This article was first published on PopMatters.com
Rob Liefeld (plot) and Frank Tieri (scripts)
Rob Liefeld (plot) and Frank Tieri (scripts)
(p) Joe Bennett
I don’t read The Savage Hawkman. When DC first rebooted under the ‘New 52’ moniker, I read almost every issue one that month, including Hawkman, though I didn’t enjoy it very much. I know that’s a rather drab description of my experience, but that’s what the book was for me – drab. I couldn’t understand why The Savage Hawkman needed to be so needlessly complex and intricate, especially considering the character’s pre-‘New 52’ mess of a continuity. I read the second issue then stopped following Carter Hall’s exploits. Then, of course, Rob Liefeld took over the title along with Deathstrokeand Grifter, all of which he was tasked to write and draw. Personal reading habits show that I’m not a big fan of Liefeld, so there was even more of a reason for me to stay away from Hawkman’s adventures. The Savage Hawkman #13 is the first issue to be released that doesn’t feature Liefeld’s scripts or artwork. Instead, DC put Frank Tieri on dialogue (still utilizing Liefeld’s plotting) with Joe Bennett and Art Thibert on pencils and ink respectively. And while this particular issue doesn’t sit well as a self-contained tale of any sort, it still manages to be interesting and fun enough to make me want to give this series a second chance.
The Savage Hawkman #13 begins “Hawkman: Wanted”, a tale that earns it’s title through and through. At the end of issue 12, Hawkwoman made her ‘New 52’ debut in a rather violent, standoffish way by thrusting a sword into Hawkman’s face. Here in issue 13, we obviously get to see the ramifications of this event. It turns out Carter – who now fully remembers his life as Katar Hol, resident and warrior of planet Thanagar – has been labeled as an intergalactic criminal, and that the Thanagarians deployed his ex-girlfriend, Shayera, to bring him back home. Tieri does the best he can to make this somewhat clichéd plot more interesting by playing Carter/Katar between his Earthly duties (namely, his female companion Emma) and his Thanagarian heritage. Add to that a vindictive group of space pirates trying to take revenge on Hawkman, and you’ve got one intense sequence. Carter even says it himself at one point near the beginning of the issue: “…right about now, boring doesn’t seem so bad,” in reference to his life before remembering his Thanagarian roots.
One of the main faults of this issue is Hawkwoman. Sure, she’s a fan-favorite character who has come out swinging and has some (arguably) awesome Nth metal armor of her own, but who is Shayera? Pre-‘New 52’, she was Shayera Hol, existential wife to Katar Hol, their love transcending time and space throughout eons of human history. As of now, ‘New 52’ Shayera is a huge jerk. Of course, this is the first issue of an arc, meaning Shayera will more than likely be delved into a bit more, but as far as her introduction goes, there’s a lot left to be desired. Plus, Tieri commits a comic book sin with Shayera by making her the “bad cop” without a motive. Why is Katar Hol an intergalactic criminal? What has he done that’s so heinous his home planet has sent an extraction team to hunt him down? Again, I’m sure these are questions that will be answered in the near future.
Then again, it’s questions like these – ones pertaining to Katar Hol’s past – that create the biggest flaw with this issue: Katar Hol’s memory. For the first few pages, Tieri uses a first-person for Hawkman, letting him set the scene a bit before the brawling begins. This technique, however, is dropped rather quickly in favor of more traditional dialogue-only plot advancement. There’s nothing wrong with switching perspective, in theory, but here, the change has a lot more ramifications. Primary being that Katar Hol has all of his memories back! Why wouldn’t he remember being high on the universe’s most wanted list? And if he does, why doesn’t he disclose why? It seems like Tieri is simply withholding information in order to create suspense, when in reality, it just makes me frustrated that the narrative isn’t staying consistent. I have a sneaking suspicion that its Liefeld’s plotting to blame for the lack of information.
While not one of the best series offered by DC, The Savage Hawkman has a lot of potential. Soon enough, Rob Liefeld’s directives will finish up, and a new creative team will have a chance to take Katar Hol in new, fascinating directions. The tools are there: the Nth metal armor is brimming with possibilities, Hawkman will be featured in the upcoming Justice League of America, and the introduction of Hawkwoman points to a greater world that includes adventures to Thanagar (perhaps in a Hawkworld fashion?)