Retro-Reviews: Hawkman Vol. 3 #1-11 By John Ostrander, Jan Duursema, William Messner-Loebs, Steve Lieber & Others For DC Comics

Hawkman Vol. 3 #1-11; Annual #1(September ‘93-July ‘94)

Written by John Ostrander (#1-6, Annual #1), Paul Kupperberg (#7-8), William Messner-Loebs (#9-11), and Steven T. Seagle (#10-11)

Pencilled by Jan Duursema (#1-4, Annual #1), Steve Lieber (#5-6, 9-11, Annual #1), and Luke McDonnell (#7-8)

Inked by Rick Magyar (#1-6, Annual #1), Ricardo Villagran (#7-8), Mike DeCarlo (#9), Andrew Pepoy (#9), Denis Rodier (#9), Wayne Faucher (#10), Curt Shoultz (#10-11), and Jason Minor (#11)

Spoilers (from twenty-one to twenty-two years ago)

I remember not being too happy when Hawkworld was canceled in favour of Hawkman.  One of the things I liked most about Hawkworld was that Katar and Shayera were given equal billing and space within the series, whereas the shift in name signified that Shayera would be written out or minimized as a character, which is exactly what happened.

Still, the book started with basically the same creative team, and I was always more interested in following creators than characters, and at the time (and still today), John Ostrander was a writer whose work impressed me, so I was on-board for this title.  Ostrander only lasted through the first six-issue arc though, and the two-part fill-in story by Paul Kupperberg turned me off.  New writer William Messner-Loebs came in starting at issue 9, but clearly his first issue didn’t do enough to convince me to keep the title on my pull-file.

At this time, I was getting my comics from someone who delivered to my home (after having closed his comic store and keeping a few customers).  That meant that I was preordering everything and only rarely making it to a comic store to browse.  Also, I was getting ready to head off to college, and to trim my shopping list down a lot, and Hawkman was done for me.  I know that fans weren’t happy with the way Zero Hour treated the character, but I don’t remember what happened with him.  I think that my instincts were right here in dropping this book, as the change in tone and approach did not help it.

Let’s look at the events of this series in detail, with some commentary as I go along:

