“I am one man. And I am more.”
Hawkman has journeyed across planets and universes, he’s beamed across all of time and space, he’s learnt the secret of his origins. And now he’s here, on Earth, fighting desperately for all of reality against The Deathbringers. Everything’s led to this very moment and the inevitable must occur.
Bryan Hitch, Robert Venditti, Andrew Currie, Jeremiah Skipper and Richard Starkings have built up to this installment from the get-go, with everything being in service to what occurs in the following pages. What comes to pass is that which has to pass, which is why it’s so remarkable when it ultimately does. Every page of the issue, every key moment, feels earned and the entire Hawkteam strikes with the impact of Carter’s legendary mace. You’re gonna remember this one.
On the surface, the issue is merely an action story, with the bombast and widescreen approach one might expect. However, the action only serves to spice up and heighten key character moments, being carefully choreographed and framed to best serve the themes and characters in the narrative. Hitch really gets to go all out with a lot of fun three-tier pages he’s known for, alongside the devastatingly beautiful double page spreads. Few have affected contemporary comics with their artistry the way Hitch has and this issue is a stark reminder of what he can pull off, especially on a monthly schedule, and it’s breathtaking. The careful framing and shots, carefully done to maximize dynamic and movement. Every angle enhances the effect of the contents in the story and presents them in the most visually interesting manner. Currie’s inks work well to accentuate the strengths of Hitch’s work and Hitch’s own inks on his pencils, in especially key moments, help bring a striking clarity to the storytelling. There are no gaps and it’s pure Hitch, cutting through with great power.
Skipper continues to do great work bringing the book to life and making it all feel right; from the glimmering lavenders and deep purples to the more grounded and muted colors, he grants the work a palette that contextualizes story. Yes, it’s epic, it’s cosmic and world-shattering, but it’s also deeply human and intimate. There’s a sense of grit, a feeling of flesh and bone against flesh and bone, mace against mace, man against man. Hitch’s art is very much about that and Skipper’s choices lean into it and make that clear, carefully managing lighting to help give Hitch’s work the appropriate look and weight it deserves. The visual power is never wasted and when it’s let loose, it feels important.
Idamm, the current leader of The Deathrbringers and Hawkman’s sworn nemesis, is a man of hate, fury and carnage. Steeped in death, deriving meaning from anger, he’s the counterpoint to Carter. He’s the ultimate horror of what a Deathbringer is, who Hawkman himself might have been, if he didn’t know better. In a lot of ways, he’s the embodiment of the worst parts of the hero and his complex past. And what do you do when the worst of history comes knocking? Why, it’s simple. You use the best of history to beat it.
Throughout the story, Carter’s been jumping across all of time and space, with clues given as to the nature of his time slip and what he might accomplish with it. Having been given pieces of information by both this best friend, Ray Palmer, and his past self, Catar-Ol, Hawkman is at a crossroads. One man against an army. His odds aren’t great and he’s beaten. But that’s when it all hits him. Here is the remnant of his first life, Idamm and between the two of them lie all the lives of Hawkman. If Idamm is going to use death and rampage with his Deathbringers, it’s time that Hawkman realized and utilized his truest power: the power of life. And so the magic happens, summoning every Hawkhero to have ever lived across the ages. It’s a powerful moment, it’s an awe-inspiring moment and it’s one that puts into focus the kind of personal, thematically-driven and character-focused storytelling Venditti, Hitch, Skipper and Starkings are employing.
Skipper’s colors, one again, work phenomenally well in instances like this. The shimmering rainbow lightning is an inspired touch and it builds beautifully to the work Hitch and Venditti do. Starkings is also a key element here, masterfully maneuvering through Hitch, Currie and Skipper’s work to deliver Venditti’s words without undercutting the visual prowess on the page. He guides the audience through this duel across the city and skies, with celestial robots and hawkarmies, ensuring every intimate word uttered by Carter and Idamm lands. Whether it be yells of fury in red, uneven letters breaking past balloons, small energy fire resulting in slim BBOOMBs or a mace-hit and wing-release’s swift power represented in striking red blocky text, he gives appropriate context to every scene. Subconsciously helping the reader along with storytelling like this, which can and often is taken for granted, he sells the vision of the epic story in play.
Venditti and Hitch are very much a team that strengthens the others’ talents and this issue is no exception. Venditti’s mastered the art of the action-heavy blockbuster comic and his greatest strength is characters with a rich sense of history, especially history with clear contrasting points and an arc in play, and Hawkman is very much the distillation of all his interests and strengths as a scribe. Hitch is a master of widescreen comics and he redefined what a superhero comic could be in the contemporary era, especially in terms of action and the scope of it. Hawkman blends the two together and displays just how well their core sensibilities work together, no matter the genre or the setting.
A key moment is a bit of action prior to Hawkman’s revelation, where in he saves a group of people. He frees a whole group being carried away by The Deathrbringers via his mace and he catches one person, before asking them to grab onto another in the distance. Eventually each and every one grabs another and all of them connect to Hawkman and reach safety. All the while, the captions speak to Carter being one man, despite having all these lives that he cannot seemingly reach. What is seemingly trivial action and rescue is not and plays as a fantastic visualization of an internal struggle, signifying a solution. It’s cool to look at and it’s fun to read, but it’s also more. It’s great comics.
Hawkman continues to be a delight. This is the one book where celestial robots, magic maces, space-time travel, ancient alien warriors and sorcerers do battle. But it’s also a book about history, both the good and bad and how we can use it, confront it, learn from it, in order to move forward and go some place new. It’s about how we’re not always shackled and can be redeemed, and more than anything, it’s about discovery. It’s about being able to find that part of you that you never thought you would, to make real that which you never even imagined you could. Hawkman is a book that makes you want to soar the skies, like its own contemplative and wonderful protagonist. A hero who will do anything, give up anything in order to save us. A man who will reason, think and converse before he ever lifts a finger to fight. He’s a hero deserving of his rich legacy and grand place in things. Why wouldn’t you want to read about such a man?