Review: Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening trade paperback (DC Comics)


Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch's Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening is an auspicious start for the new series. What the book lacks in coherency, it more than makes up for in intrigue and cool concepts, not to mention six issues of Hitch's art. Venditti offers Hawkman fans of all eras the ability to have their cake and eat it too, surpassing even in that manner Geoff Johns' last good Hawkman take. Just as Venditti did the impossible following Johns on Green Lantern and creating something that felt equally fresh and workable, so too does Venditti seem on the right track here.

[Review contains spoilers]

Among Venditti's contributions to the Hawkman mythos is to posit that original Hawkman Carter Hall has been reincarnated across both time and space, and as pal Atom Ray Palmer says, possibly not even chronologically. This not only suggests that Carter may have been many more past "Hawkmen" than he originally thought — not just earthbound, human DC western heroes and the Egyptian Prince Khufu, but also a Rannian Hawkman and a Kryptonian Hawkman, among others. Still another of those lives seems to be revealed as Katar Hol, the popular but perpetually continuity-challenged Hawkman of the post-Crisis era.

Said continuity issues involve 1960s character Katar Hol being rebooted from scratch in the 1980s and many of his previous adventures being grafted on to Carter Hall. The second Katar and Carter did interact and were later even combined into one being, but not in a way that stuck. What Venditti accomplishes here is to again create a Carter who is also Katar, but without the strangeness of their being a hybrid being or one taking a backseat to another. Instead, Carter was always Katar, even when they were contemporaries; Carter can access in one way or another Katar's experiences; and possibly the linearity-be-damned suggests Carter and Katar could even be contemporaries now (though I think Katar is presumed dead as of Marc Andreyko's Death of Hawkman, and indeed these developments make the who's and what's of Andreyko's story make a little more sense, too).

Abandoning both Earth and linearity allows Venditti to tell some really imaginative stories. The first couple issues tread worn Hawkman ground — the fight with the big stone gorilla is fun, but then Carter's back to ancient Egypt for the umpteenth time. But the book picks up when Carter finds himself time-transported back to Thanagar in Katar Hol's early years, and then to the present-day Microverse for a team up with the Atom. All this and Dinosaur Island, too; by extending the venues of Carter's past (and future) lives indefinitely and making all of them immediately accessible, Venditti's created a scenario in which nothing's impossible and it wouldn't be difficult to slot Hawkman into any kind of story or DC locale imaginable.

It's been posited before that Carter's series of reincarnations give him far-reaching connections — that he or his ancestors know a lot of people. Venditti plays this up well, however, with a Carter somewhat unmoored but able to rely on the kindness of almost an army of well-wishers for food, shelter, and information. Moreover, as Carter continues on the scavenger hunt to find warnings left for him by his past lives of a coming threat, he begins to find allies waiting for him that he didn't know he had. The time travel sci-fi aesthetic is strong, both in this and in Carter's ability to retrieve artifacts from his visions of his past lives; I appreciate that Venditti doesn't seem hesitant to let it get a little complicated, as good time travel fiction does.

There is nary a mention of Barbatos here, nor the events of Dark Nights: Metal or the circumstances that brought Carter into the Dark Multiverse — nor the existence of Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders. It's all forgivable, because my guess is that given lead-time, Venditti had to have been putting this together while Dark Nights: Metal was also still being fine-tuned. But, while we have a story with a better-than-average mix of action, character development, and sci-fi esoterica (requiring a chalkboard, even!), a new reader wouldn't come away knowing who Carter Hall is, where he grew up, how long he's been Hawkman, whether he was ever in the Justice League, etc. — mainly I imagine because Venditti might not know yet either. That's a hole in this book, though one I think Venditti writes around exceptionally well.

Bryan Hitch is as good as ever here, getting to draw a variety of expansive sky battles, exotic locales, and big monsters. Some of the lens flares and such look straight out of Authority, for which some credit goes to colorists Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper. See, for instance, the shine on Hawkman's new "boomerang" mace, which reminds strongly of Authority effects in depictions of Apollo.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening

Finishing Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening, one simply wants more. Unfortunately, for some reason the first Hawkman collection trailed nearly all the post-Metal "New Age of Heroes" collections by a while; issue #14 of the book is already out, and Hawkman will be at issue #20 before the arrival of the next trade. This book is good and I'd like to see it continue — to see DC finally work their way out of the Hawkman quandary — and timely collections to support the regular series seems to me a must.

[Includes original and variant covers, page pencils]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening
Author Rating
4.25 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Thanks heaps for the review CE. I love Hawkman but was unsure about getting this new take. You've convinced me to give it a go!
    I've never had a bad read from a positive review you have given

  2. Excellent review. I've been reading the current HAWKMAN series as issues are released, mainly because I was wondering how they would deal with the JSA-era Hawkman, a character that will soon be back in the DCU. I thought Geoff Johns did great work with untangling Hawkman's single Earth (and, later, Earth-0 or Prime Earth) continuity, but Robert Venditti took that as a foundation and expanded upon it in a way that it seemingly enlarges AND focuses the Hawkman mythos at the same time. HAWKMAN is must-read for me, I just can't wait for trade.


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