Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Acquired: Justice League America #101-102

    I got a couple of packages in the mail yesterday.  One was a copy of the Japanese Game Boy Advance Ultraman series fighting game Daiketsu! Ultra Hero.  The other one is of more interest to this blog: copies of Justice League America #101 and #102, part of the "Way Of The Warrior" crossover with Hawkman v.3 and Guy Gardner, Warrior as we have discussed here over the last week.  (My older son, upon seeing the comics after I took them out of the envelope, said "Daddy, how come these comics don't have Batman on them?"  *sigh*)

    This is more of a milestone for me than it appears at first blush, as this actually finishes off my punchlist for Volume 3 of Hawkman.  At this point I am only missing a handful of Silver Age and forward Hawkman issues in either singles or collected editions, and these two had eluded me for quite a while, for some reason.  I found the Guy Gardner issues easily enough, but these were MIA when it came to the bins I scoured at various shows over the years.

    The Golden Age is going to be a harder nut to crack than just going on eBay and doing a Buy It Now, of course.  I, ahem, have "reading copies" of those Flash Comics stories, but other than the superlative Golden Age Hawkman Archives v.1, I don't have any Golden Age stuff, and that situation is unlikely to change any time soon as it seems unlikely that a Volume 2 will ever be forthcoming.  (On a side note, I have a devious notion to get the Silver Age era Hawkman Archives as well, just because, man, that Golden Age one is so beautiful.  I love my Showcase Presents but seriously, that color is nice.)

    I'm hip-deep in the first Messener-Loebs story, which definitely has a very different vibe (but not Vibe) than the Ostrander stuff.  It's intriguing.  But that's a post for another day.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Read: Hawkman v.3:no.7-8

I'm working my way through Volume 3, in prep for "Way Of The Warrior," so here we are with the two parter "King Of The Netherworld."  And Mongrel is back.  Yay.  

Back when I read the Hawkman Annual #1, I mused that I wanted someone who had actually lived a hard life to put Mongrel in his place.  Well, I don't know that Katar Hol has lived as hard a life as some other heroes, but he puts Mongrel in his place pretty good in this two part story which clears the deck of some aspects of the Ostrander stories and sets the stage for Bill Messener-Loebs to come in during the Zero Hour build-up.

Our story is as such: Mongrel, still angry at the entire world, goes to the Netherworld, where he tells (read: shouts) his intentions to lead the Netherworlders and get them a bigger piece of the pie.  Most of them aren't interested, prefering their independence, but enough follow Mongrel to form factions amongst them, and brawls begin to break out between the sides.  After Naomi sees a vision of Netherworld being attacked by a giant dog (subtle...), Hawkman interjects.  The battle escalates until Mustang Suzy is critically wounded, and dies at the hospital.  Mongrel attacks Katar in the hospital, and a few of his loyal metas steal a cache of drugs from the pharmacy.  As Mongrel and Hawkman duke it out, Mongrel's goons pass out the drugs, which they do not realize are tainted with a bacteria which is harmless to humans, but lethal to metas.  As the Netherworlders begin to drop like flies, Mongrel bemoans that this was not what he wanted and blasts away, leaving Hawkman to pick up the pieces of the decimated Netherworld.

Scribe Paul Kupperberg has a pretty inenviable task, trying to present the thoroughly unlikeable Mongrel as a character who waivers between sympathic and scummy.  His actions in this story pretty solidly cement him as "scummy" in my book, including essentially starting a bloody civil war amongst the Netherworlders, and then complaining that it was not his intention, or demanding that others follow him just because he says so.  He says things like this often while physically attacking others, including nearly destroying a hospital full of patients.  

Kupperberg does a good job, however, in demonstrating how Mongrel's attitude effects others.  Shayera, for instance, calls him no better than a mad dog who needs to be put down.  Katar starts out feeling that Mongrel has the potential to be a good person but has been alone with his anger too long -- but eventually, Katar comes around to Shayera's thoughts, calling him a little wannabe dictator as Mongrel performs one careless act of violence after another.  Mongrel himself has a few moments of clarity, but they are too few and too far between.  He's a lousy character to try and push as an anti-hero.  He makes for a good (if whiney) villain in these two issues and he should have stuck to that route.

On the art, Luke McDonell and Ricardo Villgran are a good pairing, but I still miss Jan Duursema.  This is a personal bias, though, as I thought the crew did a fine job, especially with all of the strange Netherworlders.  Mustang Suzy, for example, looks fantastic, a true merging of metal and flesh.  The covers to both #7 and 8 are by Steve Lieber and Rick Magyar. #7 is nice as well other than the fact that Mongrel is the main character and Hawkman the secondary one. The cover copy includes the blurb "Mongrel Rules!" which makes me wonder if DC thought Mongrel would catch on the way that Carnage did over at Marvel.  The cover to #8 is very nice, as Hawkman and Mongrel battle it out amongst the rubble at the hospital.

