The Savage Hawkman Vol. 1: Darkness Rising (The New 52) Paperback – Oct 30 2012
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About the Author
Tony S. Daniel decided to be a comics artist in the eighth grade, and he hasn't looked back since. After making his professional debut in 1993 on Comico's The Elementals, he has contributed to Marvel's X-Force and Image's Spawn: Bloodfeud as well as writing and illustrating his own titles Silke, The Tenth and F5, which led him into work in Hollywood. After being lured back into comics to work with writer Geoff Johns on TEEN TITANS, Daniel went on to draw THE FLASH before landing his dream job writing and penciling BATMAN and then later, DETECTIVE COMICS. The Batcave is, he reports, surprisingly cozy.
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THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN VOL.1: DARKNESS RISING collects issues #1-8 and see's Carter Hall as a hieroglyphics specialist who wants to abandon his old superhero persona of Hawkman, by destroying his old pieces of wings and armor. But the Nth metal, the ancient and mysterious material the armor is made out of, comes back and bonds to Carter into a new look with new abilities. As Carter is trying to reexamine his new inner powers, an ancient and powerful monster gets free and it's up to Hawkman to stop this new threat, even if Carter Hall doesn't like it.
Tony Daniel writes a broadening and introspective Carter Hall, more in question of his current life, the newly bonded Nth metal, and the vague hints to the past that Hall might be an alien. I like this take because of the streamlined back story for new readers, as well as the book hinting and teasing readers of his real origins. It also lets readers understand Carter being more like everyone else, in that he just wants to understand himself and live normally. And because a good half the time we see Carter Hall, it doesn't make it so Hawkman isn't on page all the time so when Hall becomes the winged hero, the action and interest spark up. This way, Hawkman isn't so much of a savage superhero going around stopping monstrous threats like a Hulk with wings, but a decent balance of Carter Hall and Hawkman.
Artist Phillip Tan does some great art work. He draws a semi-photo realistic art style to match the dark and serious tones, some great action scenes, and character interaction to show human emotions. Overall, his art does get subtly lighter and looser as the book goes on, but for the better. It gives the book some lighter tones. And fill-in artist Cliff Richards does issue 7 does a fine job.
But Hawkman does have its problems. The overall writing from Daniels is decent, though nothing great. It never hooked me aside from the subtle hints to Hawkmans origins, but Daniels writing seems mediocre. I mentioned how the book is more introspective about Carter Hall, but Hawkman never seems "savage" enough to ever feel like the character really lets loose. It's not so much a bad thing, as I like the new version, but the type of character Hawkman is, it never feels exciting enough. And although Phillip Tans art is great, the dark detail and coloring make for a dark book that makes it seem like the book takes itself a little too seriously. Tans art lightens up later on thankfully, which helps lighten the mood. And even fill-in artist Cliff Richards art, I thought, fit the design and mood better. And the last aspect is that the second story arc of the Gentleman Ghost fairs better then the first arc.
Overall, THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN VOL 1: DARKNESS RISING is a decent and promising book with solid art and good reintroducing of a streamlined Carter Hall for the DC 52. The first half of the book is okay, but gets better by the second half. I liked the book, but never quite enough to impress me. I'll give the score a 3 ½ score, but since Amazon doesn't give half stars, I'll be nice and round out the score to 4 stars.
Well next volume,writing duties and art will be handed over to Rob Liefeld for The Savage Hawkman Vol. 2: Wanted (The New 52) (Savage Hawkman (the New 52)) so I have no idea what to expect with the next book and where Liefeld will take the story line, but we'll see when we get there. Either way, after issue 20, Hawkman will be cancelled, but we'll see him again in Geoff Johns Justice League of America Vol. 1 (The New 52) (Jla (Justice League of America) (Graphic Novels)). If your willing to try out Hawkman, Geoff Johns version is the way to go. But for Hawkman in his own solo adventures, Tony Daniels isn't bad.
