“Maybe it won’t be so bad, it’s only three of them.”
Hawkman has journeyed across worlds. He’s been to Ancient Egypt, Thanagar, Dinosaur Island, The Microverse and even Krypton. However, having finally discovered the truth at the heart of his endless existence, he’s reached his journey’s end. And it all leads back to place the book began on: Earth. The Deathbringers have finally arrived and the battle begins now.
Bryan Hitch is very much the champion of this issue, without question. He’s been simplifying his style for the last few months, managing to retain just enough of his carefully detailed artwork that so many have come to know and love, going back years to The Authority. Every issue has been a great showcase for the artist, with rich and distinctive settings and concepts coming into play. He’s drawn incredible spreads of planetary destruction, intimate character sequences with powerful framing, insightful body language and dynamic shots of flight. That’s key, the ability to depict flight and what it feels like for Hawkman and what aerial warfare may be, through careful choices to get across the sense of the hero and his mindset in the narrative as he soars. And this issue, Hitch gets to cut loose and do all of that, all that which he excels at, working alongside Andrew Currie and Jermiah Skipper. Depicting the Deathbringer behemoths from angles that only work in the comics medium, Hitch immediately gets across the sense of scale and scope of the story. Carefully establishing and laying out his setting from the very first pages, he draws an entire city shot of London from the top, contrasting it with the Deathbringers and emphasizing how puny it is in comparison. And in doing so, he also sets up the entire location in which this final act of the story is set to take place in, because the battle is just beginning.
The issue is fairly decompressed, acting as a part-one to set the stage for all this to come. And thus we see Carter rush to Xanadu’s store in London, as he did at the beginning of the story, leading to his quest in the first place. As he communicates his experiences and ideas for what must be done, the foes finally arrive and all hell breaks loose at last, with armadas pouring through the streets and only one Hawkman to stand against them all in desperation. Widescreen comics have blown up since The Authority but Hitch reminds us here why that ever happened to begin with via his mastery of the form. With well paced moments of actions utilizing splashes to establish a sense of power and importance and spreads to convey the power of the blows and exchanges, Hitch gets across story in an efficient and almost elegant fashion. With Venditti’s script backing him up, the artist boldly moves through page after page, ensuring that the action is framed interestingly and never gets boring. But beyond that, he also takes great care to convey and capture character amidst all of that, with body language and subtle gestures and expressions, showcasing how our hero stands out from those he fights against. Many tend to separate intimate character moments from the bombastic and epic action spectacle, but the strength of superhero comics is in proving that they’re not mutually exclusive and Hitch nails that aspect. You could take away the words and even still, the clarity of the storytelling conveys all you need to know, which is the mark of a great visual storyteller.Venditti, who perfectly understands Hitch’s strengths, gives him exactly what he needs while balancing those key moments of character that keep us anchored through all the bombast. The team’s Hawkman is a hero through and through, asking that others may be spared in exchange for him. There’s a great nobility to the character consistently throughout the run but it’s as things get dire that it pours out even further, as we see the depths of Carter Hall’s selfless heroic soul. He will pay any price, take on any burden, if it means he may save even one life. In the face of the callous and cruel Deathbringers who treat life like a joke, Carter is the true opposite, granting it value beyond any measure. It also serves to effectively reinforce his character arc and journey, as he once was the man he now faces, the general and leader of the Deathbringers.
Richard Starkings and Comicraft also do remarkable work here, catalyzing Hitch, Venditti, Currie and Skipper’s work with thoughtfully placed balloons and SFX at every turn. Whether it be small explosions via BOOM! or giant crashes via SSSHDOOM!, they make it all work and give life to the action and story, guiding the reader’s eye and attention. Skipper’s color palette, which casts the entire narrative in a pulpy glow, has shown time and time again that it has enough range for everything from the cosmic corners of Krypton to the unseen underbelly of The Microverse and he continues to do great work here as always.
Exhilarating as ever, Hawkman is a blockbuster about discovery that never disappoints. Hitch is doing some of his best work in years, whilst Venditti has found his perfect lens and perspective into the DC Universe through its historian hero. This is a crackling combo doing incredible work and boy is it fun to watch.