Jeff Lemire finds Hawkman’s true spirit (Hawkman Found #1)

No one has seen or heard from Carter Hall AKA Hawkman in ages. Reincarnated repeatedly since the dawn of man, Hawkman has spent countless lives exploring Earth’s greatest mysteries.  Now he is one!  Travel into the Dark Multiverse as he tries to learn what’s happened to him and how it all ties into DARK NIGHTS: METAL!

Hawkman # 1
Writers:  Jeff Lemire
Artist:  Bryan Hitch
Inker:  Kevin Nowlan
Colorists:  Alex Sinclair & Jeremiah Skipper
Cover Artist:  Liam Sharp & Jason Wright
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:
Carter Hall AKA Hawkman was presumed dead following the events of the Death of Hawkman mini-series a year ago.  But due to the actions of Barbatos in Dark Nights: Metal, we learn Carter spent years unearthing clues about the Nth Metal that gave him his superpowers and that could also kill the forces of Barbatos.  Now we learn that Carter is alive and fighting to escape his prison.

What You’ll Find Out:
Carter’s dream is the same every night.

Hawkman Found #1_page one

But eventually, he feels fear of being all alone up high.  His body weakens, his wings shrivel and gravity pulls him to the ground.  Right before he dies, he always wakes up in a cave where he states there’s no sun or moon; only eternal dusk.

He hears a sound and runs outside.  A flock of humanoid birds called Manhawks fly down from a spaceship and attack the mountain where Carter’s cave is.  We see several other men there.  A close-up shows them to be different incarnations of Carter from all of his past lives when he was dying and being reincarnated on Earth:  Egypt’s Prince Khufu, England’s Silent Knight, the Wild West’s Nighthawk, etc.  But despite a feeling of familiarity, he does not remember them.

The Manhawks swoop down every week to snatch one of the men.  But this time, Carter says he’s prepared and is going to fight them and leave this place: “All that’s left is war.  And I may not know anything else, but I do know that I was born for war.”  It’s an inspired declaration of purpose from Jeff Lemire for DC’s Winged Warrior.

Carter fights and kills a Manhawk before it can take him, prisoner.  His interior monologue reveals that he thought he was dead and in Hell.  But he feels the air in his lungs and the Manhawks’ blood on his hands so he realizes he’s alive.  He climbs the mountain.

As he hangs upside down from a cliff, he starts to be afraid of being all alone up high again.  He knows he’s going to fall.  But this time he doesn’t.  He keeps climbing and once he gets to the peak, he leaps off and grabs the side of the spaceship.  Once he’s aboard, he finds a room full of weapons and remembers he was Hawkman.  He also remembers this is his spaceship from the planet Thanagar and then he knows who trapped him in this realm.

In an epic 2 page spread, Barbatos now appears as an evil, seven-foot-high version of Hawkman and attacks Carter: “Time is done with you! All of your souls belong to me now!” Carter fights back and remembers getting a distress call from the Challengers of the Unknown who were lost in the Dark Multiverse…

Hawkman Found #1_page 16

Hawkman Found #1_page 17

Carter does not seem to know Barbatos’ name, but he recalls that it attacked him, took him away from the Forge of Worlds and trapped him in this prison.  Barbatos tells him he can read his thoughts.  He tells him that Carter does not know what he has become.  He used to be “the great explorer once driven by nothing but discovery and love,” but now he’ll die and Barbatos will be all that remains.  “Then maybe I’ll go after Kendra.

Carter screams and punches him unconscious.  He realizes his memories are already starting to fade again and all he has left is rage and hatred of Barbatos.  He gives into the rage and hate and becomes The Hawk.  Vowing to never let Barbatos take that away from him again, he steals the Hawkman wings off of Barbatos’ body.  He knows he is Hawkman and starts to fly away.  But the fear he felt before returns, he weakens, his wings crumble and he falls again into the darkness below.

As he does, we see a full page splash of what appears to be Hawkman in giant, semi-human form standing with a hammer over the Forge of Worlds.

What Just Happened?
Though this was very similar in form and content to Batman: Lost #1, the stakes and the plot are more significant.  Here DC is trying to reestablish a lesser known hero they’ve struggled to keep in an ongoing book for many years.

The last truly successful version of Hawkman was the 2002 relaunch from Geoff Johns and Rags Morales which started off as a big hit.  But eventually Johns and Morales left and sales slowly dwindled for 4 years until DC canceled the series again.  The New 52 relaunch of Hawkman featured good artwork by Philip Tan, but the scripts were nothing more than cliché-riddled, stereotypical action movie fare and it was canceled in less than 2 years.

Much of the groundwork for a relaunch of Hawkman in another ongoing monthly book is being laid by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo in Dark Nights: Metal.  Jeff Lemire picks up where they left off and reintroduces Carter Hall by distilling him down to his most vital core:  winged warrior, great explorer, a man driven by discovery and love.

Lemire is rumored to have been considered as the writer to relaunch the book but allegedly told one fan another writer whom Lemire loves will ultimately take over.  While it’s good to hear it is a writer Lemire admires, it’s a shame he isn’t going to be the new Hawkman writer because he captures Carter Hall’s voice and spirit beautifully here.  The understatement with which Lemire hints at Kendra’s absence from Carter’s life by having him talk about his fear of falling from the sky because he’s all alone is appreciated.  More than a few writers would probably have been about as subtle as a gun and had Carter wail and moan about his love for Kendra in the most melodramatic fashion possible.

Lemire implies this by talking about Hawkman’s loneliness without having him blurt it out.  This light touch describing the fear of being alone suggesting love lost is a wiser choice.  It conveys more feeling than having our hero engage in chest-beating diatribes about the woman he lost which has been done to death in a thousand stories before.

Like Batman: Lost #1, the setting and status quo is almost identical.  In both that book and here, our heroes are imprisoned in the Dark Multiverse by Barbatos and struggle repeatedly to escape, failing every time.  But in this case, Lemire goes out of his way to recap for readers who Hawkman is without indulging in blunt exposition or melodramatic rants about everything and everyone he lost.  His great romance with Kendra is alluded to instead of shouting it out in expository dialogue.  Most parts of who and what Hawkman is as a character are spelled out in simple, clear statements by Hawkman himself or by his antagonist with no histrionics.

Whoever decided to have Kevin Nowlan ink Bryan Hitch should get a bonus.  The marriage of Hitch’s pencils with Nowlan’s inks is an artistic masterstroke.  The combo works perfectly downplaying all of Hitch’s weaknesses from his recent run on Justice League and emphasizing all of his strengths as a storyteller.  The coloring by Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper is terrific.  This is a beautiful book.

Rating:  7.7 / 10

Final Thought:
Amongst the deluge of Dark Nights: Metal one-shot books, Hawkman Found #1 stands out. Bryan Hitch and Kevin Nowlan deliver vivid visuals and Jeff Lemire writes an interesting and straightforward script that distills exactly who Hawkman is while telling us what happened to him without clumsy exposition or schmaltzy tirades.  This is a convincing and efficacious reintroduction to a classic superhero setting him up to reclaim his rightful place in the DC Universe.

 

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