Posted by Don MacPherson on September 30th, 2011
The Savage Hawkman #1
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Artist/Cover artist: Philip Tan
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Travis Lanham
Editor: Janelle Asselin
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Like this week’s Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men and other titles in DC’s New 52, The Savage Hawkman features a complete overhaul of the title character, and if ever there was a property in DC’s stable of super-heroes that needed a reboot, it’s Hawkman. The character is a visually striking one, but for a couple of decades, it’s been shackled by the convoluted history of its many incarnations, which DC and its writers have tried to reconcile into one package. Like one big super-hero sausage, you really didn’t want to know what went into it, but you couldn’t help it, because hoofs and snouts and stuff were sticking out through the casing (along with beaks I suppose — this is Hawkman we’re talking about). Unfortunately, writer Tony S. Daniel wasn’t the right choice for the job of simplifying and revamping DC’s Winged Warrior. After I read this issue, I felt like I’d missed out on The Savage Hawkman #0. Daniel fails to provide an origin or backstory for this new vision of Hawkman, instead offering us a glimpse of a moment in which his powers and purpose change — without informing us of what they were before the shift.
Cryptologist Carter Hall’s life is a mess, and he’s had it with being Hawkman. He sets out to rid himself of the wings and the Nth metal that gave him the ability to fly and boosted his strength beyond human limits. There’s just one problem: while Carter might be done with Hawkman, Hawkman’s not done with him. He wakes up in his loft with no memory of how he got there, and there’s no sign of the Hawkman gear or the Nth metal. He doesn’t have a chance to solve the mystery, though, as he’s called to work by an archaeologist with an interest in alien artifacts. Before Carter can get to work on deciphering the symbols on the alien artifact his colleague discovered, he and his co-workers soon find themselves facing a bizarre and deadly threat. Just great… Carter’s abandoned his Hawkman guise just when he needs it the most, but little does he know it’s not as far away as he thinks.
I wasn’t expecting to care much for the art on this title, as I’ve found Philip Tan’s loose, exaggerated style to be hard to follow and make out in the past. So while I was expecting the sort of thing we saw in Green Lantern: Agent Orange, I found something quite a bit different. He still employs a more roughshod style here, but the sketchier look suits the title character. Tan’s efforts on this comic reminded me a bit of the style of Tom (The Spectre) Mandrake, especially in the opening scene featuring the phoenix-like effect. There were panels and figures later in the issue that put me in mind of Francis (Flash) Manapul’s more recent art, with its softer look. The Hawkman redesign seems to clearly take some cues from Alex Ross, if not in design than at least in the almost painted, gleaming look of it. My biggest problem with Tan’s artwork on this comic is how there’s never a strong sense of place. Carter’s apartment, the lab where disaster strikes… they almost seems like voids in which the story takes place. Ultimately, while Tan serves the story well overall, I wasn’t exactly riveted by the visuals either. I didn’t dislike his work here, but it wasn’t something to get excited about either.
The cover logo might be the worst of the entire New 52 line. I’m guessing the designer was trying to make the letters look like two wings spreading out, but instead, it looks like it’s folding in on itself. It’s branding by way of origami. The marks inside the letterforms of “HAWKMAN” are clearly meant to convey the “savagery” of the character, but they look like scuffs on a UPS package that’s had a somewhat rough ride getting to its destination.
One thing I do like about this reinvention of Carter Hall is he seems more like a regular guy. He’s not some fierce, ancient, reincarnated warrior, forever gritting his teeth and lamenting his cursed existence. Well, he’s still doing the latter, but the “cursed existence” seems more down to earth. His life’s a shambles. He’s being evicted. He might have a drinking problem (Daniel’s not overt about the latter point, but it’s suggested).Carter’s more of an everyman here, and I welcome that shift. Of course, that also means he doesn’t come off as all that “savage,” contrary to what the title of the series promises.
While I applaud DC and Daniel’s effort to rebuild one of the publisher’s iconic characters from the ground up, I’m not sure I’m all that taken with some of the choices here. The new manifestation of Hawkman’s power and garb is highly reminiscent of what we’ve seen in Marvel’s Iron Man titles over the last few years, and the hint at the substance-abuse issue I mentioned above makes the Tony Stark synergy even more apparent.
How did Carter come to possess the Nth metal? Why was he inspired to become Hawkman? Why is his life falling apart, and why is he try to discard his Hawkman identity like an ex-girlfriend’s photos? This is not only a first issue in a new series, it’s meant to be an introduction to an essentially new character, but Daniel’s script seems to ignore that fact. Mind you, it’s possible this is a retooled pitch for a Hawkman stint set in the previous continuity — maybe following the events of Brightest Day, in which Hawkman lost the love of his life. But that’s not what it is now, if that was the case. Daniel picks up the reader like a hitchhiker with this story, bringing us along for the remainder of the journey while leaving us in the dark as to where he (and the protagonist) came from in the first place. 4/10
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