by The Masked Bookwyrm

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Harbinger: Children of the Eighth Day is reviewed on the next page (just so I could keep the Hawkman reviews together).

Hawk and Dove is reviewed on the next page (just so I could keep the Hawkman reviews together).

coverThe Hawkman Archives, vol. 1 2000 (HC) 235 pgs.

Written by Gardner Fox. Illustrated by Joe Kubert, with Murphy Anderson, and Carmine Infantino.
Colours/letters: various.

Reprinting: The Brave and the Bold #34-36, 42-44, and the Hawkman stories from Mystery in Space 87-90 (1961-1964)

Additional notes: character background (on inside flap); intro by editor Julius Schwartz, intro by Joe Kubert; covers; creator bios.

Rating: * * * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed Mar. 2012

Published by DC Comics

An earlier, soft cover Hawkman TPB in 1989 collected the Brave and The Bold issues -- for an all-Joe Kubert collection.

DC's Archives volumes reprint vintage series, in chronological order, on heavy paper in solid, enduring hardcover. This, the first of two volumes dedicated to the Silver Age Hawkman (there's also Golden Age Hawkman Archives), reprints that character's earliest appearances...before he had a self-titled comic. A couple of try-out runs in the comic Brave and the Bold (before it eventually became a home for Batman team ups) and then a run sharing space with space hero Adam Strange in Mystery in Space. That last home might seem a bit of an odd match...except when you consider the Silver Age Hawkman's origin.

This was part of DC's attempts (largely under editor Julius Schwartz) to revive some dormant Golden Age properties -- in most cases with new origins, costumes and identities, adding a pseudo-scientific spin to origins that had been more mystical, as befits, so Schwartz felt, the Atomic Era of science and futurism. So in Hawkman's case, the old origin of him being a reincarnation of an Egyptian prince is replaced by a new origin -- he is Katar Hol and, with his wife Shayera, they are police officers from the distant planet of Thanagar (with technology of the future, and weapons of the past, they fight the villains of the present -- as the tag line used to go) living on earth as museum curator Carter Hall and his wife, Shiera.

Interestingly, of all the Silver Age revivals, Hawkman was the one whose costume underwent the least alteration from the Golden Age version -- perhaps Schwartz and company recognizing it was one of the most strikingly original super hero costumes around.

I had always had a certain affection for Hawkman growing up, enjoying coming upon him in the occasional back up story, or guest appearance. I suspect that cool costume had something to do with it, and the idiosyncratic idea of him using medieval weapons in his crime fighting. And there were other things that made the character stand out from his compeers -- namely the concept of a husband and wife team. And the alien origin added an element of intellect to the characters -- they weren't just fighters, but thinkers, detectives from a highly advanced civilization. And there was the bird motif -- including able to communicate with birds.

Still, when I came upon this volume (marked down) I bought it more on a whim than a compulsion -- partly because I really hadn't been much of a fan of the recent interpretation of Hawkman, which like so much else in comics, had seen the character dumbed down, and the violence amped up.

And I'm glad I indulged -- because this is quite an enjoyable collection.

First up, is the art. The early stories of the Hawks are drawn by Joe Kubert, a distinctive artist with a moody, scratchy style (an artist so well regarded, he founded an art school with his name on it) but not a guy normally given to super hero comics -- better associated with war or western or other more "realistic", gritty milieus. So his regular pencils on the Hawks made them almost unique among super heroes -- and it is a stylish, moody look, giving even simple stories of gimmicky bank robbers an almost sultry gothic atmosphere. Kubert's Hawkman is a sleek, lean figure -- one you really can see as an aerodynamic bird man flittering through the sky.

Toward the end of this collection, the art was handed over to Murphy Anderson, with a rather different style -- Anderson employing an almost hyper-realism shared by very few American artists from that period (maybe John Buscema and Curt Swan were working in a similar style). It lacks Kubert's eerie atmosphere...but it has its own appeal. Anderson's composition isn't especially dynamic -- as I say, his forte was realism (so much so that in one story, you can realize who the villain is in disguise...simply because you recognize his face). But that adds its own atmosphere to scenes of the Hawk's flying through the air...because it really does evoke a giddy sense of human beings defying gravity upon big, flapping wings in a way few artists have matched, even in recent Hawkman comics!

