Since I began reading my Hawkworld comics, I have been waiting for this storyline. I can’t say that it’s because I knew it was important or anything like that–it’s just that this had a special banner and covers and I’m definitely a mark for something like that, especially if it’s from the Eighties or early Nineties.
Now, it’s very possible that the storyline was written because the book wasn’t doing well and the writing and editing teams really needed to do something to bring in new readers. A five-parter that “changes everything” (in some way) would definitely help things, and maybe it’ll give things a necessary shot in the arm. Plus, it can wrap up several long-running storylines.
I think that’s the purpose of “Escape from Thanagar,” as there are three particular plot threads running through the book that get wrapped up and end with a big change for Hawkman and Hawkwoman. First, we have Katar Hol back on Thanagar and joining the revolution of underworlders that has begun since he left for Earth. We’ve seen since the miniseries that reintroduced the Hawks that Katar has sympathy for the people who are the lower classes, and throughout these issues there has been an increased law enforcement presence down below, with hawkmen cleaning out various parts of the underworld in a manner similar to Gestapo clearing out the ghettos during the Holocaust. The allegory is laid on a little thick–especially since Katar repeatedly quotes the Declaration of Independence–but for the most part, there’s the sense that Katar has discovered how much of a fascist state that Thanagar has become and he wants to fight against that oppression.
It comes to a head in an all-out assault on the underworlders, complete with the military pumping gasoline into the sewers (essentially, their homes) and then burning them out of there, which Hawkman has to combat by getting those people on an experimental hyperspace-linked ship so they can head to Earth where they will be refugees. It also means that he is more or less denouncing his Thanagarian citizenship.
The same with Shayera, although her denunciation of Thanagar comes via the other two threads running through the book. First, she is assigned a new partner–Fel Andar–and their mission is to head back to Earth to find and take Attila, the robot from the previous issues. The government, especially Andar Pul, wants it for their own uses, and that more or less means using it for invading and keeping control over other worlds. What she finds out, though, is that Fel Andar is not a good guy–he has also been sent to Earth to make sure that Shayera never comes back to Thanagar, and it’s revealed that he is the Silver Age Hawkman who was originally on Earth back in the day so that he could be a spy for his government and was eventually recalled to Thanagar during the closing days of the invasion (and his Hawkwoman–whose name was Sharon–had been killed).
It’s not necessarily a storyline that serves as a good jumping on point. Ostrander is wrapping up a number of storylines, and while he is obviously trimming the fat for whatever he needs to do with/to the character after this, it’s hard to follow if you haven’t been reading the title for at least the last six issues. But we do get to see Katar be a hero to both the oppressed and Shayera, with whom he may be falling in love, and take on the government as well as an “evil twin” type of character. Graham Nolan’s artwork is on point–and finally, so is the coloring–and the final result is new costumes and an adjustment of the book’s status quo. There’s not going to be much in terms of Thanagar after this (or at least I think) and the Hawks are going to focus on protecting Chicago. It’s a solid storyline but in the end, I was a little underwhelmed because I was expecting a bigger climax and a cleaning out of the underhanded politicians and other Thanagar-based villains. Even the fight that takes down Fel Andar seems rushed to fit the book’s length and we’re given a happy reunion and happy ending between our two characters pretty quickly.
I know that at this point, there’s about seven or eight issues, plus an annual, left and what will follow is a major change of the status quo for Hawkman, including an attempt to straighten out all of the continuity gaffes, as the Silver Age Hawkman explanation didn’t entirely work here (probably because it didn’t go into detail). I’m at the point where I feel like “I’ve come this far, I might as well finish,” but I’m not sure I’m going to hang on to these books after I’m done with them.