Thursday, October 30, 2008

Read: Hawkworld v.2:no.1

Issue: Hawkworld v.2:no.1
Title: "Thanagar's Hero"
Published Date: Jun 90
Generation: Modern Katar
Retcon Status: In Continuity

Summary: With Thanagarian criminal mastermind Byth exiled to the primitive planet of Earth, Wingman Katar Hol is hailed as the latest in the long line of "Thanagar's Heroes," including his own father, Paran Katar.  This makes his growing disillusionment with the rigidly structured Thanagarian society troubling for both Katar and his superiors.  The Wingman chief, Andar Pul, doesn't want Thanagar's Hero risking his life on patrol, but Katar will hear nothing of it.  Andar responds by ordering Katar's partner Shayera Thal to keep her eyes on him, and take him out if need be, because "Thanagar's Hero" can always be replaced.  Afterwards, after Katar checks with his government mole Kanjar Ro, Shayera gives Katar a piece of her mind, telling him that he has to get over his "liberal guilt" about his station in life and do his duty.

On a patrol, the Hawks investigate a pair murder victims who have had their faces skinned off -- the calling card of the Manhawks.  Their investigation is interrupted when they run into a Downsider kid who Katar knows.  Katar wants to help the boy, but he leads them into an attack by another Downsider named Bladebat, whom had lost his hand in a previous fight with Hol and replaced it with a knife. Things get more complicated as they are then ambushed by the Manhawks.  After a brutal three-way battle, the Manhawks retreat, Bladebat loses his other arm, and the boy is killed.  As Shayera says, they don't know any better, because "Once a Downsider, always a Downsider."  The Hawks are then given their new assignment: Earth.

Review: Well this certainly is a change of pace from what we've been reading on this site, huh?  A dark and grimy tale of corruption, totaltarianism, and class warfare, this is very clearly a very different take on Thanagar and it's resident heroes.  Truman is in full allegory mode here, turning what was once a pretty simple science fiction property and using it as dystopian social commentary.  It's not bad, I just wasn't expecting it to be this thick, honestly.  It's very odd to see Katar feeling guilty about being considered a "hero," but considernig the Post-Crisis landscape I guess it's unavoidable.  Graham Nolan's artwork is very nicely done, giving a sort of British, understated vibe to the proceedings which works well.  I especially like the redesign of the Manhawks, which loses the grace of the Silver Age design in exchange for a horrific, Cronenberg-like appeal.  As a launch for a new series, this is pretty good, but after this initial reading of the Hawkworld continuity, I still like Silver Age Katar better.

Image: Hawkworld v.2:no.1, 1990, Graham Nolan.


Anonymous said...

Hmm...interesting. I have heard about Hawkworld, of course, but to hear about it in detail is illuminating. It does seem like a very appropriate story for its time, and the idea of Thanagar as a police state endures in many ways today, but I would prefer a more hopeful version. I think a recreation of the SA tales, drawn from somewhere between the two extremes could be very interesting indeed.

Diabolu Frank said...

Katar was quite the liberal in the ongoing series, as I recall. Did you read the original mini-series? Where Katar is a pill-popping murderer? Plenty more guilt to work with, there. I should reread the trade myself, as I recall it being good, but with series reservations about the deconstructionism. Certainly Truman's art was a better fit for the material than Nolan's...

Luke said...

grey -- At this point I agree with you. I liked the Silver Age Thanagar, where the criminals were thrill-seekers and technology had enlightened the world -- but as you say, Hawkworld was the story for its time, and the SA was the story for its time. I think that we are going to see something on Thanagar one way or the other in the wake of Holy War, with Jim Starlin seemingly being handed the reins to the non-GL aspect of the DCU's cosmic side.

Frank -- No, I have not read the miniseries as I do not have it, unfortunately. But I can imagine that it establishes Katar's guilt quite well from what I have read and your little anecdote. Clearly Truman had an idea of reworking Hawkman into a more "modern" character; in the letters column he talks about how Hawkman had devolved into a "kneejerk right-wing" idiot who's only purpose was to argue with Green Arrow, himself a"kneejerk left-wing sexist" idiot.

Anonymous said...

Hmm......if only we could have a new Thanagar and Hawkman without the mess of current DC continuity. THAT, I'd be interested in.