And the stories too hold your attention. Oh, don't get me wrong -- a lot of it's goofy and simple and childish. I mean, when the Hawks introduce themselves as alien police officers to Midway City police commissioner Emmett, he simply takes them at their word. Given they were hunting a fellow alien, I thought maybe he'd say, "I believe you...because it gels with this report I got of another alien..." But, no -- he just trusts them.

The 1960s comics were only just starting to see their audience as being more than elementary school kids. But even on that level, these are some well-paced, fun stories...and perhaps boast a sophistication that distinguishes them a bit from other super hero stories of the time. The very fact that the Hawks were a married couple lends the interaction a warm flavour (and is a contrast to most solo super hero stories) -- and though Hawkman is clearly the "star", Hawkgirl takes part in the fights and crime fighting. Indeed, other than the occasional period stereotype (Hawkgirl fixing the lunches) it's a surprising modern relationship -- they even work side by side in their alter egos as museum curators. And though I've grumbled about how dumbed down Hawkman has become in recent years, it's not until I read these that it struck me as just how far his IQ has dropped! A lot of 1960s DC Comics (perhaps reflecting Schwartz's influence) had "thinking" heroes, often employing scientific principles (however inaccurately) in catching crooks. But nowhere is that more apparent than with Hawkman. Perhaps that's because of his alien origins, combined with him being a professional detective and a museum curator, or the fact that he and Hawkgirl absorbed all knowledge of earth when they arrived (at times they must slip into a meditative state in order to sift through all the info in their heads). Or maybe it's because, unlike The Flash or Superman or Green Lantern, his power -- flight -- can seem a bit minor, and so he must rely upon his brain to save the day, given his adversaries are often quite extraordinary -- including giant monsters way beyond his physical prowess. Reading these earlier stories, you realize that Hawkman's "power" wasn't simply his wings -- but his brain.

And it's kind of nice to see -- he's also a lot more good-natured than the modern version!

And the plots themselves are entertaining -- partly because the various aspects of the character (super hero, alien, museum curator) open the door to a variety of stories, from earth-based super science fiction stories on alien worlds, such as when the Hawk's return to Thanagar and we see something of the alien culture that birthed them. And even the earth-based stories can veer from simple super-villains to a trek to the Himalayas and an encounter with Yeti! The stories range from feature-length 25 pagers, to shorter 12 page tales...again, allowing for a variety. The 25 pagers justifying the length, with twists and turns (not just 12-pagers stretched to fill the extra pages). There's even an interesting use of continuity, so that you couldn't just randomly jumble all the stories, as the Hawks return to Thanagar midway through this collection (made all the more dramatic because the planet had previously been referenced but not seen)...and stay there for an issue or two before returning to earth. Or Hawkman only gains the wings on his mask part way through these issues. Or when the Hawks are moved into Mystery in Space, in one story they brush shoulders with Adam Strange...but it's not till a few issues later that they discover his secret, and that he travels with them to the distant world of Rann!

And though the Hawks' rogues gallery is, perhaps, not as infamous as some, nonetheless these early issues introduce villains that would recur over the years -- The Shadow Thief, The Man-Hawks, The IQ Gang, and The Matter Master.

Some aspects start out promising more than they deliver. In the first issue we meet Mavis Trent, a naturalist who immediately makes a play for Carter -- a kind of interesting character idea (given she knows he's married), providing room for some humour and character conflict. But Mavis never really evolves beyond that, and soon switches her attention to Hawkman, kind of muting some of the tension between her and Hawkgirl (since Mavis has no way of knowing Hawkman is married) -- she even seems to get downgraded to a simple museum worker, as opposed to the more "liberated" globe hopping artist (though Mavis did remain a fixture of Hawkman stories well into the 1980s!)

The series lose a bit when Kubert leaves. As much as I like Anderson's art, it's true that he never matches Kubert's moodiness, so the hokiness of the stories becomes more apparent. There may also be more of a shift to just conventional crime fighting, as if maybe Kubert's moody art was inspiring Fox to write stories with weirder, or eerier aspects. But even then, a tale like "Topsy-Turvy Day in Midway City!" mixes together a few different plot elements to make for a nicely complicated tale. And this collection climaxes with the first ever teaming between the Hawks and Adam Strange in a 25 page epic (previously, they had shared the comic, but in different stories, although with some deliberately overlapping threads) -- drawn by Adam Strange artist Carmine Infantino, but inked by Anderson for a consistent look, it's a nicely grandiose adventure summed up in the dramatic title "Planets in Peril!"

