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WHttDCnU? – Savage Hawkman: Darkness Rising

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Hello and welcome back to WHttDCnU? As Vigil and I race off after our encounter with The Flash, we leave DC’s flying powerhouse The Savage Hawkman in the capable hands of Wasusa and the Crimson Hound! Hawkman has changed little since his first appearance in Flash Comics #1 and his long stint in the Justice Society of America, although his back story has been slightly altered many times involving ancient Egyptian roots and an alien planet called Thanagar full of winged warriors. His trademark magic wings and Nth metal weaponry seem to have carried over into the new universe however, along with a new history and a new path to follow; will Carter Hall rise to be a ferocious glinting sky warrior, or does he risk flying too close to the sun? Find out now, on:

Whatever Happened to the DC New Universe?

– QueenQeeko

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

wasusa-rSomeone talks about killing Hawkman, something about the nth metal, shoots it, sets it on fire, then it roars up in the fiery image of a hawk.

Welcome to Savage Hawkman, where the Universe reboot just seems to mean that stuff happened before that they’ll tell us about later.

We’re on a research vessel. Somebody named Carter isn’t there. We jump to the man who shot and burned the nth metal.

Turns out, it attacked him, and he doesn’t remember getting home. This man is Carter. He goes to the lab, there’s an alien artefact, and goop monsters are released and start killing people. Carter starts fighting, and the nth metal bursts out of his skin while he fights. The head goop, Morphicus fights him then absorbs the nth metal.

Turns out, he only steals about half of it, then the other half abandons him. We then jump to a “none lethal alternative studies” headquarters, and meet some shady people doing shady things in the name of the government. Something about a subject escaping and being sought is mentioned, then we jump back to carter. Turns out, nobody saw him in Hawkmode despite transforming in the middle of the lab, we have an argument about the ethics and cost of progress. He jumps out a window, because the metal in his head says to. The story then jumps to Manhattan. Morphicus is named as a Xenusian, and apparently they wiped out some other race called Vexaphons, though one called Waker is now here to… save Morphicus? This is issue 2 and I’m straight up lost, guys. Back to Hawkman, he flies for a bit, goes back to his apartment, hands over a chest to his grumpy landlord which apparently contains something that fixes everything. Carter can now sort of decipher the alien writing because of the metal in his head, but is interrupted when the daughter of the expedition leader (called Emma) turns up. They talk, she leaves, we jump back to the NLAS HQ. Walker took Morphicus there, Walker and Morphicus are then promptly killed by a woman with a strange arm named Askana, and now they continue work on the extinction virus.

Morphicus was imprisoned for all time, apparently. He has a weakness, though it’s cut off through a poorly timed self-destruct sequence on his container. Also, he’s not dead. They changed their minds about him. He’s to be dissected, cut into, and otherwise studied for military applications. Apparently, someone named Terrance could be responsible for releasing Morphicus, and he’s a member of the research team. Hawkman finds, then saves him from an alien dog thing. A light beating later and it’s confirmed, with Terrance taking Hawkman to morphicus. Turns out, Morphicus is composed of 12 separate organisms, and the NLAS have separated them now. Askana seems to be some kind of lizard lady. Askana and hawkman fight, Terrance is actually a plague creature and Morphicus absorbs him to regenerate.

Oh, so Askana is a shape shifter, not lizard lady. Why they waited for 3 issues to explain that is beyond me. Anyway, she and Hawkman are now teamed up against Morphicus. Lots of fighting, jump to an “elsewhere” that’s on a spaceship with no information then an immediate jump back to the fights. Fighting happens, Morphicus is frozen, turns out walker was both on the spaceship, turns up at the end of the earth fight AND is not dead. Hawkman steals all genetic material back off the head Lab person, then the fight ends, they walk around, and all carter can see are zombie people.

Carter spends the issue freaking out about appearing and disappearing apparitions, receives a book which contains information about an orb which can vanquish the dead, undead, and their inbetween allies, then rushes off to find the source of this book only to run into actual ghosts who can harm him while covered in the nth metal, and also their apparent boss, who wears a monacle. He seems to be dubbed “Gentleman Ghost.”

