I will start off this review by saying I loved Timothy Truman's original 1989 Hawkworld and John Ostrander's subsequent Hawkworld series, and I hate Rob Liefeld's most everything. Hawkworld was the first post-Crisis appearance of Hawkman, and his name was Katar Hol, an alien from Thanagar - a holdover from the Silver Age Hawkman created by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert. I very much disliked that Ostrander's Katar was essentially Zero Houred out of existence to make room for Carter Hall as the "one true Hawkman" of the old DCU, and then his very compelling Hawkwoman, Shayera Thal, was trotted out horribly out-of-character in The Rann-Thanagar War and unceremoniously murdered, to tie off that last loose end of "oh, Hawkman continuity is confusing." Who's fault was that? Not Truman and Ostrander. They did cool stuff.
Now, I don't have much beef with Carter Hall. He's still a cool lookin' winged barbarian dude in a threateningly pointy helmet who clobbers the ever-lovin' snot out of people with a mace. I could enjoy him as the hard-line bastard from time to time, but Katar Hol was very different and much more interesting to me. Born to privilege on the planet of Thanagar, he nonetheless pursued life "beneath his station" by joining the Wingmen, Thanagar's peacekeeping force, to experience firsthand how the poor lived - and that was not well. Thanagar was a planet of conquering warriors, who plundered other planets for their resources and then dumped any refugees off in their slums, while they themselves lived in floating cities thanks to the mystical properties of Nth Metal. He became a pill-popping addict to deal with the horrors he faced every day, until the day he was tricked into killing his own father, who had been endeavoring to ease the lives of the poverty-stricken. Sentenced to 10 years of isolation on a prison island without the use of wings, he kicked the drugs, found as much inner peace as he could, then came back home and immediately went underground to build a support network of supply smuggling to continue his father's work. In the process, he uncovered the truth behind his father's murder and became a hero to his people again - which gave him the clout to do things that his corrupt superiors didn't like.
Hawkworld #1: A young Katar Hol is moved by the sight of 47% of Thanagar being freeloaders.
It was good, meaty, political stuff. Katar eschewed violence for intellectual thought, but he'd hit a bastard with the mace when he had to - some habits are hard to break. When he and his beloved Shayera Thal came to Earth (and she was secretly spying on him for those corrupt superiors, one of whom was her father), they were completely stunned by the contents of the United States Constitution. The very notion of a Bill of Rights was an absolute revelation to them. It was a very cool and interesting perspective through which to look at the DCU, and it was all unfortnately brushed aside for Captain Egyptian Destiny thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths and the aforementioned Zero Hour.
That's why one of the books I had the most hope for with the whole New 52 project was The Savage Hawkman. It was one more chance to reboot Hawkman, and while I was certain he'd be a lot more Carter Hall reincarnation style, I hoped some elements of Katar Hol might be in the mix. I thought Savage Hawkman #1 was promising, but it quickly began to feel boring - the villain Morphicius didn't wind up doing much for me - so I lapsed in keeping up with it. When it was announced Rob Liefeld would be taking over from Tony S. Daniel, I concluded that there was no hope for it. Liefeld is kind of the worst.
Then, The Savage Hawkman #0 arrived in my mailbox this week (thank you, DC Comics), and I had glimpsed enough to have the inkling that the alien stuff might be a stronger presence in this book than I initially thought (which may be silly of me, since Carter Hall started this series as an expert in extraterrestrial matters). I also knew that Liefeld had hilariously burnt all bridges with DC, and that this #0 would be his last on the book. So he'd get to define Hawkman's new origin and then leave it for somebody else to hopefully make better. I had to discover the particular aroma of the last deuce he dropped for DC.
Having read it, my brain is broken. More homage is paid to Truman's and Ostrander's Hawkworld than I would ever have expected, but it's done so blandly that it makes it seem lame. And Hawkwoman has altimeter tits.
(Editor's note: I'd continue with 'altimeter boobs' from the headline, but somethingabout 'altimeter tits' has a better ring to it. It's all the Ts. Altimeter ta-tas, maybe?)