In this New 52 reimagining they combined "Katar Hol" with "Carter Hall" and did away with that silly reincarnation angle, firmly casting Mr. H as an alien. Given the character's tangled history - this is probably the best course as it allows DC greater leeway, although they could change this anytime...
Not nice! - The book is underwhelming and has a deliberate, boring pace. Not much "savagery" going on. This particular HAWKMAN is suffering from the now standard-in-comics "Jason Bourne malady" that affects superhero types (see: WOLVERINE) more than they do normal humans. In fact, many of DC New 52 characters are made this way (see: SUPERGIRL, AQUAMAN, etc.)
Phillip Tan's art - normally very dependable - fails to rescue this incoherent mess. Storywise, it's replete with modern pop culture clichés - amnesiac heroes, lost relics, secret aliens, zombie apocalypse... Yes, you read that right - ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE! As if we needed one in comics nowadays. Nice try, Mr. Daniels.
On a side note, the villains are uninteresting and completely forgettable.
Three stars...with reservations. And I'm being generous.
NOTE: I'm currently following the second arc by Rob Liefeld and Joe Bennett. It's better than this - faster-paced and action packed. The stories are not much of an improvement (it's Rob Liefeld!) but at least there's old school HAWKMAN vs Armored Bad Guy throwdowns! HAI!!
Unfortunately, I was less than impressed.
The first story arc, "Darkness Rising", ran through 8 issues of the series and did absolutely nothing to establish this character I've always rooted for as the legendary hero he deserves to be. We don't even get a decent origin. In the beginning of "Darkness Rising", Carter Hall (Hawkman) is driving his truck into the woods where he means to dispose of his Hawkman costume. He shoots the helmet and wings, which then flare up in a plume of flame. Carter passes out and wakes up later at his home, a rundown apartment he hasn't paid rent on in 3 months. He WILL, just as soon as he gets to the bank. He just hasn't yet. But he will.
He gets a message from his employer, Professor Ziegler, that there's important information for Carter to look at. Carter Hall is a cryptologist and Professor Ziegler has discovered what he believe is an ancient alien ship. He wants Carter to try to decipher the writing on it. Also, there's what looks like a mummified human with the remains of the ship. Only something goes awry and the mummified human turns into a black bird-like beast named Morphicus. The beast attacks and kills a couple of laboratory employees, and the Nth metal in Carter Hall reacts and turns him into Hawkman.
Wait, ok, what? He just threw the costume away and vowed Hawkman is dead. Now he's got the costume inside him and can change at will? Actually, that's not too original and not very surprising. What IS surprising is starting your monthly title of one of the most recognizable DC characters with the hero trying to stop being the hero. The New 52 books pick up 5 years into the introduction of superheroes to this new world. So there is potentially 5 years of Hawkman history we don't know. How he did he become Hawkman? How is it he can fly about town--Hawkman lives in New York City--and no one knows he's Hawkman? I mean, if he's been Hawkman long enough when the story first starts that he's ready to give it up, don't you think he'd have made an impression somewhere along the way? I know it's New York City, but come on. Yet later on, people--even the news--react to him as if he's just now making his public debut. What the hell was he doing for those 5 years?
And this is, in my opinion, the greatest flaw in THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN: "Darkness Rising." I have no idea who this character is. And I assume part of the idea behind The New 52 was to get new readers. What person who has never read a Hawkman book is going to pick up this story, see that beginning, and not feel immediately lost? I have nearly 2 decades of knowledge about Hawkman and I'm lost!
Now, if we'd been given the benefit of some prior knowledge of our character, "Darkness Rising" wouldn't have been too terrible a book. The story is exciting with lots of danger and aliens and the whole world is at risk as Morphicus carries a plague that can wipe out humanity, plus he managed to absorb some of Hawkman's Nth metal earlier, which now makes him impervious to it, meaning Hawkman's weapons have no effect on his. What to do?