  • This new series opens seven months after the end of Hawkworld, as the new Hawkman poses on the side of a building.  He’s wearing a new costume – all black except for his harness, wings, and helmet.  One hand is gloved, with fringe, while the other wears a wrist gauntlet that pops out Wolverine claws.
  • New Hawkman (we don’t know yet if it’s Katar) narrates, calling on various spirits (Lynx, Elk, and of course Hawk) to guide him, before launching off into the night.  In short order, we see him stop a hostage taking, and rescue a couple from being mugged.  In the process, he cuts an earring out of a criminal’s ear; later we see him wearing the same earring, which I guess was done to signify that he’s a badass.
  • On TV, newscasters are speculating as to the identity of New Hawkman, especially since Katar and Shayera have not been seen since the end of Hawkworld.  A reporter goes to Netherworld, looking for information.
  • Deadline, the mercenary, attacks Netherworld, mostly to try to flush out New Hawkman.  We see him working at a diner, when he runs out to help out.  We don’t see his full face, but he does look like Katar (with a 90s cross between a mullet and a ponytail).  He jumps over rooftops until he gets to an abandoned church that is for sale.  In there, he retrieves his gear, and talks to his pet wolf.
  • New Hawkman arrives at Netherworld and fights Deadline.  He knocks him out and goes to fly off, telling Knowbuddy and Feralyce that he is the ‘current’ Hawkman, which doesn’t answer any of their questions.
  • Hal Jordan is sent by Max Lord to figure out who New Hawkman is, since he’s associated in the public eye with the Justice League.
  • New Hawkman has a bad dream about a bird being swallowed by a death figure.  He wakes up, and realize that he has electricity and phone service in the abandoned church he’s squatting in.  We also learn that he has a mother, because that’s who called him.
  • In an asylum, an old guy gets all upset and screamy.
  • At the Metatech Corporation (I thought this had been an abandoned plotline from the first series; it’s good to see that Ostrander is picking it up), scientists put the new Marauder through his paces.  This is an armored suit that looks like a cross between Deadshot and the Crimson Dynamo.  We learn that the person really in charge at Metatech is dressed like an old pirate and sits on a comfortable armchair, and that the person wearing the Marauder suit is in fact a red-headed woman (clearly we are to assume it is Shayera).
  • A corrupt cop calls the guy who hired Deadline to take out New Hawkman.  That guy, Johnny Van Overloop (seriously?) gets attacked and threatened by New Hawkman.  Green Lantern Hal Jordan shows up to stop him from hurting or killing the guy, while Marauder watches from a ways away, broadcasting everything back to Metatech.
  • New Hawkman takes off his mask to reveal that he really is Katar Hol; he’s only pretending to be a different Hawkman because he’s upset about how flawed America truly is, and thinks that being in the public eye makes him a target.  This, of course, makes no sense to me, because he has neither friends nor family on Earth to protect.
  • Marauder attacks, trying to kill Johnny, who takes off in a car (just a few pages ago, he was complaining about how his car was towed away, so I don’t know whose car he’s in, but he did have the keys).  Katar and Hal try to stop Marauder.
  • Katar gets covered by a big chunk of concrete, but invokes ‘Brother Hawk’ to get the strength to lift it, and to use it to stop Marauder.
  • Green Lantern rips the helmet off Marauder to reveal Shayera Thal inside the armor, which is a surprise to everyone, despite the fact that she has yelled out “Seven Hells” a few time, making it clear that she’s Thanagarian.  The people at Metatech blow up her armor by remote, killing her.
  • Green Lantern is upset by this, but Katar isn’t because he ‘looked into her spirit’ and knew it wasn’t really her.  He figures out that whoever was behind Marauder got ahold of the anti-gravity metal in Shayera’s costume when she ‘died’.
  • Back at Metatech, we see the person dressed like a pirate, and it turns out it is Shayera too.
  • After only two issues of this series, an Annual was released, which tied in (very poorly) to the Bloodlines event, which pitted shape-changing monstrous parasites from another dimension against DC heroes, while introducing a raft of new characters who, with the exception of Hitman, did not stick.
  • The issue opens with Hawkman fighting a parasite named Lissik, while a kid named interferes, and gets into with both Katar and the creature.  The kid fires energy blasts out of his body (mostly his hands).
  • We flash back to Cambodia in 1970, and see an African American soldier get caught in an American bombing run.  He falls for the Cambodian woman that nurses him back to health, and stays in the country.  In 1976, while Pol Pot is massacring Cambodians, he arranges a meeting with an American colonel, and gives him his son, Josh Xan, to take to the US to raise.