I'm not suggesting these are "sophisticated", per se -- nor even on the level of what Stan Lee was doing at Marvel, or even Arnold Drake (later) on The Doom Patrol. But as an adult, reading these stories for the first time -- I thoroughly enjoyed them. Indeed, with the mix of Kubert's haunting visuals, Anderson's beautiful realism, the quirky aspects to the characters, the diverse plots, all told with a pleasant 1960s innocence, this is both an atypical, yet equally a quintessential, representation of Silver Age DC Comics...making a nice home on my shelf, and a volume I'd be loathe to part with even if pruning my collection.

Cover price:$49.95 USA.

coverHawkman: Endless Flight 2003 (SC TPB) 176 pages

Written by Geoff Johns (plotting: Geoff Johns and James Robinson). Pencils by Rags Morales, with Patrick Gleason. Inks by Michael Bair, with Christian Alamy.
Colours: John Kalisz. Letters: Bill Oakley, Kurt Hathaway. Editor: Peter Tomasi, Ivan Cohen.

Reprinting: Hawkman (2002 series) #1-6, the lead story from Hawkman Secret Files #1

Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Published by DC Comics

Additional notes: intro by Johns; cover gallery; data sheets and character profiles from Hawkman Secret Files #1

Hawkman has become, so I understand, one of the biggest victims of DC Comics' constant obsession with re-inventing itself, and "clarifying" its fictional reality. Because he's a high profile character (which means no editor's quite prepared to bench him indefinitely) without being that commercially successful a character (meaning they're constantly revamping and revising him in an effort to strike commercial gold) it's actually hard to keep track of who and what Hawkman is supposed to be.

Even after reading Geoff Johns' introduction to this collection of the first few issues of another stab at giving the character a self-titled comic, I wasn't entirely sure. The long and the short of it is that this Hawkman is basically modelled after the original Golden Age one: he's Carter Hall, the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince who fights crime using his anti-gravity wings. Somehow this ties into the later Silver Age version of the character (who was from the planet Thanagar)...but I don't think he's supposed to be that version of the character. Johns explains all this in his intro...I just had trouble getting my brain around it.

Hawkgirl owes even less to previous versions. She's a new re-incarnation of Hawkman's Ancient Egypt lover...but she doesn't remember any of that, so instead of husband and wife, she tends to regard his advances with skepticism.

Wow! I've written three paragraphs and I haven't even tackled the stories themselves!

The story here has the Hawks relocating to St. Roch (a thinly disguised version of New Orleans) where they become affiliated with the local museum. Hawkgirl's there because she's investigating the long ago murder of her parents. Hawkman's there, well, because Hawkgirl is.

The museum is in danger of being bought out by a sinister rich dude, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl whisk off to India looking for a museum employee who was searching for an artifact that could turn the museum's fortunes around. Things take a bizarre turn as Hawkman, and some old foes like Shadow Thief, find themselves transported to another dimension, and caught up in a conflict between races derived from Hindu myths. After that, it's a return to St. Roch, and a team up with guest star Green Arrow to investigate a series of murders that implicate the emerald archer.

And, to be honest, I don't have a lot to say about it all. I didn't hate it...but little excited me.

I mentioned in my review of the mini-series, The Legend of the Hawkman, that I have a certain affection for the Hawks as they were in the 1960s-early 1980s. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe I brought too much baggage to the book, comparing these characters to the ones that lived in my head.

I didn't really care about this version of the characters -- insofar as I could get much sense for their personalities at all! Both seemed kind of blandly generic, except prone to bursts of unwelcome brutality, snarling "Rahh!" in mid-battle, or gleefully employing excessive force (and demonstrating implausible bursts of super strength). And true to what seems policy at modern DC, they seem dumbed down a bit from the Silver Age versions. When a character remarks that he's gotta polish up on his Hindi language skills, Hawkgirl sarcastically replies: "Don't we all." The message from the "new" DC seems to be: who needs an education when you can hit things instead? (Old time DC editor, Julius Schwartz must be rolling in his grave!) Likewise, the action scenes don't generally revolve around the characters thinking their way to a solution -- as the Hawks used to do -- so much as just hitting harder than the opposition.

Johns clearly likes the tough guy aspect, harping on it in his introduction as a characteristic he really wanted to employ. And having read more stuff by Johns subsequently...I must say, revelling cavalierly in violence does seem a trademark of his style.

