SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Hawkman #1 by Robert Venditti, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie and Alex Sinclair, on sale now.
Hawkman is a confusing character, even by superhero comics standards. Is he a reincarnated Egyptian prince? Is he a space cop from a planet of bird people? Is he both? Is he neither? All of those things have been true at some point or other, and it got to the point where a character whose main appeal is a combination of muscles + wings + mace became way too bogged down in his own confusing backstory.
There have been attempts to fix Hawkman before, and they’ve worked, for a time... until someone else came along and decided they want to do the other thing, and he’s been caught in that binary for decades. However, with one double-page spread and a world-changing revelation, Robert Venditti and Bryan Hich have fixed Hawkman forever in the most simple of ways, making the character exciting again and opening up his role in the DC Universe perhaps more than ever before.
A Tale Of Two Hawkmen
The problem with Hawkman stems back to the Silver Age, and the thing to blame? His name. While other heroes got sci-fi reimaginings, they were reimagined into entirely new characters with entirely different names. Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Ray Palmer, etc. Hawkman was also given an entirely new backstory, as a police officer from the planet Thanagar who hunts a space criminal to Earth but he was given the name Katar Hol which is all too similar to his Golden Age name of Carter Hall.
If the new Hawkman had been given a completely different name, this wouldn’t have been a problem; we’d just have the Golden Age Hawkman and the Silver Age Hawkman, the same way we have for The Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom. That similarity in name led to people connecting the two completely separate characters in ways that weren't necessary, and things got confusing from there. When the worlds of Earth-1 and Earth-2 were combined in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hawkman was merged into one character who served on both the JSA and JLA, unlike his counterparts who let the next generation take over.
It was later revealed that this Hawkman was an imposter, and there was a Golden Age Carter Hall... and then they introduced a new Katar Hol, which made things more confusing. Zero Hour tried to fix things by merging all the Hawkmen into one character but that just made it worse and he was killed off for the better half of a decade. Grant Morrison attempted to fix this by introducing the angelic Zauriel, whom he intended to take up the mantle of Hawkman, completely separate from the Hall/Hol dynasty. That was nixed by DC however, and Hawkman remained a rough spot in continuity.