Monday, August 27, 2012

Justice League Of America... How Does Hawkman Fit?

Big changes seem to be in the air for Hawkman over the last week or so, and judging from what we know (and what we do not know) I have a suspicion that they are not done yet.

First off, credit to Frank for making the point that the timing of this announcement is in part due to the big dust up last week over Rob Liefeld's rather public departure.  Sundays are not usually the day you announce something so this only makes sense.

Now then: Justice League of America.  

In short, I'm excited for this book.  

To elaborate, I think this is a combination of a creative team who should work very well together with a cast and mission statement which should gel nicely.  So that fills me with optimism about this entire endeavor.  

I just recently commented to the excellent podcast Hey Kids, Comics! (which you should listen to) about how Geoff Johns' turn on Avengers and his current spin on Justice League didn't really make much of an impact for me.  I speculated that part of my feelings for these titles is that Johns is better suited to a team of non A-List characters, that he is better able to juggle an ensemble cast where he is more "in control" of the team rather dealing with characters with solo books.  My example of this was his very long run on JSA/Justice Society of America, which I ended up reading the entire stint on and really enjoyed.  That's the vibe (no pun intended) I get from this series -- recognizable characters who are not the top shelf crew, albeit a lot of these folks have their own books.  (For how long is anyone's guess).  

David Finch is an artist I admit to not knowing much about.  Not sure that I have ever read anything which he has done the work on, but from the images I have seen of his stuff (such as on Batman: The Dark Knight and the promo image for this series) looks good.  Heavy and weighty, but seems appropriate for a team recruited by a government agent to take down metahuman threats.  I am eager to see more of his take on Hawkman, for sure.  I do want to say that I am very happy to see that Joe Bennett's Hawkman look is carried over here, complete with the feather details on the harness straps and the detailing on the gauntlets and weaponry.  

The cast features a lot of characters which I am either a fan of, or at least appreciate.  Hawkman, natch.  That kind of goes without saying.  On this team he looks like he will be the weapons expert and tactician.  Hand to hand will be his specialty, as it always is.  Johns wrote a strong Hawkman in both JSA and in Volume 4, so I have no real concerns on that front.  Finch makes him look great in the promo piece as I said.  So how will Hawkman get on with his teammates?

Martian Manhunter is a great character who needs some solid direction and better footing.  Putting him as the proxy Superman in charge of a Justice League team does reek somewhat of the 1990's but at the same time I support it wholeheartedly.  In Johns' hands I have a vague hope of J'Onn getting put over in a way that he has not been put over at any point in time which I can remember.  Johns makes his heroes look good.  If J'Onn is going to be leading one of Johns' teams, he will look good, both from a power standpoint and a leadership standpoint.  Hawkman and Martian Manhunter's history is odd... how will they work together?  This Hawkman seems willing to work with others (as seen in his team up with Static), but how will he do taking orders?

Green Arrow is a strong match up with Hawkman.  The two are set to meet up for the first time in the New 52 in the supposedly-still-upcoming "Hawkman: Wanted" storyline as it crosses over into Ollie's own book.  (Side note: according to Liefeld, one of the straws which broke the camel's back was something which Green Arrow scribe Ann Nocenti changed in the crossover issue... wonder what it was?)  This begs the question as to what their relationship will be?  I have not been reading Green Arrow so I don't know what kind of personality Ollie is presenting in this new universe, and their relationship has always been complicated as it was.  I have a sneaking suspicion that these two may actually be friends... at least to start with.  Maybe that's just projection on my part.  Of course, Johns (and James Robinson, to be fair) had Ollie and Carter essentially at each other's throats in the early days of Volume 4, including Hawkman backhanding Green Arrow on a splash page, so who knows?  Should be fun either way.

Katana is dressed in the worst costume of her career, and that's a pretty bold statement... but one which is pretty clearly self evident.  The idea of Katana on the Justice League is strange to me; she's an Outsider, after all.  I had the same response when Black Lightning joined the League.  But as we don't have any Outsiders (have we even seen Metamorpho, Geo-Force, or Halo yet?), I suppose this team of "non Big 7" works.  How this will mesh with her status in the Birds Of Prey... I have no idea and no concern.  Honestly, Katana as a BoP doesn't jive with me.  I always got the "girlfriends fighting crime" feeling from that property, and that's about as far away from Katana's character as can be, at least in my mind.  Another hand to hand specialist, I'd like to see how she and Hawkman relate to one another, as both have issues with anger and violence.  Frank made a good point as well about the similarities between this crew and the never-released Tony Bedard Batman And The Outsiders series, although at least from the broad strokes we have learned so far the motivations of the books will be different.  Still the connections are undeniable.

