Review: Hawkman #23
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Robert Venditti
Art: Marcio Takara, Fernando Pasarin & Oclair Albert
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Rob Leigh
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
As Shayera plummets, Carter recalls a “Times Past” in which Shayera saved him from being murdered…in Seville, Spain during the Black Plague.
To say readers will be happy with the penultimate page is an understatement. What’s great about the page is the build up that the creative team masterfully executes throughout the first 17 pages in the issue. In order not to spoil it, it’s best to discuss the development of the “Times Past” story.
The event Carter relives takes place in Seville, Spain during the time of the Black Plague. Carter is a man who is rumored to be able to cure people of the Plague. When he shows up at Don Alvaro’s door, he brings hope to the man who’s wife lies upstairs. Even though Carter is unable to save the woman, leading Alvaro bereft, the story is driven by Carter’s desire to save lives as he is destined to do in the expanded understanding of his reincarnating. This story gives depth to Carter’s past and the tribulations he’s endured throughout time and space in order to make good on his promise to save lives. Poignantly, this story also shows the inevitability of death and the difficulty of Carter’s struggle to save lives.
Additionally, Venditti builds on Carter and Shayera’s past together that dovetails beautifully with the fall out of the Sky Tyrant storyline that is in the present of the book. By opening up Carter’s heart in the “Times Past,” it leaves the reader raw and ripe for how he concludes the emotional finale in the present. It’s not only an effective story telling technique, Venditti and the art team of Takara (“Times Past”) and Pasarin and Albert (the present) execute it masterfully. I’m so effusive on Venditti’s writing, I often overlook the art, but it all comes together in Hawkman #23 for an emotional and soul searching journey.
Just like in James Robinson’s Starman, every time that Venditti uses a “Times Past,” it’s a real treat! More than a treat…it’s a wonderfully insightful look into Carter, or Shayera’s character. Or, both. While Venditti doesn’t call these “Times Past,” that’s just me using Robinson’s name for the similar technique in his book, Venditti manages to produce the same sort of responses in the reader. In Robinson’s Starman, the “Times Past” were often the highlights. He was able develop character in a significant way and build a larger world for his characters. Venditti does the same thing and, like Robinson, it is a beautiful thing to behold. It even makes one wonder if there’s a Black Plague story in Venditti. Including the Plague gives a modern resonance as the world is currently wrapped in the COVID-19 pandemic. This is takes the issue to an even deeper level, though the story was probably already conceived before the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed. It is an appropriate tale for today with an eerie resonance.
The only negative is that the issues are not double length!! More! More! More!
Great runs on comics manage to balance action, character and world building. Robert Venditti has shown that he’s a master of character driven stories that reveal something about human nature along the way. Hawkman #23 is an example of one of those issues that puts character and world building at the forefront. Moreover, the thoughtful reader will take time to examine what’s being said and the issue will get better. That’s when you read it again. You should probably buy it again as well. Prepare, yourself to be moved emotionally and intellectually when reading this issue!