Hawkman #23 review

Hawkman and Hawkgirl are falling.

And then, a memory… in a past life, Carter Hall is Dr Carlo Salón, a quack going door to door in 17th-century plague-ridden Seville, counting the dead.

No matter how many houses he visits, how often the stench of death gets through his beak-mask, Carlo never gets sick. One just-bereaved man is overcome by a suspicion that his visitor has a cure, but is keeping it from the people.

Outside, the compassionate Carlo takes a moment to purge his mask of the fetid smell of the plague.

And his day just gets worse…

…but mine got better as I read this terrific issue. I’ve been away from Hawkman for awhile, but the Infected storyline is over, Hawkwoman has joined the regular cast and it seemed a good time to dip back in. Armed by the superb Hawkworld blog with the knowledge of who Hawkwoman is this week, I was able to dive in. And while Shayera has barely come up in this post, don’t worry, she plays an important role in this comic, one you’ll appreciate much more if you discover it for yourself. Given this issue is one of the first monthlies to be published since much of the world entered lockdown, it’s likely more DCU fans, hungrier for new content than ever, will see the cover, wonder if the story will chime with what’s happening ‘out there’, and risk a few quid on this.

Those who do will likely be as stunned as myself by the visuals. The framing sequence is well handled by penciller Fernando Pasarin and inker Oclair Albert, with the penultimate page a great visual pay-off to the Spanish sequence. The bulk of the issue, though, is illustrated by Marcio Takara and as you will have noticed, the work is just gorgeous. Look at the warmth of the smile Carlo gives that little boy in one of two fine uses of the nine-panel grid. The literal mapping of his grim journey through the city. Watch for perhaps the most beautiful Shayera for years. Every page is a mini-masterclass in storytelling as Takara brings the best out of Venditti’s script; not all artists are comfortable with silent sequences, but the facial expressions and body language here make the story sing. I don’t know who Takara would name as influences – I see some 5YL Keith Giffen Cosmic Boy in Carlo, some David Lloyd in the liquidity of the quack cloaks – but whatever formed him, as an artist he’s the whole package, storyteller and stylist both.

The contribution of colourist Jeromy Cox to the storytelling can’t be underestimated, as he adds mood to every panel with well-chosen and applied tones, ensuring we know when it’s twilight, mid-evening, dawn; he evokes the sorrow of a household where Death boards; he points out when emotions explode.

Emphasis is also the business of Rob Leigh as his letters also bring out the drama of the story and as ever, he produces a terrific title treatment… editor Andrea Shea has assembled a great creative team, giving us a very special issue. It remind me of the Times Past stories from James Robinson’s Starman run; I can give no higher praise.

Mikel Janín’s cover is a definite grabber – inside the book Carlo doesn’t swing the classic mace, but this is a fair, splendidly dramatic, representation of the contents.

So I’m back on the Hawkman bandwagon. I can’t wait to see where we fly next.

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