Writer: Josh Siegal
Artists: John Byrne (p), Lary Stucker (i)
As a vampire with a grudge against Hawkman arrives in St. Roch, we see his reason for hating Hawkman stems from the idea that Hawkman was the man's best friend thirteen lives back, and that he left him for dead on the battlefield, but before he could die the man was feasted upon by a host of vampires, which in turn made him into one. As this vampire sinks his teeth into Hawkgirl's neck we see Hawkman has to race the clock to destroy his old friend in order to save to life of Hawkgirl.
This issue does manage to deliver some very solid character moments, as well as a fairly clever narrative style as we jump back an forth in the story to keep this rather conventional adventure from feeling too familiar. I mean I rather enjoyed the moment where the internal narration that is featured on the opening page is revealed to be telepathic communication, as the scene where the narrative device starts directly addressing Hawkman, and he starts acknowledging it was a clever bit of writing. I also have to applaud the matter-of-fact answer that Hawkman provides to a curious Hawkgirl on the final page of this issue, as it's a somewhat ominous little moment that leaves one wondering if Hawkman has actually harbored thoughts of killing Hawkgirl, so he could take another opportunity to win over her affections in her next life. There's also some solid action in this issue, such as Hawkman's race down the elevator shaft with the plummeting elevator car at his heels, and the big reveal of how Hawkman took out a room full of vampires was also well handled, as it makes good use of the idea that Hawkman has lived many lives. This idea is also well represented in the scene where we see Hawkman key to the fact that he's dealt with this vampire before, and if nothing else this revelation helped to give the vampire a reason to be gunning for Hawkman. The scene where we see how he became a vampire was also wonderfully creepy, as it presents the vampires that turned him as vultures that lurk around the battle fields, feasting on the dying soldiers.
I'm not a huge fan of John Byrne's current work, but it's more a sense of disappointment that his work in the present day doesn't hold a candle to his work in the 1980s, rather than any real problems with the art itself. I mean his art tells the story in a clear enough fashion and he's knows how to tell a story, as the powerful moments of the comic have a nice sense of impact. From credit page shot of the attacking vampire, to the scene where Hawkgirl falls prey to one of them, the art manages to sell the sense of danger that these creatures can pose. The flashback panel of the vampires closing in on the dying solider was also a great looking panel, and the page where the vampires meet their end was also well delivered. The action is also worth a mention as Hawkman's escape from the elevator shaft was well done, as was the scene where hawkman takes a wooden spear through his chest. I also have to say the art on this issue looks a fair bit more controlled than his work over on JLA, though this may be the influence of Lary Stucker's inking.
I'm not quite sure I understand what the current fascination the DCU has with vampires, because they simply don't make for good villains against super-powered opponents, as the creatures have far too many weaknesses. Now this issue does about as good a job as one could hoped for, as we do have Hawkgirl fall under the fangs of the vampire, and the book does a solid job of linking the vampire to Hawkman's past, as the vampire is given a pretty nightmarish back-story. However, in the end the way that the vampire is defeated simply underscores how many ways there are to destroy these creatures, as in addition to the wooden stake we also have holy water & sunlight, and when one adds their aversion to crosses, garlic, and running water you have a villain lacks any real sense of menace as there's far too many weaknesses that the people fighting them can exploit. Now don't get me wrong I enjoy a well done vampire story, and this one holds up far better than the one that currently playing out over in the pages of the JLA. However in the end it's still a story in which the villain never quite manages to deliver any moments that left me concerned that Hawkman wouldn't be able to pull off a victory, as the simple fact of the matter it's next too impossible to pretend I couldn't list off half-a-dozen methods that Hawkman could end the life of his undead opponent, and unlike other villains Hawkman doesn't have to hold back his more savage attacks. I'm also a bit disappointed that this issue doesn't offer up some fallout from Hawkman's recent behavior.
It's Raining Catholics And Dogma:
I didn't care much for the idea that Hawkman was battling vampires in this issue but I have to give Josh Siegal credit for his delivery of a pretty enjoyable adventure that manages to touch all the bases of what I consider to be a solid story, which becomes even more impressive when on considers this is a fill-in issue. I mean there's some enjoyable character moments from Hawkman's emotionally charged encounter with his former friend, to the equally impressive exchange that he has with Hawkgirl on the final page. I also rather enjoyed the way that the book jumped back and forth, as it takes a bit of skill to tell the story like this in a clear, understandable manner, and this issue is a shining example of how to do it right. Hawkman also manages to defeat the vampires in a rather unexpected manner that I must confess I didn't understand until it was explained, but after it was I was quite impressed by the amount of thought that went into this plot development, as it neatly ties into Hawkman's past lives gimmick. The back-story of the head vampire was also quite engaging, with the scene of how he became one being a particularly effective moment.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!