Assembling a Hawkman story in 2018 isn’t an enviable feat. The character has a reputation for having a broken history that’s beyond impenetrable and all attempts to fix it have just ended up making it worse and more confusing. That’s why it’s so impressive that Robert Venditti, Bryan Hitch, Alex Sinclair and Richard Starkings construct one of the most accessible and exciting Hawkman stories in recent memory.
Venditti approaches Carter Hall as an Indiana Jones for the DC Universe and as such gives Hawkman an opening set-piece that puts the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark to shame. He turns a simple snatch-and-grab into an epic superhero showdown and makes the world of the DC Universe that tiny bit more interesting by uncovering a previously unseen world which could host its own stories should future creators decide to revisit it.
The creative team of Hawkman had their work cut out for them in making the character accessible again but the smallest of tweaks to how Hawkman’s continued reincarnation works manages to fix everything. In fact, all it takes is two words added to the end of a sentence and suddenly everything about Hawkman that feels out of sync lines up perfectly and you wonder why no-one ever did that before.
Character wise, Venditti’s Carter Hall is charming, affable and actually likable, something previous incarnations of the character have struggled with. Often shown as the stick-in-the-mud used as the straight man in a team setting, that doesn’t work as well in a solo setting and the Hawkman team know that. Hawkman is shown as someone with a rich history of relationships and friendships and someone willing to reach out to his friends for help. Carter Hall feels like a leading man for the first time in a long time, so much so you could see him played by one of the Chrises in a blockbuster movie.
Bryan Hitch is doing some career best work in this issue and his work feels cinematic and breathtaking again for the first time in several years. As one of the pioneers of the style which became so prevalent in the early-to-mid 2000s, Hitch helped set the tone for an entire era of comics, so much so that it was easy to forget what made it so special in the first place. His Hawkman soars majestically, unbound by such trivial things as panel borders and his design work and location detail in the opening set-piece is easily some of the best of his decades-long career.
Speaking of detail, the inks in Hawkman are rich and deep without weighing the title character down in too much black space. Light sources and the shadows they cast are an incredible underrated tool within an artist’s repertoire, but the opening splash page of Carter Hall flying towards the reader, with the sun peaking out from behind his wing, gives you everything you need to know about the character as the sunlight glistens off his form.
Alex Sinclair’s colors bring another vital layer to the overall presentation of Hawkman, and the predominantly blue pallette of the opening set-piece conveys a sense of boundless adventure and limitless possibility. In the past I’ve often found Sinclair’s colors to be too muted, but his work with Hitch in Hawkman brings out the best in both artists and makes it seem like they’ve been collaborating together for decades. In the book’s latter half, Sinclair’s colors are vital in presenting the dreamlike state Carter finds himself lost in and what could be a messy-but-ambitious double-page spread proves successful in large part due to its colors.
Hawkman does everything you want a first issue to do; it’s a thesis statement for the ongoing series as a whole while providing an interesting and compelling hook which wasn’t bandied about ad nauseum in the pre-release press. DC has found something potentially really special in the collaboration between Venditti, Hitch and Sinclair who each seem to play to the collaborators’ strengths in the ways only the best creative teams do. Hawkman #1 is a title about unlimited potential, not just for its protagonist but for itself as a comic, and the sky ahead is wide open.