All in all I did enjoy the story even though it was a "clear off the table" sort of tale.  I liked seeing Mongrel get taken down (even if he managed to slink away) and I liked Hawkman's coming around to the realization that this kid is a problem and not a victim.  There's a lot of good action, and dropping the Netherworld stuff is probably for the best as it has been more of a distraction than a focus in this volume so far.  Not the greatest issues in the world but considering the bad guy and the intention of the story this could have been a lot worse.  That sounds like faint praise, I but I dug both issues.

Onward to the Messener-Loebs stuff...

Image: Hawkman v.3:no.8, 1994, Steve Lieber.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coming: "Way Of The Warrior"

    Just picked up off of eBay: Justice League America #101-102, which are the final parts I am missing for the "Way Of The Warrior" storyline which started in Guy Gardner: Warrior, and of course Volume 3 of Hawkman.  My friend Shawn Engel runs the Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner podcast Just One Of The Guys -- and if you are not listening to it, you really should be -- and he's just hit Zero Hour, which means that "Way Of The Warrior" will be coming soon enough.  I've never read this far in Volume 3, but once I get caught up on Earth 2, I am going to start making my way through the series.

    I heartily recommend Shawn's Just One Of The Guys podcast to anyone interested who came up in the 90s and has fond memories of that period.  Go check it out!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez "Apes" Classic Hawkman! (Get It?)

    I read Hawkman v.1:no.6, "The World Where Evolution Ran Wild!" last week, and when I did, I was instantly reminded of this great cover of DC Comics Presents: Hawkman by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (praise be his name, h/t to The Fire & Water Podcast).  What's better than gorillas?  Why, FLYING GORILLAS of course!  This is the DC Universe, after all!

    Image: DC Comics Presents: Hawkman #1, Jose Luis Gracia-Lopez, 2004. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New And New-Old Hawkman Toys

I have been trying to go through my ridiculous backlog of toys and get them opened up and displayed lately.  I am still catching up (a new GI Joe movie will always get me backed up with new purchases), but I have managed to bust out two new Hawkman toys, one actually new and one only new-to-me.  So here's some quick thoughts.

The New: DC Comics Unlimited "Savage" Hawkman.  This large figure is in the style of the DCUC Hawkman in terms of sculpt and articulation. Otherwise, it is all Philip Tan's design from the New 52 launch, right down to the weapons.  It's a well proportion and detailed figure, with nicely buff arms, a typically barrel chest, and impressive wings.  The wings use the same sort of hinge piece as the DCUC figure, which makes sense, but is still ugly.  Still, how often are you going to look at him from behind?  He retains a grimace, which fits for the Tan depiction of the character as well.  The axe weapon is a nice change of pace from the maces which Hawkman is normally given.  The shield/claws piece satisfies the shield requirement nicely.  Overall, I really like him, but beware that the cost of these 6" figures has gone up to almost $18 to as much as Twenty-Five Dollars  in some places, so caveat emptor.  I thought he was worth it but your mileage may vary.

The New-To-Me: Mattel Total Justice Hawkman.  My friend Frank has a strange sort of love the Total Justice line, and in a way I do as well.  As a y'ung'un I only had the Flash, who was very prone to falling over, but in general I think the line did alright considering the gimmick and the era in which they were produced.  Hawkman has the benefit of what Transformers fans call "third leg mode," and-- get your mind out of the gutter.  His wings are mostly static but the right wing tip is close enough to the ground that it can act as a tripod for the figure, helping him stand sturdily.  The details which are there are pretty nice -- I like the long hair sticking out from below the helmet, for instance.  The armor pieces are a waste of time, as usual, but the figure itself is a nice enough rendition of Katar Hol, and I can easily see a kid playing with him along with the other members of the Justice League.

(Considering their cost, don't think I haven't thought about getting my boys a set of Total Justice Justice League toys to play with.)

The final verdict is that I still love Hawkman toys.  Two excellent additions for my Hawkman shelf and a nice whetting of my appetite for the two big 2-packs I still have sitting unopened -- the DCUC Hawkgirl vs Gentleman Ghost set, and the DC Direct Hawkman and Hawkgirl set.  So we'll save those for another time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Just Read: Justice League of America #1

True to my word, I read the new Justice League of America #1 last night.  (Minor spoilers as usual.)

In a word: Hrrrrm.

