Review: Death of Hawkman trade paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

I picked up Death of Hawkman after I read Dark Days: The Road to Metal, expecting that what references to Hawkman there, and their incongruity with what I remembered of Hawkman's New 52 depictions, might be explained. No such luck. Indeed if you're fuzzy on Hawkman's New 52 iteration but have a pretty good sense of the JSA Hawkman pre-Flashpoint, you might very well skip Death of Hawkman, as it won't add anything and will only confuse you more. Given this book's few-to-no overt ties to Metal, I must suspect that what we have here is an entirely separate, previously planned Adam Strange/Hawkman miniseries, shoehorned into its new role by way of a title change and some rewrites (it was originally announced as Adam Strange/Hawkman: Out of Time, a phrase that still appears on the credits pages).

For over ten years DC Comics has been semi-continuously publishing a series of related cosmic miniseries, starting with Dave Gibbons' Infinite Crisis tie-in Rann-Thanagar War and continuing through a variety of books mostly written by Jim Starlin; Death of Hawkman does not offer the parade of cosmic heroes that Starlin's books did, but it is in the same vein and feels like something of a continuation. That's good and bad; I quit reading those "Starlin-verse" books some years ago because the stories weren't that gripping or suspenseful, and most of Hawkman as well is just trite quips and basic fight scenes. Somewhere out there is an Adam Strange fan glad to see the character still (semi-)headlining miniseries and I appreciate that, though I'm not sure this necessarily does Strange any favors. Hopefully Marc Andreyko's forthcoming Supergirl run is more Manhunter than Hawkman.

[Review contains spoilers]

The cover of this book's first issue spoils that Despero is the villain here, even though it's not until the second issue that Despero is revealed (though with little fanfare). That's the kind of on-the-nose that Death of Hawkman is. By virtue of Despero's mind-control influence, Adam's wife Alanna leads Rann to war with Thanagar after a supposed terrorist attack; Adam sees the truth and so teams up with Hawkman against Despero. We end up then with a considerable number of sequences in which everyone's crazed except Adam, including a few where Adam or others have to talk down his seemingly overemotional wife, the kind of trope for which Andreyko should know better. Ultimately there's little nuance to the book beyond the good guys being right and the bad guy being wrong; Despero's grand plan is no more or less than simply going to Earth, killing all the superheroes, and then at that point he believes he'll be ruler of the universe.

We have seen mature Adam Strange books before and we've seen Adam Strange played as swashbuckling hero. Andreyko's book is in many respects a buddy comedy, with Hawkman as the heavy and Adam as the comic relief, with a tone that evokes the glory days of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Surely there's a place for that, but the extended sequence of Adam embarrassed by a naked Hawkman seemed more squirrelly than I necessarily think of Adam Strange. Andreyko presents Adam as uncertain, wondering at one point, "What ever made me think I was a hero?" In the same scene Adam is nervous about killing his enemies, and later he fights off motion sickness; Andreyko's idea of Adam Strange simply didn't jibe with what I was expecting.

Andreyko can be better forgiven for having an equally indistinct Hawkma here, given that, after some years of a comprehensible Hawkman, the New 52 muddied the character and then never sorted him out. We find Hawkman now as a "wingman" on Thanagar, some never-quite-defined subset of the Thanagarian police; he is (for reasons not explained) an ultra-violent "loose cannon," also prone to over-drinking and one night stands. Nor do we find out why Hawkman's Nth metal is failing him besides being told that it is, and the "death" of Hawkman involves him expelling that Nth metal from his body, even though to my recollection that's never been one of his abilities. Again, anyone seeking clarity on Hawkman would do better to look elsewhere; the same way that Dark Days: The Road to Metal sweeps the New 52 Hawkman under the rug, so too does it ignore the events of this book.

I have certainly liked Aaron Lopresti's wide, animated work; Christy Marx's YA-slanted Sword of Sorcery Vol. 1: Ameythst comes to mind as one where Lopresti beautifully rendered a fantastical world. And it's not as though Lopresti can't draw drama or violence, either; Gail Simone's Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian was a particularly wrenching story well drawn by Lopresti. But in the same way that the stakes in Death are fairly low -- we know Despero's controlling everyone, we know Adam will make it out OK, we know Hawkman will die, the planet full of people that's destroyed will never be heard of again -- Lopresti's generally friendly style does not lend any suspense or sophistication to the proceedings; I don't think this was the artist this book needed.

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Ridiculous as it may sound, a mild bright spot in Death of Hawkman was Marc Andreyko's use of Green Lanterns Varth Sarn and Isamot Kol, headliners of the Green Lantern Corps title way back in the mid-2000s. I was pleased to see Andreyko use them instead of inventing some new Lanterns, and when Kol seemed to have died, I was genuinely emotional (for perhaps the book's only time). I also found the brief sequences with new Thanagarian Lantern Rayn Kral interesting -- though the ring should not have gone to Kral, I don't think, when Kol was still alive. But that good is offset by this book's mistakes, not the least of which is a cover that depicts Hawkwoman despite that she appears nowhere in this book (she's mentioned in some solicitations, too). Surely shifting story priorities are more to blame for all of this than any member of the creative team, but hopefully Hawkman's next iteration treats him better than this.

[Includes original and variant covers, cover sketches]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Death of Hawkman
Author Rating
2 (scale of 1 to 5)
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5 comments:

  1. Pretty much my concerns. I stopped reading Savage Hawkman after a couple of issues, so I really don't know what the N52 Hawkman was to be about but this book didn't really fill me in on that.

    I love the Bronze Age Hawkman and ever since COIE it seems DC has just mucked up Hawkman beyond any kind of recognition. He's a great character, but the absence of Hawkgirl/woman as his steady partner has really done a disservice to him. I see Hawkgirl will be part of the new Justice League line up, but I think as a character she's as damaged as Hawkman.

    I didn't mind Andreyko's Strange all that much, and was glad to see him as he's a favorite of mine. I hope he'll show up more in the current DCU going forward. I'd love to see a revival of L.E.G.I.O.N. with Adam as a staring lead.

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    1. I rather hope we see LEGION branching out of *redacted* even just as supporting characters. Really we're long since past when LEGION ought have been collected.

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  2. Oh, oh, oh, I'm that Adam Strange fan you mentioned!

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    1. How'd you feel this Adam Strange compared?

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  3. I am a fan of DC's cosmic bent (like you, I agree that Starlin's series-of-miniseries started strong but eventually soured), and was excited when this series was announced as Adam Strange/Hawkman: Out of Time, but as soon as it became "Death of Hawkman," I was out of there because it sounded like the worst kind of mess.

    "Wingmen" come from HAWKWORLD. There they're the winged police of decadent, fascist Thanagar.

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