  • In the present, Katar gets knocked down by Mongrel.  He chats with Officer Lencioni, while pretending to not be Katar, and then goes looking for Mongrel again, who is still fighting with the parasite.
  • In another flashback, to nine months prior, we see that Josh Xan has trouble at school, not fitting in with either the black or Asian populations, and is generally an angry kid.  His uncle, who is raising him, beats him regularly.  He does get a girl to meet him one night, and they try to go to Netherworld, but they get turned away as Norma and Normans (the Netherworld slang for normal people).
  • That is the same night that Katar and Shayera fought with Lord Viper.  They see Shayera fall, and Josh Xan sees the masked people take her away.
  • In the present, Katar, Mongrel, and the parasite continue to fight.  Lissik transforms into a beautiful woman and tries to hide in the subway tunnels, trying to lure Mongrel to her, so she can finish feeding off of him.
  • In a flashback to earlier in the day, we see that Josh Xan gets in trouble for mouthing off, and leaves his school.  He overhears Katar talking to Feralyce about him, since she’s heard him talk about having seen what happened to Shayera.
  • Josh Xan gets found by Lissik in her human form (which looks a lot like Maxima), and she tries to feed off of him.  This is interrupted by Katar attacking.
  • Josh Xan runs into his school’s dance, where he tries to get back with his girl, and gets a gun pulled on him by the kid that hates him (ah, Chicago high school dances in the 90s), but develops his new powers at that point, blowing up his school.  He then goes home and is about to kill his uncle, when he hears about Hawkman fighting the parasite.
  • In the present, Lissik tries to finish feeding off of Josh Xan/Mongrel, but is interrupted by a subway train.  She kills the driver, but Katar shows up before she can feed off the passengers.
  • Lissik tries to feed off Katar, but can’t stomach him because he’s an alien (despite the fact that she comes from a different dimension, and so humans would be alien too).
  • Mongrel goes a little nuts, and his energy blasts end up bringing the Chicago River into the tunnel.  Katar gets the driver (who I guess isn’t dead) out.  We see Mongrel still in the tunnel, still angry.  I don’t know what happened to the parasite (which is more like a vampire than a parasite, since parasites aren’t generally larger than their prey, are they?)
  • Back in the regular series, Knowbuddy impersonates the police superintendent to discover the connection between the Marauder suits and Meta/Tech (which now has a slash in the name that wasn’t there before).  In payment, Katar confirms for him that he is indeed Katar, which Feralyce always knew.
  • Later, Katar abducts Dr. Moon, who is the main scientist and Meta/Tech, and interrogates him as to the whereabouts of Shayera.  He tells him that she is at a pollution control station in the Grand Canyon.  He leaves Moon at his church, being guarded by Brother Wolf.
  • In the Craemer Asylum, we see the angry old man planning to escape.
  • Katar arrives in the Grand Canyon, and finds Shayera being held at gunpoint by Airstryke, a metahuman enhanced by Meta/Tech, who can turn himself into a bit of a pterodactyl.  They fight, but when Airstryke tries to kill Katar, Shayera (who is really Lord Viper) starts to fire a 90s gun at him.  After more fighting, Airstryke is knocked out, and Viper-in-Shayera goes to kiss Katar and transfers his consciousness into his body, leaving his mind in Shayera’s body.
  • Viper-in-Katar knocks out Katar-in-Shayera in case he is useful later, and proceeds to start his plan to ‘save America’, which is what he’s wanted to do since we first saw him in Hawkworld.
  • Katar-in-Shayera is locked up by some Meta/Tech guards, and one of them wants to rape her/him.  He fights them, and manages to escape, stealing a motorcycle in the process.  I have no idea if he’s back in Chicago or is still out by the Canyon – it’s not clear.
  • In the Craemer asylum, the old man is close to getting free.
  • Katar-in-Shayera returns to his church, and is recognized by Brother Wolf, who, I’ll remind you is an actual wolf, despite his new body.  Dr. Moon reveals that Shayera’s mind is in the body of an old man at the Craemer Asylum.  Katar-in-Shayera suits up and goes to rescue her.
  • Airstryke shows up at the asylum with a group of Marauders, just as Shayera-in-Old-Man escapes her cell.  Katar-in-Shayera attacks the Marauders and Airstryke, but Shayera-in-Old-Man thinks that Katar-in-Shayera is really Viper-in-Shayera, but after he knocks out Airstryke and they kiss, she believes him.
  • Viper-in-Katar shows up at the Justice League headquarters in New York, and takes control of Wonder Woman’s mind.