It seems that Geoff Johns is spinning our Space Cop into mysterious and deadly territory.  His encounter with Byth (or I should say "Byth") is something which either previous version of Katar Hol would never do.  He'd bash the perp's head in with a mace, sure, but the combination of the detached, clinically cold attitude and a seeming lack of concern for the law are whole cloth additions to his personality -- both pre-New 52 and in the present.  This goes beyond Space Cop.  We're even moving past Space Dirty Harry Callahan (remember that in Magnum Force, Callahan said that the law may not be perfect but it's the one they have and until there's a better way, he will enforce the law) and into new territory here.

How does this resolve with Savage Hawkman?  Who knows?  Considering that the solo book ends in 3 issues, I'm sure a lot of readers are asking "Who cares?" instead.

It's clear to me that Johns is making Hawkman as much a mystery as anything else in this book.  I may be more prone but he hooked me in this issue.

Now it's time to deliver on the potential and knock this book (and Hawkman's depcition therein) out of the park.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Just Read: Savage Hawkman #17

My box from DCBS arrived today, so while there was a few spare moments, I sat down with Savage Hawkman #17 and gave it a read.

This issue almost feels like a throwback to a comic from the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths era of the DCU but with a modern look.  Which is appropriate as the writer is Tom DeFalco, who certainly penned a lot of stuff in the 80s.  I like DeFalco and I like the 80s, but this is a little jarring from what we have gotten on this series before.

I must admit that I liked the use of thought bubbles, which I miss in mainstream comics.  There is one thought bubble which caught my attention:

There is no Carter Hall!  He is pure fiction. A convenient guise constructed while my memory was impaired. I am Katar Hol.  A warrior who revels in the power of the Nth Metal -- not a cowering academic who fears it!  I am a hunter of men and monsters -- sworn to protect my adopted word from all threats terrestrial and galactic.

Now, as an answer to the question "Who is the New 52 Hawkman?" this is fabulous.  We should have gotten something along these lines in the first issue (h/t Count Drunkula).  It might be a bit melodramatic but it's concise and direct.  That's the new Hawkman in one page of thought bubbles.

But... and there is always a but... how does this jive with what we saw before?  #0 showed us a Katar Hol who was more lover than fighter.  Was there a warrior side to Katar which we never got a chance to see?  Evidently, or at least that is the retcon.

I have no qualms about a "Space Conan" as long as he is written consistently and effectively.  I hope Geoff Johns intends to do just that.

As for the issue itself, I liked it, even though it seems a little like going through the motions just because we all know the end is near.  I liked the bad guys, the return of some of the supporting cast, and the new Shadow-Thief was a totally new animal from Carl Sands, which I liked.  And of course the art was fantastic as usual.  So while not an issue that would save the series, certainly one I had fun reading.  That's all I am asking for right now.

Coming up, Justice League of America #1...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hawkbooks Incoming!

    My latest box shipped from DCBS yesterday, so that means I can expect to get my mitts on Savage Hawkman #17 and Justice League of America #1 shortly.  I also made a trek to Borderlands today to pick up Earth 2 #9 and #10, which I had passed on originally due to budget.  Ironically, the cancellation of Savage Hawkman (along with some other books I read such as Sword of Sorcery) means that I can afford to buy Earth 2 again.  As William Shatner once said, "Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes."

    This move is probably better in the long run, as I think Earth 2 will last longer than the 20 issues which Savage Hawkman is slated to run.  But then again, I have a horrible track record at predicting this sort of thing, so eh.  Right now I am digging what's going down in Earth 2 so I'll just enjoy it for as long as it lasts.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Does a Pacifist Walk The Way Of The Warrior?

Sometimes I question why I do mail order.

"The savings" is the correct answer, and the answer I always come back to.  But it makes it very difficult to wait to read these books that everyone else is talking about, especially when it comes to Hawkman.  I can't comment on Savage Hawkman #17 or Justice League of America #1 because my dang box won't ship until this week thanks to DCBS's new shipping policies.  Hrrn.

I want to read JLoA (prepare yourselves: I bought the South Carolina variant) specifically because of what I have been reading online about Hawkman being portrayed once more as a brutal warrior.  This is in line with how Johns wrote the character in both the pre-Infinite Crisis JSA as well as in Volume 4.  I just finished up the "Wings of Fury" collection from that Volume, and that was the final conclusion of the Headhunter storyline -- that Carter needed to embrace his warrior self and abandon the "masks" of civilization which he wore.

Considering that during this period it was very common for Hawkman to be called "Conan with wings" this makes some sense -- for Carter Hall, ancient soul reborn countless times, anyway.  It makes less sense for Katar Hol, Thanagarian police officer, but the alien Hawkmans were usually less "warrior" and more "tough guy cop" which lines up.  Space Dirty Harry works for me.  (I'm still waiting for a character to fill the role of Space Paul Kersey but that is another matter.)