Baz, the new Green Lantern, is a complete mystery.  As he should be, since he has not been introduced yet.  But a Justice League should have a Green Lantern on it, and if it can't be Guy Gardner in this case, I'm willing to give the new guy a chance.  With Hawkman's newly discovered connections to outer space, I wonder what his opinion of the Green Lantern Corps will be?

Johns picking Stargirl for this team is no surprise, but at least it's not an unwelcome choice,  I figured with Johns role as the creative control officer of DC that it was only a matter of time before Courtney bowed in the New 52, and I figured it would be a team book.  So there you go.  I've read a lot of Stargirl (or Star-Spangled Kid, if you go back far enough) in team settings but I never was interested enough to track down her starring title Star and STRIPE.  But in a team setting I like the character, and seeing this kid rubbing elbows with some of the more "hard boiled" member of this team should be fun.  Plus it's another JSAer to hang out with Hawkman!

I'm less enthused about Catwoman.  I'm not a fan of the character in any meaningful way; I have long thought that her sustained popularity and solo title chops are due to titillation moreso than anything else.  Even the way that Finch draws her costume in the promo piece is little more than a skin show.  This is coupled with the stink radiating off of her that says to me "Put a Batman character in there."  There's other female characters in the DCU which make substantially more sense to be on a Justice League team rather than Catwoman; these characters are not nearly as recognizable nor as popular as Catwoman, and thus they are not in the book.  I mean, Vibe is in the book, why not go with Gypsy?  Or Big Barda or Crimson Fox or Doctor Light or Vixen?  Sorry, but seeing Catwoman on this roster gave me good reason to roll my eyes.  Catwoman has been known to steal ancient artifacts, a fact which I cannot imagine Hawkman will care for.

As I mentioned, Vibe is also on the team.  Honestly, no problem with this.  I think that with Vibe the intention was to make a premiere Hispanic superhero for the DC universe.  I don't know that the Detroit League was the proper avenue in which to pull off such a feat.  Given, again, Johns penchant for putting over his favorites, I suspect that Vibe will come off as a very strong character in this series, and I would like to see his development.  He can be brash, cocky, and headstrong, oozing machismo as appropriate, but I'm banking on Johns making him a real, fleshed out young man as well.  And I have to say that from what little glimpse we see that his costume as depicted by Finch is a major improvement.  I wonder how the hot tempered kid from Motor City will mesh with the take-no-guff Carter Hall?

This brings us to Steve Trevor, Agent of ARGUS.  You know, a lot of comics fans (rightly so!) champion the elevation of supporting characters whom have been around forever to more prominent status.  The most obvious of these is Lois Lane; I remember a short-lived by rather vocal digital outcry a few years back to give Lois her own strip once again, either as an online exclusive or a backup.  (For the record I would still like to see such a strip.)  I very rarely hear this sort of outcry for Steve Trevor, mostly because it seems like the Wonder Woman fans don't really like him, and the non Wonder Woman fans consider him a wussy "mansel in distress" character.  Making him an espionage agent very clearly in the Nick Fury mold is fine with me.  It suits him, he doesn't have a place in the current Wonder Woman book, it does justice to his history without laboring over it, and if he happens to run into the Princess and they make eyes at each other, all the better.  That having been said it's readily apparent to this blogger that his presence on this team and his new role are direct references to The Avengers, but as I have always said, if you are going to ape something, might as well ape something really good.

I'm sure that we will find out more about this book and this team as we get closer to it's debut.  I know that I am not the most hard-edged critic in the world, but I have to say that I am eager to learn more about this crew and to read their adventures.  I think that this book can fill a role in the DC lineup which we don't have right now, and I think that this creative team on this set of characters can be something special.  Time will tell how close to the mark my thoughts and predictions are, but until then, we can all speculate and consider options.

What do you folks think?  Are you excited about the new team?  Dubious of the book?  Happy with the cast, or snorting derisively?  Leave a comment and let's talk about it!


Diabolu Frank said...

I liked Johns' Avengers run, and will be pleased if this is as good. Hawkman spent more time in the JLA than he ever did in a solo series, so it's important that he works as part of this group. It's home.

