Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Review: Hawkgirl: Hath-Set

Hawkgirl: Hath-Set collects Hawkgirl #61-#66, and thus completes the three-trade collection of writer Walter Simonson's short-lived Hawkgirl monthly, a 2006-2007 book I think has some relevance to some important (or at least important-ish) discussions of mainstream, superhero comics today for a couple of reasons.

First, because it's "One Year Later" launching point looks, in retrospect, like a sort of smaller-scaled, practice run at DC's 2011 "New 52" initiative, which similarly reinvented the entire DCU line at once. Secondly, because it was a pretty honest attempt at getting another comic with a female, headlining protagonist on the stands that didn't quite take, and that the publisher could then use as an example to justify not trying other ones like it in the future (I don't think DC has done that in the intervening years, though). Thirdly, it was a pretty honest attempt at a "trans-media" approach of making one of their paper comics better reflect their animated properties, with Hawkgirl being part of the seven-hero ensemble starring in the Justice League cartoons (In general, and to this day, DC Comics generally only publishes special tie-in comics that reflect the characters or contents of their the TV shows and movies based on their comics, and continues to do whatever they like with their DCU line).

And, finally, it was at its conception at least, a modern comic book by two talented, old-guard pros, veterans of the comics industry with massive bodies of great work behind them who, for whatever reason, don't command the same amount of market force they once did, and age-ism and this particular publisher's occasional reluctance to hire vets has become something of an online conversation, thanks to the efforts of Jerry Ordway. Here's a particular example from the very recent past of DC hiring guys with Ordway-like resumes, and it didn't really work out for anyone, did it? (Although if DC had put Ordway on Hawkgirl when Chaykin left after six issues, maybe it would have lasted longer? Arlem's contributions could not have helped the book. Similarly, I can't help but imagine what a New 52 Hawkman by Ordway might have been like, if they hired him to remake the character instead of Tony Daniel and Philip Tan and then a rapid succession of ever-changing creative teams).

This final volume is all Arlem, save for the guest-star filled issue #64, which features art by Dennis Calero. The rest of the book is done in the tedious, lazy style Arlem demonstrated on Hawkman Returns and that undreadable Freedom Fighters miniseries he "drew."

The artwork hasn't improved any.

Here's an image of Batman, wearing his old, blue cape and cowl for some reason, swinging above Gotham City:
Looks alright, right? Look a bit closer, though. Why is Batman swinging horizontally over the city like that, as if the end of his bat-rope was tied to a rotating helicopter blade or something? Could Arlem not find a non-aerial photograph of a cityscape to drop into the background? Or could he not be arsed to draw Batman in a more vertical position?

Here's a particularly lazy example of Arlem's work.

The cliffhanger ending of one issue, a splash page, no less:
And the first page of the following issue, also a splash:
Talk about picking up where you left off!

I could scan almost any image from this and point at it to demonstrate how lifeless and obviously pieced-together using photo-reference Arlem's artwork is here. It's particularly galling in the opening chapters of this volume, however, as that's when Simonson's script calls for the introduction of various Fourth World characters and concepts.

The first issue opens with a pair a Parademons on a satellite orbiting Apokolips, and the entrance of The Female Furies. Arlem draws them all with the same supermodel body and face, and only their costumes suggesting who they are supposed to be. If you've ever seen The Female Furies, you know how weird and wrong that is.

Here, for example, is a Kirby drawing of Bernadeth, and a Byrne drawing of the same character:

And here's Arlem's version:
His Mad Harriet is also particularly off-model, her crazy, bestial face and knotted muscles disappearing, replaced by a particularly toothy grin on the same face on the same head on the same body and her fellow Furies (Stompa, the biggest and most distinctly-shaped of the Furies, is MIA).

In this volume, Simonson seems to be doing a bit of a last hurrah, taking a victory lap that allows him to play with some DCU toys before bringing the Hawkgirl (and Hawkman) vs. Hath-Set conflict that's been running throughout his time on the book (and was actually introduced by Geoff Johns in JSA and the Hawkman monthly that Hawkgirl spun out of) to a climax, with the Hawks finally defeating their reincarnating warlock foe for the final time.

So: The Female Furies come to Earth to recover a cosmic weapon that ended up in ancient Egypt (It's a weapon that grows a giant Hawkgirl robot, which lead to an awesome cover so awesome I remember buying the serially-published issue it was on simply because of that cover.
Then Hawkgirl goes to Gotham City, where she fights a mind-controlled Batman in a burning museum.

Then she goes to Metropolis, where she teams up with Superman and then Oracle (Oracle was then living in Metropolis; if I remember correctly, that move and the addition of a rotating third teammate joining Huntress and Black Canary in the field was the "One Year Later" change of direction for Birds of Prey) (UPDATE: Please see comments for clarification on the actual "One Year Later" changes to Birds of Prey, by someone with a much better memory than I).
Then she's taken to a pyramid in Egypt in a coffin on a boat—which necessitates her wearing a bandage bikini for one scene—where she and Hawkman battle with Hath-Set and his many mummified sons.

Then the pyramid collapses and we get one of those egregiously shitty pages Arlem is so fond of assembling, the ones that make it clear he's not really intersted in drawing comics at all—
—and the title ends, with the super-couple flying off to live happily ever after.

I forget what happens next, exactly. I think the Hawks don't show up again until they get killed in Blackest Night, and become part of the ensemble cast of Brightest Day. And then DC New 52-boots the DCU, Hawkman appears in the almost-but-not-quite-as-quickly-canceled Savage Hawkman and Hawkgirl is relegated to an alternate dimension version of herself in James Robinson and Nicola Scott's Earth 2 title.


Jacob T. Levy said...

" (Oracle was then living in Metropolis; if I remember correctly, that move and the addition of a rotating third teammate joining Huntress and Black Canary in the field was the "One Year Later" change of direction for Birds of Prey). "

Not that it matters at all anymore, but since BOP is still more vivid in my mind than anything that's happened in the DCnU:

No, the immediate OYL change was that Shiva had taken Black Canary's place on the team while Dinah went and relived Shiva's childhood. Then Canary briefly came back then left again, to take care of newly adopted daughter Sin, then to marry Green Arrow and lead the stupid Meltzer JLA. The Metropolis base had been established before Infinite Crisis, during the post-War Games era when Batman had chased the Birds out of Gotham. And the expanded roster of field agents that included Hawkgirl started with Canary's departure.

Sniff. I miss that universe.

SallyP said...

The Hawkgirl in Blackest Night was, I believe Shayera...I'm pretty sure that they killed off Kendra earlier, although I seem to have blanked on the how and where.

Probably for the best.

A Hero said...

@SallyP - Actually, I think Blackest Night started with Kendra, but when she was resurrected at the end she came back as Shiera.

Michael Hoskin said...

...Because if DC has one problem, it's that they have too many high-profile super heroes of colour.

JohnF said...

Renato Arlem is The Photoshop Filter That Walks Like a Man.

matthew. said...

That bandage bikini is particularly appalling considering the list of other crimes perpetrated by the artist.