Thursday, February 25, 2010

The early Hawkman tales are brilliant

Showcase Presents: Hawkman, Vol. 1 (DC Comics, 2007)
Writers: Gardner Fox and Bob Haney
Artists: Joe Kubert, Murphy Anderson, Carmine Infantino, Bob Purcell, and Gil Kane
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

"Showcase Presents: Hawkman" is another mammoth collection of high-quality comics from the early 1960s. This one features the earliest--and very best--adventures of the "re-imagined" Golden Age hero Hawkman.

Written by master-scribe Gardner Fox, who also wrote a number of the original Hawkman tales during the 1940s, this collection of science-fiction tinged superhero adventures introduce the readers to Katar Hol and his wife Shayera who are police officers from the alien world of Thanagar who have come to Earth to study law enforcement techniques of our world. They come to be known as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, because their alien police uniforms and anti-grav technology make them appear like human hawks. The couple pose as the curators of the Midway Museum, and they augment their hi-tech equipment with antique weapons from the museum's collection as needed. They have to deal with alien menaces, Earth-based sorcerers, a few problems generated by artifacts at the museum, and even the bureaucracy of the Thanagarian police force.

The art is primarily by Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson (with the latter providing inks over Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane on select stories). Kubert illustrates the first 1/4th of the book, and he once again shows himself to be a master of drawing things in flight--there are times when the reader can almost feel the wind rushing past Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they take flight or battle airborne foes. While Anderson can't match Kubert's ability to capture aerial motion, he nonetheless provided some of the very best work of his entire career on these "Hawkman" stories.

In fact, the writing and artwork is for the most part so excellent that the one average comic book story that appears here (a Aquaman/Hawkman/Hawkgirl team-up of all things, by Haney and Purcell) looks positively awful by comparison. In the context of the general level of material from the early 1960s, the Aquaman team-up is okay, but it can't hold up when compared to the rest of this book.

Originally presented in issues of "The Brave & the Bold", "Mystery In Space", "Hawkman" and a stray issue of "The Atom", the stories featured are universally clever, fun, and definately among the very best of the Silver Age. From the interesting relationship between Katar and Shayera (who more than once clash when personal and professional life cross over), to the supporting cast, to the always-interesting foes they confront, to the very interesting team-ups with other superheroes (two with the Atom--another happily married superhero--one with Adam Strange, one girl-magician Zantanna, and the above-mentioned Aquaman crossover), these are stories that are bursting with creative energy, exciting ideas, and that spotlight top talents using their skills to their utmost.

The book isn't flawless, though. I've alredy mentioned the out-of-place Aquaman team-up. There are also the occasional element that feels extremely hokey some 45 years after the tales originally appeared (the worst of these is that Katar Hol's father is the inventor of modern police procedures on Thanagar AND the anti-grav technology that elite officers like Hawkman and Hawkgirl use), but the many fun aspects of the book more than makes up for them.

"Showcase Presents: Hawkman" is an affordable collection of great superhero comics. I think it might even be a book that can appeal to a young girl, of you know one that you'd like to get interested in comics. Despite the title, Hawkgirl is featured almost as frequently as Hawkman.)

The book is even more affordable if you order it from, as it only costs around $13 once their discount is applied.

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