Art by Prentis Rollins (2017, Commissioned by Tim Board)

Jun 12, 2019

Board Review of Hawkman No. 13: "On Common Ground"

With the first year and the origin story of Hawkman completed, we wondered where writer Robert Venditti would take us for the standalone issue. After the big climax in the last issue, it's natural to assume that this issue would be a bit of a breather, but Rob stepped up and gave us one of the best issues in Hawkman's history. Some of the standalone issues from Hawkman Vol. 4 (2002-2006) are some of the best issues of the series, and this issue is right up there with those. Over the past year, Venditti has shown us what he can do when he can build up a story gradually, and now we see what he can do with one issue. This review is full of spoilers so if you haven’t read the comic yet, don’t spoil it. Go buy the comic, read it and then come back to read the review.

At the end of issue 12, Hawkman has defeated the Deathbringers and he is once again the general of a very large army of immortal winged men. At first, I thought we would see a story about where Carter Hall was going to take his army, but we never hear about them in this issue. It seems that Carter is just riding his Hawkship, which I affectionately call the “Soarager,” maybe to get away from it all and collect his thoughts. Maybe he is taking some well-earned rest on his ship. And what a glorious ship it is. Hawkfans have been discussing where Hawkman’s home base will be in the new series. Could it be Midway City? Or back to St. Roch? It just might be this ship. We find out in this issue that it has its own museum and library. Well, of course it does! Hawkman is the “living historical document of the universe.” With all the lives he has lived throughout time and space, this just may be the most complete and accurate record of everything that has ever happened in the universe. The mind boggles with what is stored away there. Even the museum promises to be amazing. Is that a Hawk iron suit?!

From the preview by Comics Beat
But for this issue, we see Carter grab one of his diaries, plop down in his easy chair and start reading about his experience on a planet called Nebulen.
We see Carter remember back to when he was writing the journal. He is a foot soldier named C’Tarr Holl on Nebulen, a world we’ve never heard of before. Apparently, this war has been going on for centuries, with no end in sight. They don’t even remember why they are fighting. C’Tarr’s army is on one side of the field and the enemy is on the other. Where's Wonder Woman when you need her? His group soon gets the order to charge across the field, but they don’t get too far before C’Tarr is gunned down. As he dies, he murmurs that it’s happening again.

C’Tarr wakes up in the same war, only this time it's a few years later, he is fighting for the other side, and his name is Kettar. I love how Venditti can come up with so many similar versions of Carter. Kettar thinks he has been here before, but then they get the same orders and again, he is gunned down. This happens again and again and again. I thought it was brilliant how Venditti kept switching him back and forth between the two armies. He really brought out the senselessness of it all, all the lives sacrificed for something that no one was no longer sure about.
The last version of Carter is never named. He wakes up back in the war and when the sergeant gives the order to get ready to advance. He finally decides to do something different. He grabs the army food they call “ration bricks” and marches out to the middle of the field, hands raised. Then the most surprising reveal of this issue happened when a woman on the other side stops them from killing Carter. Her name is Sherra, clearly a former life of Shiera/Shayera. Carter stops in the middle of the field and kneels, holding out the food like a peace offering. Sheera grabs some “protein sludge” that her army drinks and the two meet in the middle of the ground. As they share their food and drink, the rest of the armies gather together and share what they have.

This is apparently the catalyst for the end of the war. We see Carter landing his ship on Nebulen in present time. The planet is no longer a barren wasteland, but a thriving, beautiful place with skyscrapers and gardens. As he walks off the ship, he approaches a giant statue of a soldier kneeling, holding out food as a peace offering. We’re left with the thought of what Carter, just one man, was able to do by trying to reach out instead of cutting down. In one issue, Venditti demonstrated that hate and war will always bring suffering and division, while also showing us that peace and acceptance can bring prosperity beyond our wildest hopes. 
This issue caught me off guard a bit. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to be so moved by such a simple yet difficult solution to war and hate. With all the suffering that we have in our own world, it was like looking at a world that could be, if we could overcome our differences and decide to build on peace instead of war, on acceptance instead of division. Unfortunately, it’s never that easy or simple. But I hope it is something that everyone hopes and prays for. If we have hope for peace, if we ever get tired of division and hate, then maybe it’s not impossible to achieve someday. 
This was the first issue since Bryan Hitch’s departure, and Will Conrad made us forget how much we thought we were going to miss Bryan’s art. It may not have been equal to Hitch’s work for some fans, but he knocked it out of the ballpark for me. I forgot it wasn’t Hitch’s art, and dived right into the story without missing a beat. Will had big shoes to fill, and he was up to the task. One of the reasons also has to be Jeremiah Skipper’s colors. His ability continues to give us a reason to look at the comic again and again. I hope he stays with this book as long as it continues. Both covers were amazing, but In-Hyuk Lee’s variant will make you stop and stare for a while.

This comic was a perfect example of the wonderful potential that DC Comics has in Hawkman and Hawkgirl. With Venditti’s writing, we are getting to see the potential that was always there in Carter Hall. Unfortunately, this book continues to struggle in sales. And that’s a shame because this book will give anyone a pick-me-up after a long day. I hope everyone gets a chance to read Hawkman and see that it is not only about a comic book character but about a man that goes through the same struggles, doubts, loneliness, and fears as we do every day. Even though we never saw Hawkman fly in this issue, this is truly a book that lets us soar, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. I hope everybody gets to experience that uplifting feeling when reading Hawkman.

Hawkman No. 13
Released June 12, 2019
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Will Conrad
Colorist: Jeremiah Skipper
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editors: Harvey Richards and Jamie Rich
Cover: Will Conrad and Pete Pantazis
Variant Cover: In-Hyuk Lee
DC Comics

Rating: 10/10

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