And so we come to “Flight’s End.”
I’ll admit that my last review wasn’t much. The Eclipso chapter was a fun tie-in and issue #26 seemed to bridge the gap between the last storyline and this one, which is the very last of the series. I actually bought the very last issue (#32) when it came out back in 1993 because I think I was curious about how the series was going to end, even though I had nothing invested in it beforehand. I don’t remember what my reaction to it was beyond the fact that I wound up buying Hawkman #1 soon after, although I didn’t stick with that series for very long.
But how do we get from Thanagarian politics and cops with wings to a Hawkman solo series that would eventually lead to some sort of “Hawk God” version of the character? Well, Jan Duursema and Tim Truman are on art chores after Graham Nolan leaves, and at first it’s not much of a change–Duursema was someone I was familiar with because of her work on Arion as well as a stint on X-Factor following the departure of Joe Quesada. Truman, of course, I knew from the original miniseries as well as other works (most notably, The Kents), but the more detailed art in the last couple of issues isn’t his best work, to be honest. He gets some of the weirdness that the story requires, but some of the action is a lot more stiff than what we had been getting.
And I’m getting ahead of myself here, because I haven’t even gotten to Ostrander’s story. “Flight’s End” begins with a three-part fight against a new villain named White Dragon. This guy is a white supremacist who got powers because of the gene bomb in Invasion! and has decided that he is going to come to Chicago and cleanse it of all of the poor minorities because in his mind, they’re the source of the city’s rot. This includes violently taking on drug dealers and torching the Cabrini Green projects (which I knew from Candyman). The Hawks are asked to follow White Dragon to figure out who he is, which Hawkman refuses to do but Hawkwoman says she’s fine with. This ultimately gets them both into trouble because it’s seen as an underhanded tactic by the police, and just as they are trying to clean up the PR nightmare it’s caused, the U.S. government denies them asylum and marks them and wants them deported to Thanagar.
This, by the way, is the doing of the Thanagarian ambassador who wants the final word on our heroes and brokers a deal with the White House to share new technology with the military in exchange for the Hawks. It doesn’t go his way–the police deliberately half-ass the Hawks’ capture, and by the end of the series the White House reneges on the deal. White Dragon is finally taken down when Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have recently returned with the rest of the Justice Society, team up with our heroes (after fighting them due to several misunderstandings).
The second half of the storyline involves Hawkman and Hawkwoman going into the Netherworld. This is where a number of metahumans who decided not to be superheroes but are more or less outcasts from their community have found a place to live. So it’s kind of like a combination of Thanagar’s underworld and the Morlocks of X-Men fame. Anyway, this is where our heroes seek refuge after being on the run from the law and we get a new villain–Count Viper, who is a French vampire whose goal is to save Democracy or something.
Honestly, this is where it gets weird. The Netherworlders are punks that could fit into a Vertigo comic book and Count Viper fights on the astral plane, and I’m not sure what his objective in fighting Hawkman and Hawkwoman actually was aside from the fact that the plot demanded that our heroes be devastated by the end of the story. The Netherworlders welcome the heroes–albeit with some conflict–and they even befriend a few of them, but when Viper shows up, he’s using this Lobo-looking guitarist named Thrash and there is a huge fight wherein Shayera seems to die (though it looks like some mysterious medical personnel take her away) and Katar is caught in an explosion. It’s a shame, too, because over the course of this storyline, they had confessed their love for one another, which Ostrander had been working toward for a few months.
Six months later, we would get a new Hawkman book where a hero that looked like Katar Hol and might be Katar Hol is flying solo. I don’t know if this was an editorial/company mandate or if it’s what Ostrander wanted to do. Based on the fact that he wrote only six issues and the first annual of that Hawkman series, I’m going to say it’s the former and not the latter. This series, by the looks of it, would go full-on into the “DC Nineties” and I think is more or less largely forgotten. “Flight’s End builds a pretty good bridge between the two series, although it takes a turn in the middle because it has to wrap things up and those last three issues are pretty dense and don’t make much sense in the context of the rest of the series. We shuffle Thanagar off completely and are given a whole new set of characters who only really exist for three issues (or maybe more–I don’t know what happens after issue #32), and then the reset button is officially hit. For a series that started pretty strong, this is a bit of a shrug.
Overall, I’d say that the first half of Hawkworld is a really good police/superhero comic book. Had Ostrander done more “police procedural” type stories with the politics/Thanagar stuff way in the background or missing from a few issues instead of always on our minds, I think it might have had more success. There are times where he really picks up on the action beats for a movie or television show of the time and it really works. Unfortunately, when Byth is taken down and the “big villain” is a politician, the book kind of loses its way, especially when it’s forced to deal with the rather messy continuity it helped create.
The final verdict on all of Hawkworld … Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?