In the pages of the Batman/Superman ongoing, the titular protagonists are up against The Batman Who Laughs, who has infected several heroes. To go along with the current Batman/Superman arc, DC is publishing one-shots to explore what each infected hero is going through. Although not a separate one-shot like the others, Hawkman #18 is supposed to tie in with the Infected event. The main questions I have going into this are whether or not these issues will actually add anything to the Batman/Superman story (either in terms of plot or character) and if these issues will be able to deliver a solid story that can stand on its own (even if it’s open-ended to tie into Batman/Superman). In this review I’ll answer those questions based on my own subjective views. Let’s have a look!
First of all, I should put in this little disclaimer: I haven’t been reading Hawkman because I haven’t had the time nor the room on my pull list. As such, I went into Hawkman #18 without any prior knowledge. I could’ve gone back and read some of the previous chapters, but I decided not to do that because I wanted to read this issue through the eyes of someone who’s been reading the Infected tie-ins but not Hawkman. This helps me decide whether or not I should recommend this comic to those looking for more Infected stories specifically.
This comic seems to be setting up a new arc for Hawkman, so it’s probably more interesting to readers of this series than those who are just here for the Infected tie-in. Truth be told, there isn’t anything here that connects this story to Batman/Superman, because Sky Tyrant—who is the evil Hawkman—isn’t presented as Carter Hall who got infected, but as a separate character who comes from Earth-3, where the roles of superheroes and supervillains are reversed. In other words, Sky Tyrant isn’t evil because The Batman Who Laughs made him evil; he is evil because he’s from Earth-3.
This comic leaves me with more questions than answers, and I’m in two minds about this. On the one hand, I’m okay with this, because this seems to be the start of a new arc and those types of issues are supposed to raise a lot of questions and provide only a few answers to make readers want to come back for the next installment. In that sense, the creative team is doing an all right job, as some of the events in this book do pique my interest. On the other hand, this comic is marketed as an Infected tie-in, and as a tie-in, I think it fails. This is because, story-wise, this doesn’t appear to tie in with the Infected event at all. Of course there’s the possibility that this new arc will tie in later on, but as long as that isn’t the case, we’re just left with an otherwise okay issue that just gets the Infected banner slapped onto it in the hope that people buy the issue to complete their Infected collection. That’s false advertisement, and I find that rather disappointing.
The story itself is not all bad, but it’s not something that I think you should run to your LCS for. While I think that the dialogue—particularly during the opening pages—is very entertaining because it has a few good, pulpy one-liners in there, the characters and the story itself aren’t as interesting to me. For example, the creative team hints at Sky Tyrant having a reason for wanting to randomly slaughter anyone and everyone, but since we never see Sky Tyrant committing the crimes that he’s accused of (save for a couple moments where he wants to kill people but gets interrupted), the character just never really feels like a threat. To me he’s just a jerk in a Hawkman costume with a spiky mace who can’t get anything done (despite the character having reincarnated many times over). Yes, there are some cool ideas and themes which all have great potential for some cool story beats and character growth, but as it stands, the character is underdeveloped and I just don’t exactly care about him—not even after 20 pages.
Carter himself plays a role in this too, and this is the most confusing part to me. He appears as a ghost and he tries to stop Sky Tyrant from going on a killingspree. It’s never explained why Carter is a ghost, but this is not a problem for me. Carter doesn’t seem to remember, either, which creates an interesting mystery that I would like to see unraveled. I also like that Venditti touches on a theme which, if properly expanded on throughout the rest of this arc, beyond just this issue, really has the potential to enhance this story. Sky Tyrant tells Carter at some point, “You ever wonder if the temptation to do evil is another version of you somewhere? A bad you?” Not only does this reference the DC multiverse, but it’s potentially a simple yet effective way to examine the trope of superheroes being confronted with their evil counterparts. How the creative team follows up on this remains to be seen, though.
However, on the flipside, Carter doesn’t get nearly enough panel time in his own book. Mostly we’re following Sky Tyrant, and seeing as I really can’t stand this jerk, it can be a chore to read at certain points. I feel like this book desperately needs Carter to be more in the spotlight, even if he’s a ghost at the moment, because Carter makes the story much more grounded and relatable, whereas Sky Tyrant’s just pushing me away. The fact that Sky Tyrant also doesn’t accomplish anything, other than insulting people and getting beaten into the ground, just makes his scenes feel pointless, and, by extension, this entire issue can feel pointless. There really isn’t much more to it than that.
As for the art, especially the opening pages where we see Sky Tyrant being apprehended by the Earth-3 heroes are put together well. It throws us right into the action, where we see Sky Tyrant crashing into the ground. The splash page that reveals the Earth-3 heroes is quite typical for a superhero comic, because every hero is assuming their unique pose and is wearing their colorful outfit, but I like the composition quite a bit. We see Sky Tyrant on the ground, looking up at the heroes, one of whom has his foot on Sky Tyrant’s mace. We know that Sky Tyrant is facing overwhelming odds and it makes me excited to see how the fight scene unfolds. The fight itself is brief, but the panels flow into one another nicely. Not only does the sequential aspect of the fight scene clearly show us the events, but it also helps in showing how the Earth-3 heroes operate as a team. They basically pummel Sky Tyrant from panel to panel, and every time there’s another hero ready to take over. The angles and the shots create a dynamic sequence that’s a lot of fun to see. This is a good example of where the art does a great job of telling the story.
- You have been collecting Hawkman, because this comic is really for Hawkman readers.
- You’re okay with Sky Tyrant, a boring jerk, being front and center for 20 pages.
- You’re just here to see Sky Tyrant get his @$$ handed to him, because that’s all this is, really.
Overall: It’s an okay comic. It’s not something that I would desperately want to add to my collection, not even if I was collecting all the Infected tie-ins, because this has, for now, hardly anything to do with that event. While Sky Tyrant is underdeveloped as a character and Carter doesn’t nearly have enough panel time to help make the story more relatable, there are some interesting themes introduced here that the creative team will hopefully follow up on with their next issue. That said, my advice is to skip this comic if you’re just here for the Infected event, but if you are interested in getting into Hawkman—or if you’ve already been reading this title—you can give it a shot, because this issue sets up a new arc in Hawkman. In any case, this is not a one-shot that can stand on its own, so keep that in mind when you’re considering picking this up.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.