Monday, January 1, 2018

REVIEW: Hawkman Found #1 (2017)



HAWKMAN FOUND #1
DC Comics, $3.99, 32pgs.
On-sale December 27, 2017

“Hawkman Found”
22 pages, Read Time – 8:10

by Jeff Lemire (story), Bryan Hitch (pencils), Kevin Nowlan (inks), Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters). Edited by Brian Cunningham.

 BOTTOM LINE: Nice to look at, but otherwise a total waste of time and money — a shining example of everything wrong with comic book universe publishing events.

Well, as it turns out, Hawkman was only found in the figurative sense — as in , DC found a way to milk some cash out of this perennial loser. Because this is a DARK NIGHTS: METAL tie-in, and because it was solicited as the answer to all continuity conundrums that rhyme with Carter, this will undoubtedly place at the top of the sales charts.

But it does not deserve that placement. Not even close. Mostly because not only does it fail to deliver on its promise, but NOTHING actually happens!

We start out with Hawkman in some unknown place, surrounded by similar-looking men, while dreaming of flying in his hawk gear. The other men each sport some period-specific peccadillo playing on the hawk-theme, but Hawkman himself, for some reason, in dressed only in tattered slacks, as though he’s just recently de-Hulked. Now, if you know anything of Hawkman’s convoluted history, you can suss out who the other men are. If not, good luck.

And that history, of course, is what METAL is out to fix. But it’s looking more and more like I personally will not like the result. The problem all stems from the ill-advised decision DC made at the end of CRISIS ON INFINATE EARTHS to amalgamate the multiverse. Instead of leaving all the old Earths alone as places we could continue to visit from time to time, when embarking on a new narrative for a new age on a new Earth, TPTB at DC decided to take their infinite creative continuities and smoosh them all together into one continuous timeline.

Naturally enough, that created some problems for Hawkman, especially after Tim Truman’s wonderful 1989 HAWKWORLD reboot. Well, we couldn’t have Hawkman Katar Hol just coming to earth at that point, and saying that series was set in the past seemed too simple a solution, I guess. So, it was decided that whatever you read in your Silver/Bronze Age JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and HAWKMAN comics, the Hawkman who joined the JLA was actually the Golden Age version, Carter Hall, who’d come out of retirement. I can’t begin to tell you how much that pissed me off. A retcon — short for retroactive continuity — should add to or enhance what has come before. It should not negate anything, at least not in the sense of effectively telling the reader, “Hey, you know those old comics you loved so much? None of that crap ever happened. It was all just Katar k-i-s-s-i-n-g’ing in the shower stall with Bobby Ewing.”

But it got worse, because DC knew is had stepped in a pile of it. But, sadly, being DC, rather than just wipe the poop off their shoes, they felt compelled to smear it all over their shirt and slacks, and even dab a little of it in the ol’ bouffant. Soon, it was decided there was another Thanagarian who’d played at being Hawkman — hey, it worked for Commie-era Captain America! — and then all of the past versions — Carter, Katar, fake-Katar, and, oh, what they hell, one version of Hawkwoman, t00 — were all merged into one being with some sort of demon hawk avatar. Because reasons!

After a time, it was decided to downplay the Thanagarian connections and focus on the many reincarnations of the Egyptian Price, whose name I can never spell and won’t try here, that eventually became Carter Hall. And they made Shiera Saunders some new person named Kendra, just to throw her reincarnation cycle off-kilter from Carter’s and add some romantic tension. And, for a short while under Geoff Johns, HAWKMAN was almost readable.

But then DC could not let well enough alone and things began to unwind again. There was a Jim Starlin one-shot that tried to tell us that none of that stuff never happened and what really happened was the stuff we’d told you before never happened, only just not entirely that way. I mean really, that description has been just about every Hawkman story since 1990!

So, yeah, Hawkman needs fixing. That writer Scott Snyder wants to do so in METAL is not the crux of the problem. The problem is that I am sick to death of trying to work out just who the current Hawman is. I am tired of stories that are not real stories, just extended efforts to establish a status quo. So I don’t want Hawkman found. I want him dead! Then give me a new Hawkman. Seriously. If you can’t go the full-Schwartz and give me a character from a different realm of the multiverse, and least just give me a character with no connection to Carter Hall, or Katar Holl. Put him in wings, let him use Nth metal if you want to, and call him Hawkman, but make him someone completely new and different. “Guy in Nth metal wings” — make that the ONLY connection to anything that has come beore.

