So by looking at Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, if you wanted to get into Hawkman or Hawkworld, DC spent the summer of 1991 giving you no less than four jumping-on points: the Armageddon 2001 tie-in annual; the two War of the Gods crossover issues; the trade paper back of the three-issue miniseries; and issue #17, which continues the story from the end of the annual and features the debut/return of the villain Atilla. And I guess that worked because the series goes all the way to issue #32 before being canceled in favor of a Hawkman series, which I only have ever read a few issues of.
Anyway, we get the full backstory of Atilla in this one. It is a “traveler” robot programmed by a race the Thanagarians wiped out (the princess of which is an underworlder) and it will take the soul of a being to operate it. Here, the being is a pastor who has been wandering the desert and after learning all of Atilla’s backstory, becomes enthralled and allows Atilla to take him. His first actions are to destroy abortion clinics. He does not, however, want to kill anyone–that is, until the default programming of the robot kicks in, which is to kill Thanagarians. That’s the main fight between him and the Hawks and the pastor is torn on his actions because killing is a sin.
Meanwhile, Hawkman and Hawkwoman deal with Palestinian terrorists, which is a bit of a clunky “issues” thing thrown in here, especially with the whole “underworlder” scenario that happens on Thanagar. I get the allegory, but it’s a little tough to really buy into. The abortion clinic bombings are done a little better because of the built-in political leanings of the guy possessing Atilla, and Ostrander at least gets us in the head of this guy who doesn’t want to kill anyone.
Issue #20 is a bridge between this story and the next–the five-part “Escape from Thanagar.” At the end of issue #19, Hawkman is so badly injured that Hawkwoman has to take him back home because Earth’s medicine can’t help him. While Katar is off getting healed, Shayera has to fight a band of what are basically intergalactic bikers. I think there are some subplots accounted for, but the action is more or less there to give us some sort of action while also getting our heroes off of Earth. It’s fine enough, although I’m not the biggest fan of Gary Kwapisz’ art (if you’ve listened to recent episodes of “In Country,” you’ve heard me say that regarding his issues of Punisher: War Journal). In fact, Graham Nolan is now inking himself and the coloring seems to have settled down a little bit, which makes the book look a whole lot better than it had in previous issues.
I’d say the biggest strengths of these five comics are both the villain–I like the idea of Atilla being a weapon that people can possess and only control so much–and the relationship that is developing between Hawkman and Hawkwoman. It seems that Katar and Shayera may be going the way of other Hawks and becoming a “Hawk Couple,” but it’s happening slowly and organically, so if it does wind up becoming a reality, I would say that it will feel natural. Ostrander continues to be excellent with pacing these issues and giving us not just the cop/action stuff, but the personal stuff. An ongoing subplot of the condo board wanting to kick Katar out of his building is odd on its surface but works when you consider the tensions between Thanagar and Earth as well as those that can exist between heroes and citizens.
I’m a sucker for a bannered storyline and “Escape from Thanagar” looks like it will be pretty important, so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.