Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Read: Hawkman Special (1986)

Issue: Hawkman Special
Title: "Last Rights"
Published Date: ??? 1986 (There is no month on the cover!)
Generation: Silver Age Katar
Retcon Status: Out Of Continuity

Summary: Months after the events of the Shadow War of Hawkman, Katar Hol is plagued by nightmares, haunted by the Thanagarians he was forced to kill in their invasion attempt.  The Hol's discussion about Katar's nightmares has to wait, though, when they receive a call from the new police chief to report to Midway City Museum to investigate a strange glowing energy field.  When the Hawks touch the field, they find themselves in a strange wasteland, with giant misshapen beasts.  The beasts are called poltergeists, and are formed from strong emotions in the space between life and death... or so they are told by the Gentleman Ghost! Hawkman's interrogation has to wait though, as they are then greeted by what appears to be the ghost of the recently deceased Mavis Trent, who has lured them here before moving on.  The purpose of the lure?  To set up an ambush by the dead Thanagarians!  The Hawks fight but find themselves unable to get an upper hand on their foes.  Eventually, the world starts to fall apart and they wind up back in the museum and the energy field disappates.

Concerned for her husband, Shayera tells him about an old Thanagarian ritual her parents told her about, where the subject enters a trance and is able to help others "move on."  Moved by her concern, Katar agrees to the ritual.  The next day, while Katar is getting ready in Carter Hall's office, Shiera Hall has to shoo away the museum's new resident artist... who, unbeknownst to everyone, is actually a Thanagarian secret agent!  But for now that remains hidden, and Katar flies to Grinder's Bluff, the former HQ of the invasion and the location where Fell Andar died.  He calms himself, and enters the trance.  

In the trance, Hawkman again encounters Gentleman Ghost, who tells him that he is here to help his old foe and act as his spirit guide.  The Ghost leads Hawkman to each of the Thanagarians in turn; some are angry with him, some just want to say goodbye, and some just need the release.  But while he is helping his fellow Thanagarians in the trance, Katar's body is threatened in the real world by freshly animated rock monsters!  As the geomorphic creatures are about to strike, Katar is saved by the intervention of his wife!  A pitched battle ensues, in which the rock monsters are beaten back, and Hawkman and Hawkwoman fly off, ready to face the future.  But back at Grinder's Bluff, Gentleman Ghost admonishes the spirit of Fell Andar, who animated the rocks, saying that the Hawks are his to play with, and his alone.

Review: This issue serves as a Hawkman Annual, essentially, but DC policy at the time said that only ongoing series could have Annuals, and as this was released before Hawkman v.2 launched, it's a Special instead.  Semantics aside, this is a solid Annual/Special, featuring an oversized tale with several action sequences and plenty of characterization.  It's very clear that Tony Isabella had a strong plan of what he wanted to do with the Hawks after Shadow War and all of that starts right here.  The idea that the Thanagarians need closure is a very 80s sort of superheroing idea.  It reminded me, in a tangential way, of some of the Aquaman material from this time, where Arthur was forced to face and come to terms with his own anger and resentment.  But here, instead of his rage, it is Hawkman's guilt which he must overcome.  Howell's art is solid but not really superb; he is helped out quite a bit by Ron Randall's inking, which gives everything a nice bit of weight.  All in all a good issue though, one easily worthy of a second read.  (One of the reasons this review is late!)

Interesting also to note that this issue is the first one to definitively state that Gentleman Ghost is, in fact, a real ghost, and not a trickster or magician.  Lord knows that DC would get some mileage out of that revelation over the years!

Image: Hawkman Special, 1986, Richard Howell.

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