Review: Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within trade paperback (DC Comics)

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We've had occasion to speak here lately about a number of titles ending under the recent "DC Implosion." Hawkman, in its current post-Dark Nights: Metal incarnation, is not one I feel particularly emotional about, though I am rankled for what it means for the Hawkman character.

Hawkman has a particularly tortured post-Crisis on Infinite Earths continuity, solved for a while in Geoff Johns' JSA era and then, all the sadder, dashed again with the New 52. I had high hopes that Robert Venditti, a writer whose work I liked very much on Green Lantern, might be able to sort Hawkman out again (especially after his inscrutable role in Metal), and for a while it seemed Venditti was succeeding. But in terms of who this Hawkman is and where he and his cast fit in to the larger DC Universe, Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within doesn't clarify things much.

Venditti has one more collection of Hawkman left, and sure it's possible he can sort things out there. But while generally enjoyable, Darkness Within is a narratively poor showing, a book in service to a crossover, instead of the other way around — and that's coming from someone who's a sucker for all things "shared universe!" Darkness Within feels like it gets away from Venditti, and that makes me less optimistic for how this will all turn out.

[Review contains spoilers]

In the book's main story, tying in to the "Year of the Villain" event, Lex Luthor has powered up longtime Hawkman villain Shadow Thief, and the Thief stalks Hawkman and fights him over the span of four issues. It's more complicated than just that, mainly due to guest star The Shade of Starman et al. fame, but even that speaks to the same point — Hawkman isn't doing much in this book aside from being targeted by and reacting to one of his enemies, and ultimately it's not even Hawkman that the Thief wants, but for Hawkman to lead him to Shade. In that respect, Hawkman's easily exchangeable for any other superhero here; he's not all that important to his own story.

Of course, Shade appearing in a book is nothing to dismiss, and though Venditti's Hawkman is a far cry from James Robinson's Starman, they share this kind of "alternate lives"/"Times Past" aesthetic that makes Shade's presence feel appropriate. But Venditti raises quite the set of questions when he shows Carter Hall as Hawkman active in the 1940s and teamed up with Shade. I get that DC's continuity is broken by design and that the upcoming (trade-wise) Dark Nights: Death Metal will likely answer some of those questions, but that Venditti doesn't even address the ambiguity is bothersome. Hawkman's apparent longevity is taken as a matter of course, and it only reminds me how little we know about this character's history more than a year into his series.

There's a similar sense toward the end of the book when Hawkwoman shows up and Hawkman's heart goes aflutter — but this is the Thanagarian Hawkwoman Shayera Thal, recently seen in Scott Snyder's Justice League Vol. 3: Hawkworld, and not the Justice League's Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders. I guess I should have realized before — because in every flashback to a past life, Hawkman has envisioned a red-haired Shayera-esque woman — but this isn't per normal. Traditionally, Carter Hall and the Thanagarian Katar Hol have not been the same person (even if Carter was in possession of Katar's memories), and Shayera essentially lost Katar while Kendra has been the resurrection of Carter's late wife, the Golden Age Hawkgirl Shiera Hall. But now it seems Carter is in love with Shayera, while Kendra is mooning over Martian Manhunter in Justice League — I guess that pairs everyone up, but it raises another set of questions about who this Hawkman is, letting alone Kendra's equally muddy origins that Snyder has yet to explore in League.

So there's an overall sense on one hand that Venditti doesn't have much to do with Hawkman here, and also again on the other hand that the general facts about Hawkman and his cast aren't particularly clear. And I don't necessarily blame Venditti for that — I've a sense that writing a Hawkman series in the space between Snyder bringing him back in Metal and doing whatever he wants to do with him in Death Metal (and at the same time as DC's plans for bringing back the Justice Society shift from Doomsday Clock to Justice League) is an unenviable and thankless position.

But what we're left with is filler, something I felt about Hawkman Vol. 2: Deathbringer also. Venditti's one-off first issue here shows Hawkman resurrected as a soldier on both sides of an alien conflict. For a more established book, this might have been an entertaining respite, but given how much else Hawkman needs to get to, the story's gimmick is apparent almost immediately and then the amount of pages devoted to it seems wasteful.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within



The more I think about Hawkman Vol. 3: Darkness Within and its implications, if Robert Venditti's endpoint is to see Carter Hall and Shayera Thal together as representative of the best-known Earth "Hawks," that at least spares fan-favorite Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders to have a life outside the Hawkman atmosphere. And that would give perhaps fans of the Justice Society-tied Hawks what they want, though I'd just as soon see it go the other way — my favorite Hawkman is Katar Hol, and I'm overall less enamored of the whole Hawkman/Black Adam/Shazam mythology than I am of Katar Hol and Shayera Thal, space police. For me, I'd be just as happy if DC returned the Hawks to something of a pre-Zero Hour stage — Carter and Shiera are the Golden Age Hawks, Katar and Shayera are the "modern age" Hawks, and there's a generational relationship instead of the constant push to fold all of these Hawks into one another, which seems less clever the more it goes on.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. wasn't the new52 Carter mourning losing Hawkgirl in Brightest Day at the beginnning of his first collection? Don't think it was stated clearly but it seemed fairly certain and the reason why he was burning his gear in the first pages of that trade.


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