There's something odd about wrapping a series around a character who even guest star Green Arrow, acting as the voice of reason, criticizes for his character flaws and brutality. (Without him being brutal enough that you can say, ah, that's who he is, ala Valiant's X-O: Manowar).

And aside from those superficial traits, I never really felt Johns got me into their heads. Yet the characters are why a reader is supposed to come back, month after month!

The plotting is fast paced, and certainly flamboyant (particularly the other dimensional stuff) but a bit vague, as if Johns and co-plotter James Robinson were going through the motions. The stuff in India should've been exciting and interesting (assuming one can forgive the arguably racist portrayal of the Indian army as a bunch of corrupt thugs, or the imperialistic notion that an American archaeologist can help himself to another country's national treasures). And Hawkman discovers things are not all that they seem in the other dimension. But the plot twists are pretty stock stuff, and kind of rushed. Hawkman is captured and made a slave...and then escapes about three pages later!

The plot with Green Arrow in St. Roch is also slight. They barely begin investigating when Green Arrow basically lays out the solution for them. The climactic fight is literally a whole issue of, well, fighting. To be fair, there's a certain imagination at work, as the Arrow (who actually takes center stage for the climax) squares off against another archer, and the fight seems modelled after a John Woo movie scene as it takes them all over the room and back again...but that still doesn't keep it from being repetitious and pointless.

And the sub-plots involving Hawkgirl's murdered parents and other things don't get resolved...or even progress particularly.

The art by Rags Morales is, at times, quite stunning, with detailed backgrounds, and well realized, dynamic figures, and artful, brooding shading, with even a hint of someone like Michael Golden in the work. Yet even here I quibble. For one thing, there's my common complaint that modern comic art can seem a bit too...busy. With detailed backgrounds, and detailed figures, all crammed into the same panel, the crucial impact of the scene can get lost in the intricacies. And the scenes of the Hawk's flying just weren't as striking as they should be. I mean, that's what Hawkman has going for him: his cool costume, his neat-o wings, and that he flies. When the Hawks rise into the air, you want a sense of these majestic, birdlike beings swooping through the sky. I didn't feel Morales captured that. He was more interested in the big muscles, the swinging clubs, the action, the fighting, but not so much the majesty.

Even I recognize I'm nitpicking. I mean, I acknowledged Morales is a good artist...then quibble that he didn't really capture the essence of the Hawks in flight? I acknowledge the pacing is brisk, (some) of the stories flamboyant...then say they were simplistically developed? But reading is a visceral experience...and viscerally I didn't like the characters, or even feel they were particularly well developed. Re-reading some old, pre-Crisis Hawkman stories I have by writers ranging from Gardner Fox to Bob Rozakis...I actually was caught up in them more than I was by these issues! (And I read a subsequent story arc featuring these Hawks, by writers Palmiotti and Gray, that I enjoyed more, too -- though I'm not referring to the TPB reviewed below). A second reading might soften my stance (as it did with Legend of the Hawkman) but, for now, childhood affection notwithstanding, nothing really grabbed me or made me interested in pursuing subsequent adventures.

Cover price: $21.95 CDN./ $12.95 USA.

coverHawkman: Rise of the Golden Eagle 2006 (SC TPB) 208 pages

Written by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti. Pencils by Jon Bennett, Dale Eaglesham, Stephen Sadowski. Inked by various.
Colours: Jon Kalisz, Sno Cone. Letters: various. Editor: Stephen Wacker.

Reprinting: Hawkman (2000 series) #37-45 (2005)

Additional notes: intro recapping "what's gone before"; thumbnail cover gallery.

Rating: * * * (out of 5)

Number of readings: 1

Reviewed Mar. 2012

Published by DC Comics

The current Hawkman is technically an extension the 1940s one -- the product of multiple re-incarnations dating back to ancient Egypt (and I guess, in some way, he's also a reincarnation of the 1960s version who was from the planet Thanagar) -- who fights crime alongside a Hawkgirl (of whom there have also been many) in the city of St. Roch.

I picked this up during a TPB sale and more by happenstance than intent, I also got Hawkman Archives, vol. 1, reprinting vintage Silver Age stories (reviewed higher on this page) -- which makes for an interesting contrast. There was another Hawkman TPB from this period, but I decided on Rise of the Golden Eagle because it was bigger, promising a more "epic" Hawkman saga.