We then have the exhumation of a warlock, who happened to find this orb during his life, Hawkman touches it and somehow the nth metal breaks a spell negating its power, gentleman ghost takes the orb, the dead come back to life, and gentleman ghost flies off towards the city to use the inhabitants life force as energy for his own resurrection.

Chasing the orb, Hawkman fights undead, runs into Static Shock, fights more undead, gets to a mansion, fights more undead, then is promptly not needed as the warlock comes back from hell and takes out gentleman ghost. Snatching the orb before it falls into the depths, Hawkman drops it into an abyss in Antarctica. Flying back to the city, he gets smacked in the face Askana, who we haven’t seen for a while.

WHTTDCNU-art

crimson-hound-lThe art for Savage Hawkman is actually pretty standard. The book is supposed to be gritty and that’s what the art does just fine. The zombies are stock but still look like zombies, aliens look like aliens, and normal everyday people are drawn well. Really though that’s okay, as a book about a guy that flies and can make weapons appear from his hand doesn’t need anything fancy art wise. In fact I like it, especially when it came to certain baddies like Gentleman Ghost or Morphicius. Also small details like when Hawkman uses his weapons they’re all “spiky”, it reminds me of Witchblade actually, just you know not as kinky.

Actually that’s kind of what this book feels like on a whole art wise, very edgy and gritty but it works well enough that it compliments the story that is being told. The water color style also gives it a very washed look but other than that nothing really stands out for me art wise. Action scenes weren’t very unique but they were detailed and pretty gory, other than that nothing really sets the book apart art wise from the other stuff I’ve read. Solid but I would have liked to see more of what could be done with the art with this book.

wasusa-rHawkman suffers from an oversaturation of visual information. There’s something happening everywhere, in every panel. While I feel like this is a good feature for a comic to have, when you take these highly detailed, busy panels then lay them over each other what you get is a violent blur of backgrounds and actions. Adding to the confusion is a lack of visual flow between the panels in most issues, with the eye being drawn away from the nominal reading direction. I also have an issue with the colour pallet- several of the scenes feature dark browns on more dark brown with a little bit of light brown for good measure, for example. The lack of contrast makes it difficult to see what’s going on and detracts from what is for the most part wonderfully detailed and consistent character and background art.

WHTTDCNU-writing

crimson-hound-lHonestly I actually liked the writing for Hawkman by Tony S. Daniel. I haven’t read much with the character outside of a few crossover stories here and there but whenever I saw the character I found myself interested in picking up his series but never really found the time to actually hunt down stuff for Hawkman. The villains are hammy but in the enjoyable sense and the way Carter is written as an intelligent, frustrated, and snarky character made the story likeable. There is the mystery of how exactly Carter came by the Nth Metal but I feel we’re given clues a little too piece-meal this time around. I do like the idea that the Nth Metal is basically a Symbiote, although I wish we knew more what exactly it can do. Is it mystical, scientific, or both? Does Carter have complete control or does it have a mind of its own and is just helping him for its own survival? Why is it that it doesn’t show how Carter is the latest incarnation of the Thanagarians that arrived on Earth during Ancient Times? Why haven’t we been given more information about the Thanagarians? A lot of questions but no clear answers here and it’s a tragedy that the book never really took off as I would have liked to see where that would have gone.

wasusa-rThree words: not a fan. The series goes for dynamic or natural character introduction which partially works and partially doesn’t. We’re introduced to Terrence and Carter through a set up scene somewhere both of them aren’t, with a character going “Where is Carter, if Terrence can’t find him get him to find me someone else”, followed by a jump to an apartment door being opened and the statement “Terrence! Why are you here!”. That works here. Othertimes, the names are dropped in normal conversation where there is no ambiguity as to who’s going to be who, which also works. When they’re coy to the point that I only find out the character’s name (Cough Gentleman Ghost Cough) from the title spoiler for the next issue, you’ve botched your introduction something fierce. In terms of plot progression… could be smoother. We blast through the morphicus half arc in 4 issues, then move through the undead in two, cramming in an absurd amount of exposition into every fight, often to the point of actual action happening off screen while we see only the aftermath. This is despite Hawkman being there, and there being no reason to have told, rather than shown, what was going on.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

