Review: Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer trade paperback (DC Comics)

 ·  1 comment

I'm always pleased when DC Comics gives Hawkman another go; most assuredly the character's history is not as complicated as he has a reputation for and there have been a couple of particularly good runs over the years, so I'm usually game to try again. Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch's first new Hawkman volume was quite good, building on recent Hawkman paradigms in expansive ways.

This second volume, Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer, does not quite live up to the first; the book starts out very well, but peters out toward the end. Many mysteries are resolved here, which may be part of the problem, but also it feels like Venditti has a few more pages than he has material for. But I'm still on board; with this first twelve-issue introductory arc out of the way, I'm happy to see what Venditti has in store for the day-in, day-out of a Hawkman comic.

[Review contains spoilers]

We learn straightaway in this volume that Carter Hall, née Ktar, was once a "Deathbringer," a general in an army of winged soldiers that rains genocide on other planets in service of the godly Lord Beyond the Void. It's in atonement for those sins that Ktar chose to be reincarnated until he could save as many people as he'd killed, thus his multiple lives predicament. I praised Venditti's efforts toward recasting Carter Hall last time around, stretching his incarnations over time and space and even allowing multiple instances of Hawkman to exist at one time, explaining the perpetual Carter Hall/Katar Hol conundrum. And there is some artistry to be sure in this idea of Carter in the genre of mythical immortals who must atone for their sins in order to achieve their final rest.

But I'm not sure any of this is better than Carter having started as Egyptian Prince Khufu (nor that the time-and-space idea would have been incompatible with that). It is perhaps among other things because we've lived with the Khufu idea for a decade now (and comic book and television appearances) whereas Venditti, near as I could tell, doesn't provide much detail about the Deathbringers. They are winged but not, I don't think, Thanagarian, and distancing Hawkman from Thanagar seems a questionable choice; it's on one hand really cool to see the "Hawkmen" of Krypton or New Genesis, but on the other hand, this "every world has a Hawkman" idea perhaps makes Hawkman feel a little less special. (Not to mention that Hawkwoman's role becomes much less pronounced in this new origin versus the Egyptian one.)

Notably, however, Venditti goes from what I found to be a rather dull "he was bad, then he decided to be good" origin of Hawkman issue to a single issue with no fighting whatsoever, which consists solely of Carter and his Kryptonian counterpart Catar-Ol conversing. This is a fascinating use of what Venditti's set up, kind of a "Times Past" that connects immediately to the present action, not to mention such cool concepts as that once upon a time Supergirl Kara Zor-El was Catar/Carter's student on Krypton. Venditti's writing is sharp as ever here, and that goes a long way toward selling the story despite any reservations I might have.

Following this is the four-issue conclusion to Venditti's first year, in which the Deathbringers come to Earth, including Ktar's frenemy Idamm. This is surely a logical place for the story to go, and Venditti's got a variety of good bits, not only the spectral arrival of all of Carter's past incarnations in an "army of Hawkmen," but also for instance Venditti sneaking in a reference to his New 52 Demon Knights run. Also, Venditti bringing in Dark Nights: Metal's Dragon of Barbatos as one of Carter's alternate forms is about the first time Carter's presence in Metal has made sense; the Dragon fighting on behalf of the Hawkmen is tons of fun and I hope Venditti plans to use him in the book again.

But these final issues are also very action-heavy, mostly with Carter fighting Idamm through a bunch of reversals. That feels repetitive; the penultimate cliffhanger is the Hawkman army going on the attack and then the final cliffhanger is almost exactly the same. There's nothing bad here, it just seems like some of the action is filler, and for that reason this volume has to rank a bit below Hawkman Vol. 1: Awakening.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer

Still, Hawkman comics have been way worse than Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer, and that's not even a fair comparison because Deathbringer is quite good. Again, I recognize Robert Venditti has certain marks to hit in the setup of this run, and that done, I'm interested now to see stories of Hawkman, superhero, and also greater ties for Hawkman with the DC Universe through "Year of the Villain" and etc.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer
Author Rating
3.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. The best interpretations of the Hawks was Tim Truman's "Hawkworld" and the "Starcrossed" arc on the "Justice League" animated series. The reincarnated version of Hawkman bores me to tears.


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