I read my comic books in a funny way. First, I'll read an issue of a new comic book, say for instance, THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #5 published by DC Comics this year and pictured above on the left. Then, I'll follow it up with a back issue from my collection of a similar title or issue featuring the same character. In this case, it's HAWKMAN #2, published by DC Comics in 1964 and pictured above on the right. I hated one of these comics. I adored the other one. Any one care to make a guess as to which is which?
The first issue of THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN was published in 2011 as part of DC's massive relaunch entitled "The New 52". In this iteration of Hawkman (and I've lost track of just how many different versions there have been of this character over the years) finds Carter Hall working as an archaeologist with a special talent for deciphering ancient languages and hieroglyphics. This of course leads to translating material of both arcane and alien origins.
There are only the vaguest hints about Thanagar (Hawkman's home planet in some versions) and no Sheira/Shayera/Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman in any of the issues I've read thus far. Hawkman's Nth metal, in addition to granting him the ability to defy gravity and fly, is now somehow organically fused within Hall's body and manifests itself as overly pointy body armor in times of stress or when Hall needs to become Hawkman.
The issue above is part of a longer story arc, as are almost all modern superhero comics these days and as such, the reader comes into an ongoing story (with little or no editorial help to bring said reader up to speed) and the reader is left with a cliffhanger ending that may or may not be resolved in the next issue. I can't believe that a casual reader, someone with absolutely no knowledge of Hawkman and his incredibly convoluted back story, could pick this issue up, read it and care one whit about ever reading another issue of this comic.
The cliffhanger ends with the reappearance of The Gentleman Ghost, a Hawkman foe who dates back to the Golden Age of comics. He's been updated and modified for this go-round and comes with a slightly new-look and new-powers. Longtime fanboys might be excited by the appearance of this villain in the "New 52" but again, a casual reader is likely to look at this plot development and wonder, wtf?
Hawkman has changed. The Gentleman Ghost has changed. But don't worry. These changes are assuredly not permanent. Once the "New 52" has run it's course (as it most certainly will), at some point in the not too distant future, we'll be treated to yet another rebooting of Hawkman and his gallery of rogues, including The Gentleman Ghost. So enjoy this one while it lasts (if you're so inclined) because I guarantee you, it won't last long.
The artwork by Philip Tan leaves much to be desired. It's dark, muddy, and unclear with unattractive figure work and a clumsy flow from panel to panel. It's hard to look at and hard to follow. Are there no art directors working at DC these days? I suppose the dark art is in keeping with making this new version of Hawkman "savage" aka "dark & gritty" but I'll be honest with you. This isn't a Hawkman I want to read about.
That Hawkman exists in the pages of HAWKMAN #2 from 1964 and yes, I own a copy. This issue sports a terrific cover and interior art by the legendary Murphy Anderson. There are two (count 'em, two) complete stories in this issue and I'm guessing both were scripted by Gardner Fox.
Anderson's art is a thing of beauty to behold. It's clean, simple yet bold, uncluttered and is always, always, always in service to the story. No "look at me, I'm drawing!" gimmicks and stunts here. Just elegant artwork that depicts two superb heroes, Hawkman and Hawkgirl, doing what they do best: fight modern day crime with ancient weapons.
The idea of two alien police officers coming to Earth to study our police methods while also battling evil was and still is a terrific idea. The fact that the Halls eschew their Thanagarian weapons and equipment and take to the skies armed with various weapons from history only adds to the appeal of this series.
Fox's scripts don't focus much on character development. They are problem driven plots in which the Halls (or Hols, to be exact) are confronted by seemingly insurmountable obstacles before utilizing both their brains and brawn to solve the problem and defeat their foes. In the lead story, the Hawks battle alien invaders from another dimension. The tide is turned by the use of sparklers (yes, sparklers!). In the second story, Hawkman fights a gang of crooks using the actual wings of Icarus from Greek mythology.
The artwork is uniformly excellent. Anderson's Hawkman is a bit beefier than the lean, sinewy crime fighter that Joe Kubert drew in earlier issues of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, when Hawkman was in try-out mode. Shiera Hall is lovely as is museum employee Mavis Trent and the entire issue is simply a pleasure to read.
So there you have it readers. Which comic did I prefer? Which comic would you prefer? This old geezer says, "they don't make 'em like they used to."