"Space War"

Writer: Jack C. Harris. Pencils: Al Milgrom. Inks: Murphy Anderson.

Showcase #101-103 (1978)

Although nostalgia tinged/homage-style comics are quite common these days (incessantly so!) it's not entirely a new trend. Take this 1978 three issue Hawkman/Adam Strange team up from the pages of DC's Showcase comic (back in the days when Marvel and DC had "try out" comics meant to feature characters without their own monthly series). Sure, it was intended to test the waters for a modern Hawkman comic...but it's also steeped in a deliberate nostalgia.

For one thing, though Hawkman gets the title (with Hawkgirl just assumed!), it's as much an Adam Strange arc, harkening back to the 1960s when both starred in their own comics, and occasionally teamed up. Murphy Anderson is on board as inker -- Anderson having drawn a lot of '60s Hawkman comics, and inked more than a few Adam Strange stories, and with another classic Hawkman artist, Joe Kubert, providing covers. And the story is a deliberate "greatest hits" parade, as it trots out some old foes (albeit, often in minor ways). The chapter titles are lifted from some 1960s DC comics (Mystery in Space, Strange Adventures).

And the result...is an enjoyable romp.

Okay, I'm not saying this is a thoughtful masterpiece, but it is a fun rollercoaster ride. Hawkman hadn't had his own comic since the 1960s, and wouldn't headline again until the mid-1980s (once DC had its post-Crisis reality), so this is easily Hawkman -- and Hawkgirl's (and Adam Strange's) -- biggest Bronze Age epic. The action starts fast and furious on page one with the Hawks in earth orbit rescuing Adam Strange from an alien attacker, only to learn that Adam's adopted homeworld of Rann has been invaded. Before you know it, Adam and the Hawk's are back on Rann, fighting foes, and with the conflict eventually involving Hawkman's homeworld of Thanagar, as well.

Harris' script is breathlessly paced and if the logic is occasionally tenuous, rockets along like an old movie serial. There is some characterization, though often just involving Hawkman and Adam Strange snapping at each other. But it's never boring, and has some genuinely clever twists and turns (like a scene where Hawkman goes to an old colleague). Nowadays, comics folks would take twice as many issues to tell half as much story.

Al Milgrom was(/is?) a Jack-of-All-Trades in comics, penciller/inker/writer/editor/etc. His work could run hot and cold, and here there's not necessarily finesse to his art and composition...but in a sense, that's the point. He attacks the scenes with a reckless abandon that just gets the job done. In scenes of space fleets blasting at each other, he really crams the pages, giving a cosmic grandeur to the cosmic scenes in a way a lot of artists probably wouldn't have -- a talent honed from having worked on Marvel's Captain Marvel series. And his pencils are cleaned up nicely by Murphy Anderson, an artist with an attractive, realist, rounded style and one of those inkers who can impose his own style onto a penciller's lines. The result combines Milgrom's kinetic panels with Anderson's sophisticated polish for atmospheric visuals.

Sure, the appeal here is for those who already have a fondness for the pre-Crisis Hawks (or Adam Strange) and a chance to see them headline a 61 page, swashbuckling epic published at a time when otherwise they were relegated to being members of a team (like the Justice League) or appearing in 8 page back up tales. But on that level -- it's an engaging saga.