Which puts us in a weird sort of position as our New 52 Hawkman is Katar Hol, adoptive Thanagarian royalty.  And non-warlike adoptive Thanagarian royalty at that.  How does this guy -- the guy who was the "peaceful" brother back on Thanagar -- become the warrior like Johns clearly wants to write him?

In retrospect, a lot of Savage Hawkman really doesn't add up at all.  What was the uniform Katar/Carter was destroying at the start of the series, for one.  And why is the peacenik brother suddenly this "savage" just because he was a fugitive?  (At this point I would almost buy him becoming savage NOW because of the hounding and pursuit in "Hawkman: Wanted," coupled with Shayera's death, but who knows?)  

I think it's plain looking at it now that Tony Daniel had one thing in mind, and then that got jettisoned when Rob Liefeld came on board.  And then that itself was jettisoned when he left and now the character is back in a sort of narrative limbo.  

Why does this sound so familiar?

What is it about certain characters (like Hawkman) who attract this sort of wonkiness?  My theory is that it is the multiple origins, and different creators having different favorites of the origins, and those favorites not playing well together.

There has to be something more to why Katar has changed his mind about violence and the way of the warrior.  I have a gut feeling that Johns intends to address it as he has shown a prediliction towards that characterization in the past.  We'll see soon enough, I imagine.  At least those of us who don't have to wait for our mail order boxes.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

So. Yeah.

There's an old joke that you know a salesman is lying when his lips are moving.  There's a newer joke that you know a blogger is lying when they say they will post more often.

Running a blog is the definition of a labor of love.  You're certainly not getting paid to do it, and any time you devot to it is time away from family, or work, or relaxation, or chores, or whatnot.  There's little upside in terms of opportunity cost in running a blog.  Yet lots of us do it -- specifically the loosely knit circle of DC Universe character specific blogs which have all sort of sprung up in the wake of Rob Kelly's Aquaman Shrine (no pun intended).  

We're an odd bunch of bloggers with an odd spectrum of approaches, styles, interests, and mindsets.  We run the gamut from one coast to the other, one side of the aisle to the other, new school, old school, high school, grad school, and clown college.  But at the end of the day we all share a love for the DC Universe and at least some subset of the characters who inhabit it and interact with each other.

Yeah, get to the point Luke.

Like I said this is a labor of love.  And when things get turned up to 11 in other parts of your life, the labors of love inevitably suffer.  It's simply the way it is.  And this is no different.  Working as the sole instrument engineer on a construction site is a demanding, time consuming task which will creep and creep and creep until it takes over all of your waking hours.  If you let it.  And while I have successfully fought that battle on other fronts, this battlefield was lost.

The other night I was cleaning out my nightstand and came across two nearly completed Hawkman collections.  One was the "Wings of Fury" trade for Volume 4.  The other was the Golden Age Hawkman Archives.  I stared at those two books for a few minutes and felt a wave of feelings.  Guilt, mostly.  Guilt for not keeping up the blog.  Then a bit of regret.  Then... inspiration.

I put aside the other comics I was reading.  Shogun Warriors was published several decades ago, it can wait a few more weeks.  Morbius is a vampire, he's effectively immortal.  Godzilla will understand.  And I did something I had not done in months.

I sat down and read Hawkman comics and had a grin on my face the entire time.

I had stopped reading my Hawkman collection because I didn't want to take the notes and blog about it.  Isn't that a stupid reason to stop reading the adventures of a character who I have come to love over the last few years?  A character whom I loved enough to devote this blog to him and his partners and foes and associates?

I started this blog as a chronicle of "one fan's journey into Hawk fandom."  I think it is safe to say that "I have arrived" there.  Being Carter Hall needs to be refocused.  Repurposed.  I know all about Hawkman, whichever one you want to talk about.  It's not a journey into the fandom now.  I am part of it.

They say that writers gotta write.  Well, bloggers gotta blog.  And while I may not be as up-to-the-minute as I want to be with news and tips, but I feel like I need this.  I need to get back to a place where I can sit down at night after the kids are asleep and the dishes are washed and the email is answered and just read comics.  Read comics where a pair of winged warriors use the weapons of the past and the technology of the future to fight the crime of the present.  Maybe the posts themselves won't be as structured as they were.  Maybe I'll finally talk about the villains I have been promising for years.  Maybe, maybe.  

But I know that I want to read Hawk comics and blog about Hawk comics and talk about them with all of you out there in Internet Land.  

So now I have to ask: Will you have that discussion with me?

Kindest Regards,