Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN!
The Concept and Characters: The solicitations for the first issue of the Hawkman relaunch (which, you’ll note, adds the adjective “Savage” to make sure we know that this is something more than just “Boring Old Hawkman”) describe the premise: “Carter Hall’s skill at deciphering lost languages has led him to a job with an archaeologist who specializes in alien ruins — but will the doctor’s latest discovery spread an alien plague through New York City?”
So the hook will be: it’s like Indiana Jones, and kind of like that Crystal Skull movie, with aliens and stuff, but Indiana Jones will have wings and big axes. We all know that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was a terrible movie, but the idea of Indy interacting with alien artifacts is firmly in the pulp tradition and there was nothing wrong with it at a conceptual level. It was the execution that was the problem.
That’s the danger here as well, because the concept of Carter Hall as an archeologist who gets caught up in alien artiface intrigue (and action) makes a lot of sense for the character. Hawkman has been a continuity disaster for years, since the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths when the alternate realities were folded into one, and then Tim Truman reimagined the character as a new kind of militant space cop. By the time Geoff Johns tried to untangle the Hawkman mess in the early 2000s, the character was both a reincarnated Egyptian warrior, and a winged police officer from distant Thanagar, and an archeologist, and probably a few more incompatible variations thrown on top for extra flavor. Johns did what he does best: he ditched the contradictions and just started telling straightforward stories about a character who can fly and smash villains with his melee weapons.
Still, if anyone in the DCU was in need of a continuity reset, it would be Hawkman, and this relaunch seems poised to give the character a fresh start.
The Creative Team: James Robinson was rumored to be working on a Hawkman series before this New DCU title was announced, along with the unexpected creative team of Tony Daniel and Philip Tan. Daniel is writing this comic, but he’s best known as an artist. The problem is that he’s not a great artist, and he’s even less interesting as a writer. His work on Batman as been consistently unimpressive, even off-putting, with its barrage of young girl sidekicks and jumpy sense of pacing.
Philip Tan has a reputation for missed deadlines and rushed artwork, and even at his best, his storytelling is clunky and difficult to follow. As a stylist, he has some flair, and in his earlier days he drew some Uncanny X-Men pages that were so odd-looking that they merited a closer look. But his tendency to move in for close-ups or to pack the frame with a claustrophobic composition seems ill-suited for a comic about a character who needs room to fly.
James Robinson writing, with practically anyone else on art, would have been a better choice.
Recommendation: Skip it. The premise alone is almost enough to hook me, but neither Tony Daniel nor Philip Tan have established themselves as creators worth reading yet, and if their past work is any indication, this is easily one of the weakest of the DCU relaunches. It’s possible that they could do the work of their careers and surprise us all, but it doesn’t seem likely.