Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Read: The Savage Hawkman #5

Issue: The Savage Hawkman #5
Title: Waking Nightmares
Published Date: Jan 2012
Generation: New 52 Carter
Retcon Status: In Continuity

Summary: Carter is on the streets of New York with Emma when he suddenly starts seeing all of the people around him as rotting zombies.  The Nth metal begins to come out, when, just as suddenly, everyone goes back to normal.  Freaked out that the Nth metal might be effecting his mind, Carter morphs into costume and gets some air.

Across town in the Village, a rare book dealer named Digby is visited by a strange customer, who is interested in a mysterious book containing unreadable symbols.  Scared, Digby tells the customer to just take the book, but the customer demands Digby decipher it, as his life depends on it.

Back at his apartment, Carter runs into his hook-up obsessed neighbor Singh, and then gets a call from Professor Ziegler, who has a job for him.  The job turns out to be the book which Digby was ordered to translate.  Once he touches the book, Carter's mind is filled with images of a group of warlocks and interdimensional apparitions being attacked by animated corpses, and the last warlock using an artifact called the Mortis Orb to banish them, albeit at a great price.  Carter takes the book back to his apartment for further study, but while there he has another vision of the living dead (much to Singh's dismay).  Carter (as Hawkman) pays Digby a visit, and the book dealer tells him that he got the book at an estate sale five years ago.  Digby is clearly scared of "The Gentleman," and tells Hawkman that he can't get ahold of the Mortis Orb.  

Just then, spectral apparitions (the same as Carter had in his vision) appear.  Hawkman tries to defend himself but while the apparitions weapons can wound him, his own weapons pass right through them.  Hawkman thinks that at least he is not crazy, and that these creatures are real, but it may not be much consolation, as the mastermind then reveals himself: the Gentleman Ghost!

Review:  The second story arc of the Savage Hawkman era kicks things in a very different direction than the previous one, as we deal with magical relics and dimensional ghosts and moldering old tomes.  Very grim and foreboding, a good balance of the superhero and horror elements.  zombies are almost always a popular choice, so the decision from Daniel and Bonny to keep them in reserve in favor of the apparitions was a good call.  Speaking of the writing team, the addition of Jim Bonny on script is a beneficial one.  The dialogue in previous issues had been somewhat heavy, whereas here it seems to be more natural.  It's not banter by any means, but there is an improvement.  Singh is a welcome addition to the supporting cast, and to me the Gentleman Ghost is always welcome.  (As an aside, the apparitions also vaguely remind me of the poltergeists from the 1986 Hawkman Special, which also starred Gentleman Ghost.)

Tan's art is moody and dark, an excellent fit for the tone of the story.  His redesigned Gentleman Ghost combines the classical elements (top hat, monocle, topcoat, gloves) with the arcane (we can see that his skin is rotting, and he is wearing some sort of armor or ornamental bracers on his shoulders).  It definitely evokes the Gentleman Ghost, easily the most recognizable and popular of Hawkman's admittedly small rogues gallery, but suitably for the "edgy" aesthetic of the New 52.  

Overall, I liked this issue.  I think if the series had kicked off with this storyline (including the popular baddie), the book might have won some more readers early on.  As it is, this is not the Gentleman Ghost you remember, but still one worth reading about.  A very strong beginning to the arc.

Image: The Savage Hawkman #5, 2012, Philip Tan.

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