  • Shayera-in-Old-Man brings Katar-in-Shayera up to speed on everything that happened to her from when we last saw her (basically, Meta/Tech took her from the roof where she fell, and Viper switched places with her).  I don’t know why it took seven months from that point before anything else happened.
  • Katar-in-Shayera fills her in on his time.  We learn (despite what the last page of Hawkworld showed us) that Katar almost floated up to space after being knocked out in the explosion at the end of Hawkworld, but was saved by Carter Hall, who took him to his mother to heal him.  Shayera asks about the mother, but he blows it off for another time.
  • In the church, Moon fills the Hawks in on what Viper’s plans are, and how they involve the Justice League.
  • At the JLA HQ, Viper-in-Katar takes over Bloodwynd (ah, Bloodwynd, what a hideous costume that guy had).
  • At the church, Shayera-in-Old-Man suits up in a Hawkworld era costume and they get ready to head out to New York.  Katar tells Brother Wolf to go to his mother to let her know what’s going on.
  • Viper takes over Max Lord’s mind as well, and has him arrange a meeting with the President.
  • The Hawks arrive in New York, so Viper sends Wonder Woman and Bloodwynd out to fight them.  Katar, using Wonder Woman’s connection to Shayera, manages to talk her into shaking off Viper’s control.  She knocks out Bloodwynd, and it looks like she and the Hawks can turn the tables on Viper, but then Airstryke shows up.
  • Diana fights him, while Shayera-in-Old-Man has a heart attack.
  • Katar-in-Shayera faces off with Viper-in-Katar, vowing to kill him even if it means destroying his body, when yet another mystery figure shows up.  That turns out to be the Eradicator, who Viper only needs to exert some control over.
  • Shayera-in-Old-Man rouses Bloodwynd, who was knocked out, and then has another heart attack.  The Eradicator traps Katar-in-Shayera, but is stopped from killing him by Bloodwynd, which leaves Katar to once again fight Viper-in-Katar.
  • Eventually, Eradicator is freed of Viper’s control, Airstryke is knocked out, as is Viper.  Shayera-in-Old-Man is dying.  The heroes decide that everyone has to go to see Katar’s mother (although somehow along the way, Airstryke just disappears).
  • The next thing we know, we’re in the American Southwest, somewhere in a desert, and we meet Katar’s mother, Naomi Carter, also known as Far Away Woman.  Katar’s Wolf Brother is there too (having travelled from Chicago).
  • We learn that Naomi is Cherokee, and had worked for Carter and Shiera Hall as a translator in their archeology work.  She meet Paran Katar, Katar’s father, and fell in love with him, marrying him and eventually returning to Thanagar alongside him.  There, she was unhappy with the racism and classism of Thanagarian society, and after Katar was born, she was dumped back on Earth.
  • After the events that ended Hawkworld, Carter Hall brought the injured Katar to her, and she revived him and taught him Cherokee mysticism, hence his constantly speaking to spirit animals and stuff.
  • Katar and Shayera enter the ‘spirit level’ to vanquish Viper once and for all.  Viper is, of course, a gigantic snake, and Katar turns into a Hawk-Man to fight him.  Shayera becomes part wolf to assist.
  • They all return to their proper bodies (Viper returns to the old man’s body, but is in a coma), our heroes make out, John Ostrander leaves the title, and I get to stop hyphenating everyone’s names.
  • Paul Kupperberg and Luke McDonnell show up for two issues, filling in before the new creative team is ready to go.  This makes me think that Ostrander’s departure was a little sudden.
  • In Chicago, Mongrel has decided that he should take over Netherworld.  He meets resistance in the forms of Knowbuddy, Mustang Suzy, Feralyce, and the rocker guy with a third arm.
  • Off in the Southwest, Katar and Shayera are hanging out together, when Katar and his mother get visions of what is going down in Chicago.  Katar decides to head back to help out, while his mother insists that Shayera stay with her.
  • There is a big fight in Netherworld, and Mustang Suzy gets crushed under a collapsing building.  This upsets Mongrel and he takes off, while Katar vows to stop him.
  • Katar takes Mustang Suzy (and a bunch of other Netherworlders) to the hospital, where she ends up dying from her injuries.  Mongrel shows up with his followers as well, maybe to try to talk things out, but when he learns that Suzy is dead, he gets angry and blasts the ceiling, which starts another big brawl.
  • Some of the Netherworlders decide the confusion gives them a good chance to break into a pharmacological lab looking for drugs (I don’t know why they didn’t just go to the regular hospital pharmacy).
  • Katar moves the fight back to the stockyards by Netherworld, so no bystanders can get hurt.  As he and Mongrel fight, the rest of the Netherworlders take these unknown drugs, and all fall to the ground choking and losing consciousness.