And after Morphicus is defeated--but I'm not telling how--in what is one of the coolest cliffhanger panels ever, Hawkman comes outside one day a few weeks later to discover he sees dead people. Not REALLY dead people, but everyone on the street around him looks like a walking corpse. It's a great visual, and sets up the next story perfectly ("Darkness Rising" is split into 3 stories--the first takes 4 issued, the next 3, and the final 1), wherein the Gentleman Ghost is after a talisman, the Mortis Orb, a legendary artifact which will help make the Gentleman Ghost a part of the physical world again. The problem there is that, when he activates the Orb it will kill everything without a several mile radius. And he's chosen Central Park as ground zero. As if that weren't bad enough, the dead all over New York are rising from their graves, seeking the orb and it's up to Hawkman and a really confusing special guest to put a stop to the madness.
In the last section, Askana, alien shape-shifting henchwoman to Dr. Kane, a dangerous man who was trying to kill and dissect Morphicus in the first part of the story. She's seeking Hawkman's help because a group of bounty hunters from her own world are here and they're coming after her. Hawkman couldn't care less what happens to Askana, but, as he admits himself, he's a sucker. Only, Askana wasn't entirely truthful in who the men were or what they wanted.
See, "Darkness Rising" had a lot of great moments with tons of action and even some pretty cool horror moments for the horror fan in me. It just wasn't as well done as it should have been. For one, the script was, in places, terrible!
Hawkman: "Where's Morphicus?
Askana: "The same place you'll soon be!"
Dr. Kane: "Rid my lab of this bird man!"
"The same place you'll soon be"? "Rid my lab of this bird man"? Seriously? What is this, 1975? Even in the cheesiest of comics, people just don't talk like this anymore. At least, they shouldn't, if they want to be taken seriously. But, jeez, this book is lousy with terrible dialogue like that.
Then there's the art. Philip Tan covers visuals for "Darkness Rising", and it's a constant struggle between really good, kinda confusing, and just mediocre. The battle with Morphicus seems really confusing at times with too many shadows and not enough clarity of action. Also, some transitional scenes would have smooth things out in a few places.
Carter Hall's Hawkman looks like he's covered in plastic armor that's been gone over in a gold leaf foil-type of application, that is when it's not looking like he's wearing the tattered remains of an aluminum foil costume. Tan doesn't manage the appearance of the costume around Carter very well, that process of it coming from inside him doesn't come across well at all.
The panel layout was confusing too many times, as well. Sometimes I couldn't tell if I was reading one page then the next, or if this was a 2-page spread and I was supposed to read straight across as I made my way down the page.
"Darkness Rising" is a good story, I just don't think it's FIRST volume material. It's not as if this is Batman or Green Lantern where we've got so much established history already in place; nor is this like FIRESTORM where we're starting totally from "character gets power" on. Instead, we come in when Carter Hall is sick of being Hawkman and wants to stop. What kind of opening is that for a character we're completely unfamiliar with. I could see trying something like that with The Flash, because whether Barry Allen or Wally West, we know The Flash's background. This version of Hawkman has about half a dozen other versions standing on the sidelines just waiting to re-appear. While I enjoyed this story as much as I could, I couldn't give myself over to it completely without some kind of background upfront, and we just didn't get it, making this a hard book to come into cold. That's too bad. Back to hoping to see Hawkman to get his fair treatment. One of these days.
More New 52 collections:
Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3NCVBFV1LW145
Animal Man Vol. 1: The Hunt: http://www.amazon.com/review/RC4SXOYJEHCN6
Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench: http://www.amazon.com/review/RF8OL11X4GGUE
The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men Vol. 1: The God Particle: http://www.amazon.com/review/RE45TAKIVI8D
The Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward: http://www.amazon.com/review/R2NPXW24NTPKJK
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Vol. 1: War of the Monsters: http://www.amazon.com/review/RTX5Z03GM3AZG
Green Lantern Vol. 1: Sinestro: http://www.amazon.com/review/R7XBV3EIDH2HF
Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Fearsome: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3KJQ1JDS0UVQM
Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearer: http://www.amazon.com/review/RPXT2NT5WUWBM