“Awakening, Part One: What’s Past Is Prologue”
Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Andrew Currie & Bryan Hitch
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover artists: Hitch (regular)/Stjepan Sejic (variant)
Editor: Marie Javins
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99 US
I honestly had no idea what I expect from this latest effort to relaunch DC’s Winged Warrior and to connect with an audience. I’ve enjoyed past takes on the character – notably Geoff Johns’s tenure on the character from the early 2000s – but ultimately, his history in the wake of DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths has been a convoluted mess. The attempt to merge the Golden Age Hawkman with the Silver Age counterpart just never worked properly, and the problem wasn’t just continuity, but clarity in storytelling. Writer Robert Venditti has promised this new vision of Hawkman will be simpler and more accessible, but the script for this first issue doesn’t necessarily bear that out. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. It appears that instead of trying to ignore the many conflicting and diverse takes on Hawkman, the writer will embrace that oddity. My hope is that he’ll arrive at something more focused and new. Meanwhile, the real reason I picked up this comic book didn’t disappoint, and that’s the richly detailed and realistic artwork of Bryan Hitch.
Carter Hall has returned to Earth from the Dark Multiverse, and he resumes his work as a archaeologist and winged adventurer, aided by the many friends he’s made over multiple lifetimes. He finds himself pitted against the impossible guardian of a lost artifact, the Nautilus of Revealment. But unlike Indiana Jones, Carter Hall isn’t after this powerful piece of history so it can displayed in a museum, but rather because it could hold the answers to a mystery: who, or what, is the Hawkman?
Bryan Hitch’s style has been synonymous with a “widescreen” movement in comic art, perhaps most associated with his tenure on Wildstorm’s The Authority from years ago. He brings that approach to bear here, and it works incredibly well, both with this character and the premise of the larger story that promises to unfold here. First of all, Hitch adeptly provides sweeping and immense backdrops through which the titular hero can literally soar. Hawkman is about wide open spaces, and Hitch provides that (even when it’s underground). I also loved how the artist presents the gargantuan golem serving as the antagonist here, as well as the huge extent of the cavern collapse. Furthermore, the latter pages of the issue points to a reality- and time-spanning story, a cosmic epic using the larger DC Universe (or, more accurately, Multiverse) as the canvas upon which this tale will unfold.
That being said, I found Hitch’s realistic bent worked against the presentation of the character here. The new design here appears to incorporate the retraction of Hawkman’s wings into impossibly small compartments on the back of his harness, but it’s not entirely clear. The notion that his bulky wings can be removed for better mobility seems practical, but its depiction is a bit awkward.
I was thoroughly pleased to find that Venditti’s script for this inaugural issue didn’t touch upon the dizzying, weird and sometimes incomprehensible events of Dark Nights: Metal, despite the fact the crossover book was the catalyst for Hawkman’s return to action in the DC Universe. In fact, the overall tone of the script here is thoroughly accessible, devoid of the baggage that’s plagued the property in the past two or three decades. All the reader needs to understand is that Hawkman is a long-lived, reincarnating hero who was away for a while but has returned.
The closing scene in this issue reveals the true focus of Venditti’s story. While it touches upon the notion of Hawkmen throughout the ages, across time and space, the real conflict is an internal one. Basically, Carter Hall has so many lives rattling around inside his head, he doesn’t have a sense of self. This is a story of self-exploration, of self-discovery. Carter Hall doesn’t know who he is, and he’s determined to find out. That’s a basic sense of identity to which the reader can relate, and it’s definitely piqued my interest. 7/10