Phillip Tan has always been a poor man's Dave Finch, so I see no reason why you wouldn't dig it. I'd probably hate him on the main team, but his quirks seem to shine on this more offbeat assortment. The piece reminds me a lot of Whilce Portacio, who I've been a fan of for nearly a quarter century.

I thought the headbutting with Ann Nocenti was because she suggested Liefeld's Hawkman's #0 issue origin be told as a dream left open to interpretation, and the editor backed her.

Luke said...

Regarding the deal with Lifeld and Nocenti, I don't think we will know for sure until all of the issues in question are released, to be honest.

I liked parts of Johns' run on Avengers. To this day I don't think he had any idea how to write Iron Man, and he was constantly putting over Black Panther, whom I have always felt is over-rated and pushed primarily for his race. And then having Republican SecDef turn out to be the Red Skull who then said that to make America a Nazi country all was needed was (and I quote) "a push in the right direction" (emphasis from original), that was a bit much for me.

That having been said I thought overall his run was good, and when he was able to write about the characters he had a good voice for, the book was definitely worth reading. Then came Chuck Austen, and Johns' work looked like the collected volumes of Williams Faulkner and Shakespeare combined.

I have high hopes for this series, and think that if Johns approaches this with the same sort of attention to character personality and individuality that was on JSA, it should be a fine read.

Diabolu Frank said...

Luke, as a friend, let me tell you, Black Panther is not overrated. As originally conceived, Black Panther was the Post-Crisis Batman twenty years early. The Essential Black Panther (specifically the collected run of Don McGregor and Billy Graham) is fantastic, as are the first several years of Christopher Priest's run. Check that out.

Megara said...

Definitely excited about this book I mean Hawkman and Green Arrow, in the same book? Hopefully we'll see Ray Palmer come along soon! Really enjoyed David Finch's treatment Of Hawkman back in Brightest Day, so he should do well here. Also looking forward to seeing Stargirl and Martian Manhunter.Although I'm confused as to why Johns has Stargirl here instead of on Earth 2.I think having Martian Manhunter in some capacity with the League is awesome!

Luke said...

@Frank, Like the post-Crisis Batman, Black Panther is continually put over as Totally The Best There Is because he is a favorite of the creators working on him. Add to this the fact that he is an African character so OF COURSE he must be better than those lame whitebread American charcters.

I've read a lot of Black Panther in the pages of Avengers at best he is a fine substitute or compatriot for Captain America. At worst he is an overbearing bore shoved down my throat. And in Johns' Avengers, I'm sorry, turning full access of the Avengers computers over to Dr. Doom would have gotten your Communicard revoked :P.

@Matt, good thought about the Atom! I don't know if it will be Ray Palmer but we did see an Atom on the teaser for Trinity War. Perhaps we'll meet this new Atom in the pages of JLoA.

And always good to see the Manhunter in the League, I say!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog! I'm also excited for this book and I like the mix of characters. Gotta disagree re: Katana's costume tho, I don't think she's ever looked better.

Thanks for keeping us up to date on all things Hawkman!

Diabolu Frank said...

MAN, I would love the Ray Palmer Atom to be on a team with J'Onn and the Satellite Leaguers. That said, Ryan Choi could be the new Kyle Rayner, which would also be cool.

Luke, the McGregor Black Panther stories are all about telling you in the purplest prose how badly T'Challa is getting torn up in every single battle he fights. T'Challa never thrives in those stories, only survives. Priest took more cues from Jack Kirby's Batman-on-steroids, but he was also fallible (not to mention inscrutable.) Priest's stories are fun because they're told from the POV of a bureaucrat who can't figure out what this insane African monarch is doing from moment to moment. I recognize Johns basically just wrote Morrison Batman, which I enjoyed, but that's not all there is any more than Hawkman being defined by his stint in Justice League America.

Luke said...

Frank, I see what you are saying. I will have to see if I can snag a copy of that Essential and check it out. Perhaps I can see a new side of the the Panther and gain a better appreciation for him. (Good analogy with Hawkman as well.)

And Mr. Anonymous, glad you like the blog. I am surprised that you like Katana's New 52 costume... I'm partial to her original one myself, although the one she wore in the tail end of the Pre-Flashpoint era was pretty nice too. This one just looks... odd to me. I guess I always picture her in red and yellow.