  • Mongrel runs away.
  • We learn that the drugs the Netherworlders took was a mutated strain of the common cold (because that would of course be in pill form), and most were able to be treated.  Knowbuddy and Katar agree that Netherworld is over.
  • The new creative team of William Messner-Loebs and Steve Lieber took over with issue #9, and the change is apparent immediately.
  • Katar’s mother dreams of a gigantic hawk-like creature destroying the floating cities of Thanagar, and upon waking, asks Shayera to contact Katar to warn him that danger is coming, and to get him in touch with a particular person.
  • In Chicago, we get a bit of a montage showing us how the inhabitants of Netherworld are fitting into normal society, with varying degrees of success.
  • One group robs a bank, but are stopped by Lefty, aka The Bar Sinister, who is that third-armed Netherworld guy in a mask.  He gets assistance from Katar in putting the bank robbers down.
  • A police chief we’ve never seen before yells at Lefty and Katar for getting involved, but when Lefty warns everyone that a different Netherworlder in the police station is about to explode, spraying the room with porcupine quills, the mood improves.
  • Officer Lencioni tells Katar that she heard from Shayera, and that he is to get in touch with some guy named Dennis Baintan.
  • This Dennis guy fixes cars, but after he is targeted for robbery by some Netherworlders, we see that he’s outfitted his garage with a lot of defensive weapons (because of course he has).  After Katar helps him get rid of the robbers, they begin to talk about Katar’s mother’s visions.  While this goes on, we see that someone has Katar in the sights of their gun.
  • It turns out that the person who shoots at, and misses, Katar is Thal Porvis, who is mistakenly identified as Shayera’s grandfather (he was always shown as her adoptive father before that).  He is upset at Katar because he believes he’s responsible for the fact that all of the floating cities on Thanagar have been destroyed.  He thinks that Katar sent the gigantic black-winged hawk that Katar’s mother saw in a vision before.
  • While they argue on the roof, a Netherworlder named Doggy Bill throws a rock at Katar, which has a messaged wrapped around it, from guy named Bad Blood, claiming that he has Feralyce (although the message just calls her Alyce).
  • Instead of following the guy (who runs aways slowly so he can be followed), Katar instead goes and interrogates a guy named Toby, who runs a Three Card Monty table, and who knows about Bad Blood and Feralyce.
  • We learn that Bad Blood has taken over from Mongrel, and that he has acidic blood that is alive.  We also learn that a lot of Netherworlders are still getting sick, but that Feralyce’s blood can cure them.  Somehow.
  • He is mad at Doggy Bill for not leading Katar back to him, but then Katar shows up anyway, and gets in a fight with Bad Blood and all the Netherworlders.  While they are fighting, Katar has visions that he is fighting this giant hawk thing, and he gets confused, but still manages to stop everyone and free the girl.
  • As he is about to leave with her, a group of heavily armed Secret Service guys show up to take her into custody, but Katar just flies away after threatening them.  The agent in charge decides to take ‘a different approach to things.
  • Shayera is flying through some canyons thinking about how Katar’s mother is becoming obsessed with her visions.  She sees some people, one of whom has been trapped under his car when trying to change a tire.  They are dressed like it’s the 50s, and after she helps them, they disappear, and she has visions of herself being sacrificed to the Hawk God thing.
  • Katar’s mother makes her bury her wings, and they have another vision of the Hawk God, and decide that they have to go to Chicago.
  • In Chicago, Katar takes Feralyce to the hospital for treatment, but when he sees that the Secret Service has arrived for her, he leads them on a wild goose chase.  He has visions of the Hawk God while doing this.  He starts to fall out of the sky, but is rescued by Carter Hall, who has also been seeing visions of the Hawk God.
  • Together, they have a delusion that the city is on fire, and work to rescue people, before it all disappears.
  • The two Hawkmen meet up with Bar Sinister outside a farm, where he has trapped Bad Blood.  That guy is meeting with Mongrel, who doesn’t want to work with him for profit (apparently Mongrel has some scruples).  Carter goes nuts and attacks the two criminals and the varied Netherworlders who work for Bad Blood, but the two Hawkmen end up fighting with one another after it becomes clear that the Hawk God is in control of the Golden Age character.
  • This is where I dropped the title.  I’m a little curious to see how this all ended up, but I’m not sure if I’m interested enough to track down the remaining issues in bargain bins.