So epic, in fact, that Hawkman and Hawkgirl are already being plagued by an alliance of many of their arch foes when this volume opens -- orchestrated by an unknown enemy. The saga proper begins with the Hawks getting a new ally -- The Golden Eagle. He's basically a Hawkman-type who used to be a member of the super hero group, the Teen Titans, but he's now all grown up, and a wealthy business man. So the next few issues trundle by, fights occur, there's blood and destruction a-plenty, we get a surprise twist or two, and then it resolves.

I'm being vague because, obviously, I don't want to give it all a way...but also because there's not a lot to give away despite my saying I picked it up hoping for an "epic". Basically it's just a lot of issues of their rogues attacking the Hawks for no greater motive than to, well, attack the Hawks. A major character seems to get killed part way through -- and, to be fair, not who you'd expect! But even when we get nearer the end, and the surprise revelations can feel a bit haphazard. I mean -- how exactly does Hawkman track the villains to their lairs? And we are supposed to be shocked that something we were told is not, in fact, true...when the only reason we believed it was because we were boldly told it an issue or two before.

And this is one of these sagas built on past stories, so that the climactic requires recapping past lore that we hadn't had even a hint of in the issues collected here -- so it's explained...but the resonance for a lot of readers will be muted. And with all this reincarnation stuff, I frankly have a lot of trouble even understanding what Hawkman's backstory is supposed to be these days.

Still...there's a breezy readability to the saga, and it does build to a resolution. The chapters flip by, partly I suspect due to a lot of big panels. And the art is quite good. A few artists are on display here but they work in similar styles, so it doesn't break the flow of the story. All work within a certain realist-style -- at least in the sense that the square-jawed faces look like faces and robust bodies move more-or-less the way bodies move. The line work is intricate and backgrounds often quite detailed. Indeed, if anything, I found the art a little overwhelming, not entirely helped by the colourists' tendency to use dark and sombre hues. The art clearly owes a lot to Rags Morales who drew the first few issues of this revived series of Hawkman. Of course, they favour the big muscle, burly type of super hero, not exactly the most aerodynamic look for avian heroes, seeming a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger in an angel costume!

Now as I mentioned, I was simultaneously reading some vintage Silver Age Hawkman stories by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert -- and maybe the shocking contrast between the two affected my enjoyment. The Silver Age Hawkman was one of the smartest of DC's 1960s heroes -- a group heavy with "thinkers" as Silver Age DC stories often revolved around the heroes having to out wit their opponents, often utilizing obscure scientific principles. People may think of Hawkman's power as being wings, but reading those old stories you realize his brain was as much a superpower as anything. Plus, there was the aesthetic contrast created by the fact that he utilized ancient weapons in his crime fighting.

And clearly it was that feature that impressed the modern writers at DC. "Hawkman hits people...with maces!" they exclaimed, "Kewl!"

There's little doubt that DC has deliberately dumbed down its heroes over the years, essentially leading an attack on the very concept of education, and promoting a sword is mightier than the pen philosophy. And Hawkman has got the worst of it. (Indeed, after this series ran its course, DC re-booted it...under the title Savage Hawkman).

Instead of out-thinking their adversaries, the modern Hawkman and Hawkgirl's main strategy is just to burst through walls, swords and maces swinging, screaming: "Raarhhh!" Reading the modern Hawkman in contrast to the old one is like coming upon a Sherlock Holmes movie starring Steven Segal who, instead of using deductive reasoning, simply stomps on suspects with steel toed boots! And the villains themselves are more vicious than ever -- which seems to be the cliche in such stories. At one point Hawkman even comments they seem to be acting out of character...but there's no explanation ever offered for why.

The Silver Age comics were, of course, silly and childish. The problem is, for all the lavish art, and for all the amping up of the violence and brutality -- the modern comics aren't really much different. The villains are still one-dimensional personalities without much in the way of complex plans (9 issues of various villains whose sole agenda is to kill the heroes). The plotting is often as substantial as tissue paper, easily shredded by applying even a few drops of logic. The characters bicker and snipe more, so in that sense, you could say if the Silver Age stories ran the emotional gamut of A to B, these stories run the gamut from A to C or maybe D...that still leaves E to Z unaccounted for.

