Monday, October 03, 2011

Review: The Savage Hawkman #1

First things first, let's get all biases out in the open. I've never been much of a Hawkman fan. The bulk of my exposure to the character comes from team books, so I'm probably missing out on some of his best stories, but he's just always rubbed me the wrong way, and his cool looking weaponry wasn't enough to get me past that. I'm also not that big on Tony Daniel. I think he's a talented artist. He's worked on some books that I've really enjoyed. But when it comes to his stories, I'm always left feeling cold. So, good reader, if Tony Daniel is your favorite writer, and you think Carter Hall, not Dick Grayson, was the sensational character find of 1940, you might want to ignore what I have to say. Everyone else? Keep on reading.

I'll see you in hell, costume.
The comic does not open with Hawkman whacking things with that sick looking weapon you see on the cover, but with him shooting at his his wings and armor? Why? Well, apparently, one of them had to die, and also, he didn't ask for this. But wait, no. Apparently, bullets aren't any good against the mysterious nth metal, and maybe Carter Hall will be dying instead of his harness. Thankfully, he's only temporarily paralyzed, and a little Bride-style toe wiggling gets him moving again. Meanwhile, archaeologists are making discoveries, and wondering why Carter is off firing his gun in the woods instead of translating their alien symbols. This version of Hall is a cryptologist, which is actually a good idea. Slowly translating symbols, boring though it may sound, can work really well in serialized storytelling, and it's the sort of thing I like to read about.

There are all sorts of hints of things I like here. The moment I read the words "alien shipwreck", I perked up in my seat a little. If you showed me a list of things about Professor Ziegler, I'd probably think he sounded like a cool character. And if you asked me if I wanted to read about crazy Indiana Jones style archaeological adventures mixed with superheroics, I would tell you hell yes. But for whatever reason, none of this was compelling to me. When I got to the book's final action scene, I felt bored, and the most interesting element of the comic's final page was the appearance of the mysterious hooded woman. Interesting ideas on their own aren't enough to make a story engrossing. You have the find a way to draw in the reader, and Hawkman never managed to do that.

The dialogue here is occasionally clunky or silly the way it was in Detective Comics. I giggled at lines like "Born and bred in the US of A, and wherever you came from, I'll be sure to send all the pieces back". Most of the time though, it was just dull and lifeless, and I had to riff on it in my head to stay interested. Daniel throws a lot of information at the readers, but doesn't do much to make either the characters or the concepts intriguing. They're just sort of there, and I never felt like I had a reason to care about Carter Hall or the Nth metal. Just small things, like getting more hints as to why Hall wanted to leave his life as Hawkman behind, or getting a chance to watch Hall work on the translation process would have made a huge difference. Both of those and more will probably be in issue 2, but that doesn't matter much if readers don't care enough to keep on reading.

Phillip Tan's art isn't always to my liking, but he really creates some beautiful looking pages here. There's a splash page near the beginning that's absolutely stunning, with a wash that gives it a watercolor like appearance. Sunny Gho's colors complement Tan's work wonderfully, especially when it comes to flames. Tan's visual storytelling is a little lacking, and his facial expressions are sometimes a bit flat, but overall, I think most readers will enjoy his work here, especially the way he renders the Hawkman costume. His work seems to have much more energy when he shies away from traditional page layouts, and I hope he experiments with his style more in the issues to come.

Hawkman isn't a terrible comic. If it was, I might have found it more entertaining. It has its occasional so bad it's good moments- the villain's name is Morphicius- but most of the time, it's just mediocre. I can handle a mediocre comic if I really love something else about the book, like a character or the art or even a story element, but there's just nothing to get me past that here. This one's only for readers who are really interested in Hawkman, who are starving for some kind of artifact based storyline, or who like Tony Daniel's writing a lot more than I do. People who don't fall into one of those categories may be as bored as I was, and there's no reason to spend your time on a dull comic in a week that's given us The Flash, Justice League Dark, and All-Star Western. My journey with Hawkman ends here, and only the likes of a Static Shock crossover will be enough to lure me back.

By Marceline with No comments


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