the reader the theme of this new Hawkman title and what type of story that the reader can expect to get on this new title. Venditti also lets the reader know the mission statement of this new title. Venditti also swiftly installs the debut story arc. The reader gets a clear sense of Carter’s character and that Hawkman is going to deliver a fun swashbuckling style action and adventure story each month.
Venditti delivers strong character work and dialogue with this issue. Obviously, Carter Hall is the clear focus of this issue and receives all of the character work. Venditti does a nice job giving Carter a well developed personality. I dig that Venditti is giving Carter a properly weathered and aged feel to his personality that works wonderfully with his character’s theme.
Venditti is also able to give Carter a nice unique external voice. Carter’s inner narration is well crafted. It is clear that Venditti put a lot of effort and heart into writing this narration. Venditti shows off his skills as a wordsmith as the narration has an almost lyrical and poetic vibe with the rich descriptions and word choice.
Hawkman #1 is a well paced and plotted issue. Venditti moves the story along with a clear purpose in mind. There are no slow or dull moments in this issue. Venditti gives the reader enough action to make this issue a lively read. Venditti also quickly establishes the main plot line with the mysterious threat to the Earth. But, that is not all. Venditti also sets up smaller plot lines involving the new past lives of Carter including the Hawkman of Rann and the Hawkman of Krypton. Venditti does an excellent job setting up several mysteries surrounding Carter’s past.
I like that Venditti has established a double mission with this title. The first mission is the obvious external one involving the mysterious threat to Earth. The second mission is the nuanced internal one involving Carter learning more about himself and his past.
Venditti kicks Hawkman #1 off with a great four page opening scene. This scene quickly and effectively sets the Indiana Jones action and adventure theme for Carter’s character and the story in general. This immediately pulls the reader into Hawkman’s world and lets them know what kind of story they are in store for with this debut issue.
We then get a two page flashback scene which fills in some backstory and also gives new readers an introduction to Carter’s past and how many times he has been reincarnated and in what roles. This scene also establishes the Golden Age continuity of Carter originally being an ancient Egyptian prince. I like how this short scene is able to give the reader a good sense of history to Hawkman. This scene is a testament to Venditti’s condensed writing. Venditti is able to perform several tasks in just two pages. This is a skill other writers would do well to learn.
Venditti then treats the reader to an awesome eight page action scene. Venditti delivers inner narration from Carter that serves as the spine for this action scene. This is an exciting and entertaining scene that entertains the reader while also giving a new reader a good feel for Carter’s character. I appreciate that Venditti is able to employ an action scene in order or perform more than one goal.
Venditti then ends Hawkman #1 with an excellent eight page scene at Xanadu’s shop. This scene also includes the powerful four page vision where Carter learns more about his past. This was a wonderfully written scene. This is where Venditti does the bulk of his plotting for the short term and long term goals with this title. This scene gives the story some depth and nuance. Venditti succeeds in hooking the reader with the mysteries surrounding Carter’s past lives as well as the mysterious threat to Earth.
As usual, Bryan Hitch delivers some strong artwork in Hawkman #1. Hitch gives Hawkman #1 a wonderfully grand cinematic look to it. Hitch does a phenomenal job with the action scenes. They are packed with detail and look gorgeous. I also like how properly weather Hitch draws Carter Hall. It matches nicely with how Venditti has re-imagined Carter’s character.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Hawkman #1 is a great read. Venditti and Hitch deliver an exciting debut issue. Venditti is able to create a new look for Hawkman that makes this title stand out from the rest of the super hero titles that crowd the shelves. If you like action and adventure stories then you will certainly enjoy Hawkman. This is a title that places an emphasis on fun and excitement.
Once again, DC rolls out another comic book whose number one focus is to entertain the reader. You cannot ask for anything more than that from a mainstream super hero comic. Hawkman #1 is absolutely worth the price of admission and it definitely deserves strong reader support.