Prior to the relaunch, the major gripes against Hawkman were that his history was dense, oftentimes confusing, and frequently contradictory. That hasn't changed much with this first issue of "The Savage Hawkman" as part of this sprawling DC relaunch. As a matter of fact, it's quite the opposite. The story opens with Carter Hall trying to rid himself of Hawkman by burning (with a fifth of booze and a starter's pistol apparently -- and yes, I know it's supposed to be a flare gun) the helmet and harness that are so inherently associated with Hawkman. Guess that really wouldn't make a good outfit for a hero if it can be easily burned.
When was Carter Hall Hawkman? When did he decide enough was enough? Why?
You'll get none of those answers in this first issue written by Tony S. Daniel, who decides to completely forego the backstory and set-up in hopes of establishing a rapidly paced story. That rapidly paced story involves a bunch of ancillary characters that work with Hall in some capacity, doing stuff for a Professor Ziegler who has set up a genetics lab to handle archaeological finds. Daniel goes to great lengths to establish Ziegler in this book, but doesn't make the character much deeper than words on a page. The same can be said for Carter Hall, who is not a very interesting character at this point. We know he has some experience as Hawkman, and we're told he has a knack for translating and deciphering symbols and runes, but we don't see it applied.
Philip Tan's storytelling is clunky and challenging at points. It appears as though he's using a wash technique, but the particulars of the art don't quite mesh with Sunny Gho's colors. Things are left undone, details are obscured, and consistency isn't a factor in the art, giving the artwork an unfinished, rushed appearance. When the harness is actually set ablaze, there's no flame or spark, just an odd wash of color and a pair of sound effects, which you can see in the preview right here on CBR.
The story follows the discovery and opening of an apparently alien vessel. Naturally, that's going to be trouble, which comes in the form of Morphicius, leaving me with flashbacks of the Hawkgod from the William Messner-Loebs run back in the 1990s. Morphicius has some minions lurking around who are barely more than shadows of a more convincing and worthy Hawk-foe. All of this leads me to wonder what it is, exactly, that this Hawkman series is reaching for.
I'm a big-time fan of Hawkman, but this book feels a little too much like it looked to the 1990s misfire of Hawkman for inspiration instead of looking to the larger legend of Hawkman. If Hawkman's alter ego is going to be an archaeologist, make him more like Indiana Jones. If he's going to be an adventurer, make him more like Flash Gordon. If he's going to be a savage warrior, make him more like Conan. Right now, Carter Hall is a whiny cardboard cutout who serves little purpose other than to give Hawkman an occasional breather.
I really want to like this book. I want it to be good and I want it to do well, but from what I see here, Daniel and Tan have their work cut out for them in winning me over. If they can't do it in the next pair of issues, then thankfully there are "Showcase Presents," "Archives," and back issues that I can get my fill of Hawkman from.