Reading the start of this series again, it’s interesting to place it within the context of what I remember of the rest of the DCU at this time.  This is the era when Azrael was wearing the Bat-suit, when Superman had just come back to life, and when Kyle Rayner replaced Hal Jordan in Green Lantern.  There were a lot of changes in the air, and I guess that DC editorial felt that Katar Hol had to change too, so they gave him an all-black costume, a giant triangular blade in one fringed hand, and Wolverine claws on the other one.  The grim’n’gritty era was in full effect.

It’s unfortunate that poor Katar had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When Tim Truman reinvented the character in the first Hawkworld mini, he was a little late.  The Man of Steel/Year One ship had sailed, and it took Ostrander a while to reconcile all of the continuity issues that the reboot created.  Now, with this series, there was a similar push to reinvent the character again for a darker time, and so much of what made Truman and Ostrander’s take on the character work was done away with.

This is reflected in the art, which, under the excellent Jan Duursema, seemed a little too 90s.  Katar’s wings are shown as being pretty gigantic, and his new costume is truly pretty awful, as elements of his new-found Cherokee heritage are grafted onto his suit, and he is given massive wings on the side of his helmet.

Steve Lieber did a good job of toning down some of these elements in his time on the book, and his art fits better with what Truman, Graham Nolan, and even Joe Kubert had done with the character.

The problem is, this stuff just didn’t interest me anymore.  Under Ostrander, we got a (sometimes heavy-handed) exploration of what America really stands for, and were given solid character development.  In this series, even when Ostrander was writing it, there was a much heavier focus on Katar being a (slightly untraditional) superhero, which takes a lot of what made the book different away from it.

As well, the focus on Netherworld and its characters is kind of boring.  Really, these are DC’s Morlocks, but not ever developed or written as well as what Chris Claremont did with that group of outsiders.  Similarly, Mongrel had the potential to be an interesting character, especially the way he was written in the Annual where he debuted, but ultimately, under Kupperberg, he became a stereotypically angry 90s dude with powers.  I imagine there was a lot of pressure to use the Bloodlines characters at this point in time, but he was not used well.

The history of the 90s in comics is watching good ideas fall apart, so nothing I’ve said here should be surprising.  Of course, everything that happened in this series and two that came before it, have been completely wiped out of DC history, so it’s all academic.  It is frustrating to see how often DC has felt the need to reinvent its characters.  In this case, it seems to have been done at the drop of a hat.

Next time around, I’m going to be brushing up against the ‘retro’ label, looking at a more recent comic series, which I remember fondly.  It’s a team book, and a Marvel one.

If you are interested in my earlier Hawkworld columns, they can be found here:

Hawkworld Volume 1 (Tim Truman mini-series)

Hawkworld Volume 2 #1-9 (John Ostrander and Tim Truman run)

Hawkworld Volume 2 #10-32 (John Ostrander run)

Hawkman volume 3 poster John Ostrander

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