And the violence is pretty...extreme. I had grumbled in a previous Hawkman review (see above) that Geoff Johns (who kicked off the new Hawkman series) has a rather long and sordid association with violence, his mainstream super hero stories often veering into a creepy kind of S&M fetish zone. But, Palmiotti and Gray aren't much different. It isn't that there is action that occasionally gets brutal, or that there's adventure punctuated by violence. It's that the saga seems basically a string a violent brutality occasionally broken up by scenes of characters justifying their violent brutality. Flip the pages of the TPB flip-book style and blood and violence just strobes across your retina. From spitted blood and teeth to more R-rated gore of spilled viscera, severed limbs and bones jutting through skin, the blood bank of St. Roch could keep itself fully stocked just by following Hawkman around with a bucket and mop!

Now, to be fair -- perhaps that's because they see this Hawkman as almost a horror series as much as a super hero adventure. The action is frequently nocturnal, with occasional supernatural aspects. But it's not enough in that direction that you can simply see this as Hellblazer with spandex.

But moving back and forth between the moody, but bright, open art of the Silver Age and the dark, oppressive visuals here, the "clean" action of the old comics (where there was fighting and even murder, but in support of the story) to the almost non-stop brutality here -- you can actually get a bit dizzy. And not even feel you're reading about the same character, despite what should be a signature costume. Oh, and less you think it's all blood and WWF smackdowns...there's also a lot of cheesecake, too, with perky female bottoms thrust at the reader and some female nipples jutting behind the fabric of costumes. I suppose I don't fully object to such pulchritude -- but again, it's the contrast.

So why do I harp on this? Sometimes people write to me, complaining about when my reviews veer into ethical and philosophical areas. But honestly -- what's the point if I don't? I'm trying to give mainstream comics the respect they claim they want by seriously reviewing them with more depth than just "Cool splash pages!" As well, if I don't tell you "why" I formed the opinion I did, how then can you decide if my feelings resonate with yours? And it would be crazy for writers like Palmiotti and Gray (and Johns and a zillion other comic book writers) to use their comics to promote an ideology...and then suggest it would be gauche on my part to comment on it.

I wasn't kidding when I suggested there could be construed an anti-intellect, pro-violence message here. The whole point of the modern Hawkman is he's a surly bad boy, who doesn't play by the wussy "liberal" values of other heroes. Which might be fine as a character...but honestly, one is hard pressed to point to a hero who hasn't been moved into that camp over the years, from Batman, to Green Arrow, to Aquaman (even Wonder Woman is a "warrior" for peace). When Hawkman is criticized for his brutality by his fellow team mates in the JSA, the message is pretty obvious -- he has a self-titled series, they don't. He sneers that they have to "grow up" and they step back, cowed, ineffectual liberals, while he flies off vowing his enemies will die for what they've done. And in the end, they welcome him back.

This is hardly an isolated case. I mean, how many times have we seen scenes, repeated here, of the cowardly informant saying he'll be killed if he squeals, only to have the hero say: "I'll kill you if you don't" or the villain who sneers mockingly, "You're the good guy," only to learn, to their chagrin, the "good guy" isn't playing by good guy rules anymore? And maybe that's my biggest problem with it. Not ideology...but artistically: it's so trite you can write the scenes before you read them.

But then just to pretend that's not the message they're sending, we have the further cliche of the hero insisting he's not like the villain, and won't cross those lines...even though, in any practical sense, he has and does.

The thing is -- I'm actually mixed on this collection. For all my feeling the violence was a bit overdone, it was pretty enough to look at, perky bottoms included (even the gory scenes had an aesthetic something at times) and I could breeze through it easy enough. But for a nine issue fails to evolve into some complex epic. When you think about what actually occurred (including any sub-plots, of which there are very few)...they could've told it in less than half these issues. I can't necessarily think of anything about it that would require -- or invite -- a re-reading months from now. And though I realize this is the trap of being someone who has read a lot of comics, it's not even like the basic themes are unusual: a hero's rogues gallery team up, more vicious than ever, to attack him for an epic saga, or a revelation that: "everything you thought you knew about a didn't!" Even the "bad boy" ideology is nothing new. It's all been done -- and without them coming up with twists, or even extra details, to at least make it an interesting spin on the cliches.

Maybe my problem is I've read too many comics. Equally, though, maybe the problem is Palmiotti and Gray have read to many, too, and are unable to break away from it.

Cover price: $17.99 USA.

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