Sunday, March 27, 2005

HAWKMAN #38

Okay, everyone, it's sing along time. You know the words: "Let's do the Time Warp..... Yeah!"

There aren't many positive aspects to Hawkman's continuity being tied into a gordian knot, but one of the few is that the obligatory hallucinatory chats with aspects of his own personality can be depicted easily and with great fanboy service instead of resorting to evil twin goatees and other desperate tricks of differentiation. And this arc has been all about the fanboy service and tortured continuity.

In the wake of the collection of old Hawk rogues of various levels of obscurity, the latest bit of torture is the return of Golden Eagle, Charley Parker. Golden Eagle, the wannabe sidekick to Hawkman and former third-rate Booster Gold, was killed during Titans Hunt. As I'm not sure anyone actually missed him when he was gone, bringing him back from the dead pretty much requires updating.

Remember that reference I made last issue to Buddy from The Incredibles? Well, Charley -- now calling himself Charles Edmund Parker -- is now a fabulously wealthy entrepreneur who claims to have outgrown his childish and foolish ways, but is still very worshipful of the Hawkman legacy and quick to put the costume back on as a publicly known hero as St. Roch comes under mysterious (and convenient) attack. If it turns out that Parker is subsidizing the rogues currently running amok, Incredibles creator Brad Bird should get free swipes at Palmiotti and Gray.

The nominal plot of the issue is the continued assault on the city by the Hawks' old enemies and Carter going through one of his Alzheimer's moments where he knows he should remember the particulars of a situation, but can't. (Ah, the difficulties of being the repository of thousands of men's memories!) It was Katar Hol who dealt with Charley Parker and it is Katar, part of the parade of old Hawkmen who visit Carter in his tour through his subconscious, who tries to explain things in a rather clunky bit of exposition. If it were anyone but Hawkman under discussion, I'd have said the expository scenes were unnecessary as well as clumsy -- the memory-storing aspects of Nth metal were already handled back at the start of this series. But this is Hawkman and so repetition is generally necessary.

Geoff Johns tried to untangle the Thanagar/Earth Hawkman mess back in the early issues of Hawkman and in the Return of Hawkman arc of JSA (JSA 23-25) and did an acceptable job, mostly because he ran very quickly over a lot of very thin ice and kept the focus on the here-and-now. The simple fact is that you can't untangle the Hawk continuity, which has only gotten worse after events like the Crisis and Zero Hour and is about to take another hit in the upcoming Infinite Crisis, and the only way to keep going forward is to not look back too often.

[How bad is it? (1) Modern day Carter is the physical amalgam of Golden Age and Silver Age Hawkman and the mental/spiritual amalgam of every single reincarnation of Prince Khufu of Egypt -- plus Katar, plus the racial memories of Thanagar via the Nth metal. We'll ignore the hopeless jumble that is Katar's continuity because it's no longer relevant. (2) Hawkgirl, who is entirely Johns's fault, has the body of Kendra Saunders and the soul of (Golden Age Hawkgirl) Shiera Hall -- Kendra's great-aunt, who is in turn the reincarnation of Khufu's consort Chay-Ara, and has Thanagarian memories as well. The first part makes Carter-and-Kendra vaguely incestuous and probably for the best that they haven't hooked up. (3) Shayera Hol, Katar's wife and the Thanagarian known as Hawkwoman, is running around because Johns couldn't leave well enough alone. (4) Nabu, the wizard/cosmic entity/whateverheis who is part and parcel with the Dr. Fate legacy was Khufu's advisor in Egypt. (5) And the current Dr. Fate is Hector Hall, Carter and Shiera's son, an allegedly reformed buffoon who got co-opted by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman and is the biological father (sort of) of Dream of the Endless. (6) Let's not forget Black Adam, aka Teth-Adam, erstwhile JSAer and key member of the upcoming Villains United, whose path to evil was set by the murder of Prince Khufu. His main tie is to the Captain Marvel legacy, however, which is a branch best ignored here.]

I'm starting to think that Palmiotti&Gray are biting off more than they can chew on this title. They are getting bogged down in details and in the quagmire that is DC's inability to untangle the Hawk story and that means that they are getting stuck in the past instead of looking toward the future.

Bringing back old villains and would-be allies only makes sense if it can be done cleanly and without too much retconning and, even if it's logistically possible, there's no point if nobody cares. The Hawkman legacy is simply too screwy for any particular villain to have a lasting relationship with our hero. Carter, whose dominant personality is that of the Golden Age Hawkman, didn't have a lot of great adversaries and he doesn't clearly remember any of Katar and Shayera's Silver Age foes. Fadeaway Man and Lion-Mane are not his Lex Luthor or his Joker; they are instead the latest in a steady stream of villains who are honing in on Hawkman's memory problems, but with the added tonnage of needing their past relationship with Hawkman explained to both character and audience. The most detail-oriented of the Hawkman fans don't need the review and everyone else who is coming to the character will need more than can be conveniently inserted into an issue. All these flashback plots do is remind everyone how daunting the Hawk legacy can be when there is so much more to do with who Hawkman is instead of dwelling on the meta of who he was.

Carter Hall is a fearsomely intelligent man: he speaks countless languages, intimately knows more history than anyone alive, and has experienced thousands of years of art, culture, and invention. In the guise of Hawkman, he is also a ferocious warrior whose battle instincts pre-date the sort of social niceties that grew to be codified in the Geneva Convention -- he is a warrior, not a hero, and has no qualms about killing his enemies. This is a fantastic internal struggle as well as external -- living in the twenty-first century should be an effort to conform both with society as well as the code of groups like the JSA. There's also the whole Curse business -- endlessly reincarnated so that he can live, love, lose everything and die -- and the accompanying soul-deep weariness.

This is a character whose story should have an overarching purpose as great as Batman's -- after five thousand years, Khufu should want off the merry-go-round and be working actively toward that end. Yes, Carter should save the world when he can, but he is no Immortal from Highlander and there is no prize for his continued existence. In fact, it's the opposite -- he's going to find Chay-Ara again and they're going to die heartbreakingly. Rinse and repeat.

Johns dipped his toes into that stream of thought -- Carter, newly re-awakened, didn't remember all the particulars of the curse and didn't understand the way he was being manipulated and Kendra was still confused about her identity and her purpose and was more hurt than help. There were arcs early on that told the Hawk story past and present and the series started by introducing the reincarnated Hath-Set (the one who cursed and murdered Khufu) in the person of Kristopher Roderic. But Johns moved away from that as the series progressed, although he never dropped it completely, and P&G have been at best oblique in their path to get back on track. If they are on that path at all.

Dale Eaglesham is filling in for Joe Bennett on pencils for this issue. His style is easily recognized: high, plump cheekbones; fantastic abs on everyone; beautiful deep-set, almond-shaped eyes; every hero, male and female, has awesome shoulders; and every girl's pelvic structure showing through any sort of clothes. Not really cheesecake, but certainly in the comfort-food zone of comic book art.

2 Comments:

Blogger Seb said...

Extremely pedantically, the words are "Let's do the time warp again", but never mind ;-)

Sun Mar 27, 04:12:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Sunray said...

Nicely put .. "he is also a ferocious warrior whose battle instincts pre-date the sort of social niceties that grew to be codified in the Geneva Convention -- he is a warrior, not a hero"

A nice idea would be to put Katar in a cyrogenic freeze and bring out only when world war 3 breaks out..

Tue May 17, 10:24:00 AM EDT  

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