NEW 52 REVIEW: The Savage Hawkman #1

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The New 52 has given us a new look at characters from throughout DC’s long history, and Hawkman goes all the way back to the earliest days of the DCU. Does this fresh take on Hawkman fly like an eagle, or is it a turkey, set to crash and burn?

THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1
Writer: Tony S. Daniel
Penciler/Inker: Philip Tan
Colorist: Sunny Gho
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Janelle Asselin
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in The Savage Hawkman: 

Carter Hall was an Egyptologist, and expert on ancient weapons who used the anti-gravity Nth metal to fly and fight crime in the Golden Age as Hawkman. Katar Hol was a Thanagarian space cop who came to earth in the Silver Age and has had complicated continuity problems and a bunch of reboots and relaunches since then.  Also, there was a Hawk God in there somewhere, I think.

WE COME NOT TO PRAISE HAWKMAN, BUT TO BURY HIM

The story opens with Carter Hall driving into the woods of upstate New York, telling us through narration that he was once Hawkman.  Carter informs us that his life as a superhero is now ancient history, and we see him pour alcohol on his old gear, and setting it alight with a shot from a gun.  Hawkman is dead.  Carter buries the burned remains, and walks away.

FROM THE ASHES AND THE OCEANS RISE

As Carter attempts to leave his old life behind, a great fiery hawk-form bursts from the grave immolating our hero on an impressive flame-filled splash page. Cut to a salvage ship revealed to be an archaeological vessel pulling a ship from the briny depths.  This is not just any ship, but an alien craft covered in ancient symbols.  Carter Hall is the cryptologist on this job, but he’s missing in action, unreachable.

Carter wakes up at home, after an undisclosed period of time, injured but alive.  Terrence, a coworker from his archaeology gig, shows up and takes him to a lab where the contents of the recovered spacecraft are under investigation.  Humanoid mummies are being tested to determine if they are human or something else. A vial of fluid extracted from bursts and possesses a lab technician, turning him into a black goopy monster.  Carter leaps into action and finds an axe to defend himself, hacking the creature in two. Hydra-like, the monster regenerates into two creatures overwhelming Carter who suddenly and surprisingly finds himself clad in all new Hawkman gear, weapons and all.  The Nth metal of his burned costume has seemingly bonded with his body.

Hawkman engages Morphicius, who reveals himself to be some sort of energy vampire, hell-bent on consuming life energy.  He overpowers Hawkman and the issue ends with Morphicius standing over the desiccated remains of Hawkman, in a corrupted hawk-form of his own.

BEYOND CHICKEN SCRATCHINGS

Not exactly an origin story, Tony Daniel gives us some important information about Carter Hall and his background, all while propelling the new story forward. We find that Carter is a reluctant hero who is now literally bound to his old heroic identity. I liked the ancient vampire aliens, and wonder if their extraterrestrial nature will tie the Golden Age Egyptian origins of Carter Hall to the alien Thanagarians.  Too often writers use their first issue to plant seeds for tales they have planned years down the road, and you can tell. The story here was straightforward, gave us a nice action sequence with the new Hawkman, and didn’t try to do too much.

The art was good, if not especially tight. There are some moments when Carter’s face changes weirdly from panel to panel.  Sunny Gho colors the book in a painted style, using a muted color palette.  This palette is really effective when contrasted with certain moments in the book that are bathed in color, mainly the first appearance of the gold and green Hawkman costume and the splash page at the beginning of the book. As a package it worked for me, and I think the art team has a ton of potential.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This One Has Wings

I found the straightforward nature of this issue to be refreshing. Couple that with a distinctive art style, and you have a nice overall package, and a really good first issue. I think this book is what the New 52 is all about, re-inventing an older character, giving us a fresh story without a lot of baggage.  The Savage Hawkman #1 earns a solid 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