We return to the Throwback Corner this week, with a beloved of mine from the early days of the New 52: The Savage Hawkman. It’s one that I feel was grossly underrated, and Tony S. Daniel, Philip Tan, and Cliff Richards did a damn fine job in putting this comic together.
I specify the first eight issues because those were easily the best of the series. After, eight, well, the creative team change and Rob Liefeld took over the writing of the comic. He did the same for the writing and the art of Deathstroke and Hawk and Dove, the latter of which he had already been doing the art for, around the same time. Savage Hawkman was the best writing he did for DC at this point, but that is seriously not saying very much. He scored some points for bringing in Green Arrow and Deathstroke into his “Hawkman: Wanted” mini-crossover, but I still can’t completely endorse his work on this comic book.
After Liefeld’s stint, comics veteran Tom DeFalco took over for the last few issues before the book was unceremoniously cancelled. DeFalco was left to finish an overly elaborate plotline from Liefeld which reduced Shayera Hol to a woman-scorned antagonist, and then he was allowed a couple of issues for a story with Blockbuster as the villain. His bits in the series were better than Liefeld’s, but he still wasn’t allowed much breathing room before the book faced the executioner’s axe.
First, let’s talk about the redesign: I love it. I like the armor, I like that Carter/Katar can manifest medieval weapons from his skin. Yeah, it makes him very much like Wolverine, and it takes away the flying brawler element by giving him superpowers. Here’s the thing: I don’t really care. Hawkman is cooler than Wolverine anyway, and his lack of powers was never a part of his appeal to me. It was always the fact that he was a hard-bitten son of a bitch who had a way harsher view of bad guys than your average Justice League or Justice Society member.
The stories in these eight issues focused around Carter Hall the archaeologist: a superhero who attempted to retire by burning his Hawkman gear. However, this caused the Nth metal to react and bond itself to his body. He worked alongside a woman he grows attracted to named Emma, and her father.
In the first arc, they awaken an alien creature named Morphicius who, yeah, is a good bit like Venom. He is somewhat amorphous, is inky black, and attaches itself to people. He can also assimilate powers, and he sprouts wings after coming into contact with Hawkman. He’s not as cool as Venom, but he is a pretty solid antagonist. It’s a shame he’s never come back.
The second arc sees the return of classic Hawkman villain Gentleman Ghost. He is a bit more monstrous now, and I think it’s an improvement. He raises an army of the dead with some kind of powered orb he captures, and it’s up to Hawkman to stop him.
The last story teams him up with the alien Askana, who helped Hawkman against the Morphicius threat. The two fight alien agents who want to kill the one who awakened Morphicius. Askana set Hawkman up to take the fall, but the two manage to defeat the alien warriors.
There was a grit an attitude to this book that made it very entertaining to read. Hawkman is a reluctant hero, and he makes sure everyone knows he’s not happy to be wearing the wings. He viciously battles enemies, and he’s obtuse with everyone else except Emma.
There is a scene that I often recall when I think of this series, and it sums up Carter Hall’s character in this series perfectly. During the Gentleman Ghost adventure, Hawkman finds himself being aided by a man named Digby, who helped unleash the Ghost.
At one point, Digby asks Carter, “So, I guess you’re like, what, a superhero? What’s that like?”
Carter replies with, “It’s kind of annoying, like you.”
This is a pretty doofy moment, but it encapsulates what I like about Hawkman perfectly. Yeah, he has a sense of right and wrong, and he is a superhero. But, above all else, he’s grumpy. He’s not brooding or moody like Batman; Hawkman is just an irritable guy. Everything bothers him. He’s just so angry, and he makes sure everyone knows it, especially the bad guys. Unlike Batman, his anger isn’t ineffectual. He’s brutal; a “savage”, if you will.
James Bonny was doing the dialogue by this point, so it’s actually him I have to thank for this fantastic moment.
There is a good amount of chemistry between Carter and Emma. Yeah, she’s often the cliché damsel in distress, but the two are still a fairly engaging couple to read about, and that’s more than a lot of superhero relationships.
The villains were pretty solid. Admittedly, Morphicius and Gentleman Ghost weren’t given a lot of depth, but their visual designs were pretty damn cool. Their powers made them a genuine threat and a good adversary for the Savage Hawkman.
Yeah, the fact that Ghost raised zombies was a little tired, even back in 2012, but the Ghost himself was still pretty cool.
Also “savage” is a pretty amazing descriptor for Hawkman.
He teams up with Static Shock for one issue too, which is pretty amazingly mismatched duo. I really miss Static Shock being in DC Comics.
The artwork of Philip Tan is perfect for this comic. It’s dirty and gritty looking, and it matches Hawkman’s personality. Everything looks like it’s seen some better days, and, since this is supposed to be after an attempted retirement on the part of Hawkman, that makes a lot of sense. Cliff Richards’ takeover after Tan stopped doing the art managed to continue this theme, and the art didn’t miss a beat over the switch.
Sunny Gho and Imaginary Friends Studios did the color work for these comics, and they were in perfect sync with the artists. The colors are faded-looking and grim. They reiterate this gritty and rustic aesthetic that made the comic so great.
A lot of people, myself included, love to slag off the New 52. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit in the beginning and loved the variety of heroes that were getting the spotlight. I’m glad we’re getting some of that back finally to some of that with Terrifics (or whatever it’s actually called), the continued promises for the Justice Society, and the plans Scott Snyder apparently has for Hawkman and Shazam.
Some of the visual redesign was a little over-cooked, but the new looks Hawkman and Gentleman Ghost Received here were both pretty great. The main Justice Leaguers looked pretty great in their new suits too, and I loved the new Omac, Shazam, and Black Adam looks too.
So yeah, you like action-packed and angry comics? Do you like Hawkman? Do you like superheroes? If yes to any of these, or even if you say no, pick up the first volume of The Savage Hawkman if you ever see it. It’s a great comic, and it’s a lot of fun in its pissy war-weary manner. I highly recommend it. The collections are $16.99 if you can find them. They’re well worth your time and money.
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