crimson-hound-lOne of the flaws in this book is the lack of character in its characters. To be fair, Carter Hall is the center of the book and he’s got his traits that I mentioned above in the writing but his supporting characters are pretty much stock: obvious love interest/friend character that “knows” Carter’s secret, her father/Carter’s boss that is shady but is clearly a man with good intentions, and of course his creepy neighbor that is a womanizer but he also genuinely cares about what happens to Carter.

Upside is we also get to see Static Shock, and the banter between Carter and him is a breath of fresh air. It is made even better seeing Hawkman genuinely being impressed with Static as a hero and it makes me want to see them on a team together with them doing banter and kicking major ass. The use of villains here were a nice mix: alien and mystical. Are alien was of course the hilariously names Morphicious, which is just the cheesiest villain name I’ve ever heard this side of a TV Executive’s idea of how nerds would make RPG villain names. Actually Morphicious was an interesting villain with his ability to absorb and split himself, he also gave some nice hints to Carter. Our other villain was Gentleman Ghost, who looks vastly different from his appearance on Brave and the Bold cartoon series, and he’s actually pretty scary in this one. In fact I want to see Gentleman Ghost be a main villain for someone like Deadman or the Justice League Dark, hell bring him back if possible for Hawkman.

wasusa-rWell, the characters and their motivations are reasonably poorly defined, except for Morphicus. Hawkman… wants to protect people. That’s his defining character trait. That and he has a metal which can burst out of his skin at any time. He shows no sort of development through either of these arcs, but I’m not surprised, there isn’t really any space.

Morphicus, it’s pretty clear he wants to spread his plague and consume the planet. That’s his schtick, and he’s consistent with it at least. Except then for some reason his arc ends with a “Oh hey, that bitter cold from the time you were at the bottom of the ocean is slowly killing you”, despite the fact that he’s just completely regenerated from a plague host that wasn’t stuck there with him. Oh, and this revalation is then made moot by actually freezing him, making the whole “dying” (It’s DC. I call shenanigans on death) slowly point kind of moot.

The side characters, one of whom I’m reasonably sure is meant to be a love interest at some point, are bland and uninteresting.

Gentleman ghost… We’ve got no reason for the timing of his appearance, or how he thinks that an orb that was used to vanquish the dead can somehow bring them back to life as well, but hey an undead villain said it, it must be true. We also don’t have a how he’s undead at that point, or controlling ghostly legions either.

The guy in charge of NLAS and Askana, they reference some kind of doomsday plague which is never adequately explained, and he just straight up dies while Askana shows up to fight for no obvious reason at the end of issue 7, as far as I can tell just for funsies.

Yep, Hawkman certainly has a stand up cast with strong motivations and characterisation, that’s for sure.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

crimson-hound-lSavage Hawkman was a surprisingly fun read and I am disappointed that it never got past its first eight issues as there is clearly a lot of potential for good storytelling in this book.

Is it ground breaking or one of the best things I’ve read? No but hey I’m glad I read something that got me more interested in a character and want to see more of.

If you manage to get it at a bargain price you won’t be disappointed with your read but other than that you really aren’t missing much in my opinion.

wasusa-rHawkman is just straight up meh. The art itself is excellent with the exception of the oftentimes limited colour pallet, but it’s not enough to save Hawkman from my junk pile. I can see what they were trying to do in places: The orb ends up not sealed but just displaced from anyone who could easily get to it, the Morphicus plot thread isn’t truly resolved – they’re setups for something bigger later on. The problem is those plot threads are on their own weak enough that I don’t care for their resolution – This is the DC universe. It gets more beatings than a punching bag. If your hook is “oh yeah, something will happen later”, I’ll just go read something which has decent characterisation where the same thing is happening. The characters had 0 appeal to me, and in a medium where the characters are the naming convention, that’s a problem. Would not recommend.

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