Let's start with the good. Liefeld did not do the art. That's handled pretty darn well by Joe Bennett, whose work is incredibly detailed, very expressive and just cool-looking with the Thanagarian designs. It feels a bit rushed here and there, but overall, it's good ol' action-hero comic book art in the traditional vein, and the prehistoric space slug that attacks is well-rendered, too. The new revelation is that Carter Hall is just the name Katar Hol adopted on Earth. This Hawkman IS Katar Hol, and he is a peacenik in the midst of a very warlike culture. I never thought DC would go there again.
However, Liefeld did plot and co-script the story alongside Mark Poulton, and the dialog is so stilted and weighed down with exposition that none of the characters manage to be particularly engaging. The new set-up is thus - we're being told the story of the royal family of Thanagar by Shayera Thal, who is inexplicably blonde instead of the red-head we used to know. The "Crown of Wings" is worn by Thal Provis, father of Shayera and her belligerently self-satisfied brother Corsar - who OF COURSE has one blanked out eye with a scar over it, because this is a Rob Liefeld story and he loves his one-eyed scar-faced guys. Shayera's lover is Katar Hol, who has become so close to the family that Provis has essentially adopted him. Think of it like common law in-laws. Corsar is made of war and Katar is made of peace, but they are like brothers who love each other regardless.
Corsar and most Thanagarians believe their wings make them superior, and they've just emerged victorious in a brutal war with both the Daemonites and the motherscratchin' Czarnians. However, Katar has the ear of Provis, and he's convinced the seemingly benevolent king to try and broker a lasting peace with a council of various representatives from other worlds. A United Nations of local planets. However, the Daemonites slipped them infected goods, and a plague ravaged Thanagar and robbed the populace of their wings, leaving Corsar furious and Provis dead, after his last words were reaffirming his commitment to Katar's peaceful ways. But Corsar was the rightful heir, and he's all pissed.
So he starts listening to "The Great Old Ones," who sound a lot like the Weird Sisters in Macbeth, old witches that Provis had cast out. But they tell Corsar destiny lies with the mining of Nth Metal, which was thought to be a myth by most. Corsar mines for it in the ruins of a place called Kolamoran (which I'm guessing is a reference to Hawkworld's legendary Thanagarian hero Kalmoran), despite the catastrophic casualties suffered by the miners, because he believes it's the key to restoring their glory. When he touches it, it gives him a golden gauntlet that can shift into a stabby blade. But when Katar touches it, it coats him in shiny Hawkman armor and gives him back his wings because he's worthy. Oh boy. A chosen one. How I love "chosen one" stories.
Of course, the brothers wind up fighting, war vs. peace, fueled by jealousy that the Nth Metal chose Katar the Uncorruptible instead of Corsar, who believes its his, and somehow, out of nowhere, Corsar is flash-fried to a crisp. I'm guessing the Nth Metal did it. Then, Shayera, who until this point has been a complete non-factor in her own story, blames Katar for that accidental death and has vowed to hunt him to the ends of the galaxy until she's sure her brother's been avenged.
Then, the modern day Hawkwoman is revealed. Oh god.
Just so you know the depths of my gutteral groaning at this last page, Let me show you what Hawkwoman used to be.
Hawkman #15 - Geoff Johns knew the score back then, even when he was writing her out of the book.
Military. Armored. Hardass. No bullshit. All business. Fucking awesome.
And now, it's this.
Are they there to monitor perkiness levels?
Half-naked. Supervillainous. With Vampirella's ridiculous crotch-bird. A sword magnetically attracted to her thigh. And altimeter tits. Fucking awful.
Or maybe those are sundial boobs. Or the Boobs of Owls. Clock knockers?
I don't know if I should blame Bennett for this or not, although I can certainly fault him for not giving her a scabbard or a belt or something for that sword to be hanging from. Normally, the artist should be the one to blame for a costume this fugly, but we do know that Liefeld fancies himself an artist as well, and I'd lay odds that Bennett was just doing what he could with Liefeld's awful design.
I will give The Savage Hawkman one more issue, to see if it gets any better without the Liefeld taint. The fact that Katar Hol exists in some form now has been too long awaited for me to ignore outright. But some serious improvement will need to happen if I'm to forgive altimeter tits.