But this special one-shot does not give us a new Hawkman. In fact, it doesn’t give us anything new at all. We learn that this is where Hawkman got whisked away to upon investigating some sort of dimensional emergency at Challenger Mountain, as referenced in an earlier issue of METAL. Where exactly here is, however, is never explained. Nor does it seem to matter. All we know is that Man-Hawks are occasionally appearing from a giant space ship that hovers over Carter and his past life selves, and kidnapping a few at a time. Where they are taking the other selves to, for what purpose, and what impact this has on Carter, is never revealed. All we know for certain is that all these heroic Hawkman reincarnations from across history apparently all went to — to paraphrase Cinema Sins — “the Promethean school of getting out from under things.” But eventually Hawkman himself — bravest and most naked of all his former lives — tackles the ship head on. He climbs atop a nearby butte and leaps onto the ship, which apparently has no defenses and just leaves its docking portholes wide open.

Hawkman then discovers an armory with all his old Hawk gear and, deciding he suddenly remembers who he is, decks himself out in full regalia. Next page, though, and he’s back to his Bruce Banner look, and it’s not at all clear why. Once he regained his memory did he just imagine himself suited up, or did he take it all off all of a sudden between pages?

No matter, because then another Hawkman appears — don’t worry about who this one is, doesn’t matter — and the two start wailing on each other. As part of the fight, we get a double-page spread that I suppose most fans will call pretty cool. Me? I’m pretty, “Meh.” I mean, when I see a two-page spread, I’m expecting a battlefield panorama of Shomburgian proportions. But this scene does not give us any information it could not have communicated equally well in a largish quarter-page panel, while still being just as visually kewl. Really, the only purpose of the spread seems to be to chew up two pages of the 22-page story. And given that the entire issue reads in just a little more than eight minutes, it really didn’t need any help racing to the end.

So, Hawkman and Dark Hawkman fight for six pages, while Carter says it is his destiny to man the Forge of Worlds, which is a concept I kind of, sort of remember from METAL. He might have had more to say on the subject, I don’t know. Lower-case white letters on a red background are not the easiest thing to read.

Anyway, after appearing to kill Dark Hawkman, Carter dons wings for real this time. But as he flies of, the wings fall apart, just as they did in the dream sequence that opened this issue, and he plummets to earth. We then turn the page to see the giant Hawk-God that faced Superman and Batman in the last panel of DARK NIGHTS: METAL #4, and we’re an supposed to presume, I guess, that this is now Carter’s true form.

So, as I say, nothing really happens. The whole thing reads as if Jeff Lemire (or, Jeff Lem-Re, as he’s listed in the credits) was given instructions by METAL scribe Snyder, to start with where Hawman was said to have disappeared, and end with where he comes back, but to not do anything — not one single thing — in depicting his transformation that might contradict anything Snyder has written, on may yet plan to write, in the main mini-series of this line-wide event.

So, what you’ve got here is a totally typical event tie-in, one that took my time and money, but added absolutely nothing to the main story. In the end, I really did not need to read this issue at all. Of course, as quickly as it was in and out of my hands, it’s almost like I didn’t.

The one redeeming thing about this issue was the art. I don’t recall ever seeing Kevin Nowlan inks on Bryan Hitch pencils before, but however thought of that pairing made an inspired choice. The two compliment each other perfectly. Still, I’m not one of those who will tell you the art is the be-all and end-all of the comic book experience. To me, it’s story that matters. There has to be some there, there.

And, ultimately, this issue was utterly devoid of purpose. It added nothing to the overall plot. It did not introduce any new concepts. It did not deepen or expand our understanding of Hawkman’s character.

In the end, it’s just there to separate you from $4.

***RECOMMENDED FOR THE ART ONLY***

STORY GRADE: D+
ISSUE SCORE: 64.50

COVER: 8.50 | PLOT: 3.00 | SCRIPT: 7.00 | LAYOUT: 9.50 | ART: 9.50 | EDITS: 4.00
PRODUCTION: 9.00 | VALUE: 4.50 | COLLECTIBILITY: 5.75 | GOSH-WOW: 3.75

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