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Hawkman #16

Posted: Wednesday, June 18, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Rags Morales (p), Michael Bair Hernandez (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with Hawkman refusing to believe the man who showed up at the end of last month's issue is Katar Hol, as he saw the man die. To this end we soon see the two men are involved in a rather heated contest during which both men label the other a liar, and while the truth doesn't reveal itself, Hawkman is able to drive off what he believes is someone posing as Katar Hol. However, before he is driven off we do get a possible clue as to the identity of this false Katar Hol, as Hawkman comes to believe it's the Hawk-God avatar that merged him with Katar Hol a while back. As Hawkgirl attempts to learn the truth by lifting fingerprints off a weapon that was used by the man claiming to be Katar Hol, we see Hawkman is busy taking Hawkwoman on a tour of his weapon armory, where he gives her a weapon that was used by her partner, and we see this exchange affords Hawkman the opportunity to reflect back upon his past lives. We then see Hawkwoman sets out to discover the truth about her partner, as she makes contact with Animal Man in an effort to learn if the hawk avatar is really posing as her late partner. However, when Buddy tells her that the hawk avatar is not running around loose, we see the two discover the truth about the false Katar Hol, and it's not a pleasant discovery.

Comments:
This issue is exactly the type of issue I went into this series looking to avoid, as I had hoped that Hawkman's tangled mess of a past would be actively ignored by Geoff Johns & company, much like Spider-Man's clone saga is over in the pages of the that character's books. Now I can't say for certain that fans were driven away by Hawkman's rather infamous history, but it would appear that the fan support was eroded away to such a degree that DC felt justified in giving the book the ax, so is my mind the past is not something that is inclined to draw in the fans. Now I guess a case could be made that the character was in effect damaged by his confusing past, and Geoff Johns has taken it upon himself to repair the damage. There will also be fans of previous series who were probably looking for some resolution to the questions this arc has brought up, as Katar Hol and Shayera Thal were a big part of this character's past, and as such it makes sense that the book would answer the question of what happened to them. However, speaking as a fan who never even touched an issue of Hawkman before this latest series, this issue is a bit like walking into a movie in mid-reel. Now I understand the basic ideas, and for the most part the book goes out of its way to identify the various players, but this doesn't stop me from being less than impressed by the sheer density of the exposition one has to slog through to enjoy the story.

The one redeeming feature this issue does have going for it is that it features Animal Man as a guest-star. I've actually missed Buddy Baker, as since his series ended back in the mid-1990s, I honestly can't recall the character making so much as a single guest-appearance. Now I understand why, as much like Aquaman, Buddy normally requires one's lead character to become involved in a story that would lend itself to the general arena that he operates within, and with Animal Man this normally means one has to craft a story the involves either environmental damage, and/or the endangerment of wildlife. To this end I can see why many writers would actively avoid such stories, as when one enters this arena the lure of trying to deliver a story with a message or at least the underlying pressure to deliver such a message tends to get in the way of delivering an entertaining story. Now while there can be exceptions to this rule (e.g. Star Trek IV managed to inject a lot of humor alongside its heartfelt message), for the most part I think Buddy has been the victim of writers simply looking to avoid being labeled as a writer with an agenda. In any event, this guest appearance makes wonderful use of the character, as we see he's still not the biggest fan of putting on the tights, and his role in the story is also nicely defined, as he has important information to deliver.

Rags Morales is a truly wonderful artist , and I have to give him full marks for making this issue quite easy to follow, as we have two Hawkmen running around in these pages, as well as their two female counterparts, and there's never a question of who's who. Well I guess that's not exactly true, as the basic theme of the issue is the question of whether the second Hawkman is really who he claims to be, and the art certainly doesn't offer up any clues until it come time for the big reveal on the final page. What the art does manage is to capture the sheer intensity of the encounter, as we see both Hawkmen are quite set in their belief regarding Katar Hol's fate, and the art manages to capture this sense of uncertainty & doubt. The idea that all these players are capable of flight is also nicely presented, as we have our diving attacks, and the various speed lines that convey the tight turns & changes of direction that these characters can perform. The visit to Hawkman's armory is also a nice scene, as it does convey a nice sense that Hawkman does have a wealth of history that has yet to be explored. The arrival of Animal Man is also well done, as the reactions of the animals in the Zoo to his coming acted almost as a visual introduction to the character. I also enjoyed the visual method that was used to convey his power.

Final Word:
If you've been following the various incarnations of Hawkman, than in addition to my admiration regarding your devotion to this character, chances are good that you'll find this issue quite enjoyable, as Geoff Johns offers up a pretty solid mystery regarding the fate of Katar Hol. Now speaking as a fan who has come into this book with very little interest in the character's past I must confess I found this issue to be a bit top heavy with exposition & the solution to the mystery wasn't really worth the amount of work it had taken to arrive at this answer. Still, I guess it's for the best that Geoff Johns is piecing together the tangled mess that was Hawkman's past, and I'll also give this issue full marks for its use of Animal Man, an underused character who I'm delighted to see playing an active role in this arc. In fact the simple fact that Animal Man has been given a fairly substantial role to play in this story was enough to grab my interest, and I can't wait to see him in action next month.



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