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Justice is like a Hawk

Brian Hibbs

Sorry for that title, heh, just been rereading WATCHMEN again.

HAWKMAN SPECIAL #1: If you had told me 10 or 15 years ago that Jim Starlin would be writing and drawing HAWKMAN, I would have probably been pretty, “Wow, that sounds AWEsome, let’s order a ton!”, but come 2008 my response was far more muted because Starlin has had a string of fairly mediocre books lately. Nothing particularly awful or anything, but neither nothing that I’ve thought was exceptional, or that sold well.

It’s also marketed as a tie-in to the RANN/THANAGAR HOLY WAR mini, which isn’t selling as well as it should either.

But, oddly, maybe this should have been marketed as a FINAL CRISIS book — it talks more directly about “CRISIS-y” stuff than something like ROGUES REVENGE or REQUIEM did.

See, apparently Hawkman’s origin has changed yet again, and no, he never was a reincarnated Egyptian through the ages, that was all a lie. He was… well the comic never explicitly tells you WHAT his new origin really is, but I think you’re meant to infer that it has gone back to the Thanagarian one, but WHICH of those (Silver Age or HAWKWORLD) isn’t at all laid out.

Which just leaves me sputtering “Buh? Wuh? Guh?” Does this make Hawkman the most rebooted origin of all? Seriously, doubleyou-tee-eff? I think DC might actually believes that the reason that no one buys a HAWKMAN comic in the long run is that they don’t like his origin. But, really, it’s just that, in the long-run, most customers don’t want to purchase a comic of a second-stringer. Unless there’s a splendid reason to.

Like, Mike Grell can get GREEN ARROW to sell as a mini-series, and the monthly that spun out of that started strong… but within a year or so (as I remember it, and not looking at a sales chart), the audience started slipping away, because, naturally, it was Green Arrow after all. Sure, then Kevin Smith can come on a new GREEN ARROW, and it sells like free money, but after he leaves, a year or so later, and it sells like Green Arrow does, again.

Hawkman is like this, The Atom, Spectre, The Demon, and a whole host of other characters. They’re all great characters, really, be it visually, powerswise, or something like that, but they’re not actually sustainable on their own. You can sell someone a mini-series about them, if it is good, but trying to do a monthly comic will almost certainly get you canceled within five years. These characters are great on teams, though, or playing off of other characters. Everyone likes them, but few want to buy them.

Sometimes what they try to do is keep changing the status quo. Look at The Atom. He’s been turned into a barbarian, or reset to a teenager, or had his wife go crazy and had him go wandering the multiverse, and now he’s (maybe… but maybe not since Grant hasn’t shown it, and it really looks like that entire year of COUNTDOWN has been moved into “didn’t happen” territory if Grant doesn’t show it) Monitoring the Monitors.

None of the other changes stuck, and no other change like most of those CAN stick, because it takes him away from the DC universe-proper — and to the extent that people care at all about The Atom, it is in the context of the DCU, yes?

Hawkman hasn’t been removed from play before, but they play merry havoc with him all of the time, and now neither the reader nor the character have any idea who he really is — Hawkman is explicit on that point at least in the comic, on his knees and clutching his head, even, when he says it. On the plus side, he’s now one of “The Aberrant Six”, which, really, just sounds awful. I’d rather be in the Inferior Five…

And reading between the lines in this book and things Starlin said in a recent interview, it seems like there’s going to be a monthly Hawkman comic that he’s going to write (and draw?), and I guess this is the set up for it.

Problem is, it really isn’t a story. It’s all set up. Things get subtracted, but nothing concrete gets added other than setup for some other story at some other ill-defined point of time. And I don’t like the subtraction. “Reincarnated Egyptian warrior fighting a curse of destiny through the ages” is romantic, multiplies story possibilities, gives clear motivation, but allows you to fit any past version in at will, and allows any future changes to come cleanly. It’s a dumb thing to throw away for a single storyline, just like killing off the Green Lantern Corps was dumb — even if no one is using it at the time, it’s the kind of broad “any story can fit in this box” concept that you don’t want to pitch to the side.

The shame of it all is that Starlin draws Hawkman VERY well, with bold shots, and lots of cosmic, and really nice page and panel layouts, creating a book that moves right along even though it is essentially xx pages of two guys standing around and talking. Just looking at the art alone, I might have said “VERY GOOD” on the rating, because that’s just some nice looking, dynamic comics art. But, there isn’t a story, per se, and ugh, the “meta-story” is just plain AWFUL, and at the end of the day that’s what matters to me.

What did YOU think?


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