Unlike other adaptations of Robert E. Howard works, “Hawks of Outremer” isn’t set in some distant or fantastic setting. It takes place in 1190 AD and deals with the Crusades. Despite this difference, BOOM! picked a solid enough property for adaptation since the period in question was a time of violence and bloodshed, something this first issue has plenty of thanks to its protagonist, Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, a Gaelic warrior that’s out to avenge the deaths of his friends.
The biggest problem with this comic is its beginning. With Fitzgeoffrey arriving at a tavern and spending the first half of the comic talking about events past, the start is too slow. He’s introduced well as a menacing, powerful force, and some of the stories, especially one involving the King of England, sell him as a terrifying warrior, but it’s still very dry. I’m not sure how the Howard story begins, but, if it started off slow like this, a departure was definitely in order since it’s a lot of telling without much showing.
The second half of the issue, though, is a lot stronger. Fitzgeoffrey tracks down a man who was supposed to be an ally of a friend of his, but didn’t come to the friend’s aid, resulting in his death. The scene is played up for comedy well, with Fitzgeoffrey seen as a nuisance for this powerful man and his legion of soldiers. Fitzgeoffrey’s righteous indignation at this decadent coward is juxtaposed with the lord’s curiosity and bemusement at Fitzgeoffrey’s insistence that they fight over the matter of honor. What happens next isn’t too surprising, but is presented in a shocking, immediate manner.
Damian Couceiro’s art is the best part of this issue. He makes dry scenes come alive with strong, dark line work. His battles are frenzies of chaos and bloodshed, while his character work is also strong. Fitzgeoffrey is your typical angry force of nature, and Couceiro wisely depicts him as such with an unchanging expression. He’s less a character than a stereotype, and Couceiro doesn’t depart from that. But, since the appeal of a character like this is that single-minded slaughter and insolent attitude, that’s the right choice.
Despite its historical setting, “Hawks of Outremer” isn’t a large departure from other Robert E. Howard properties like Conan, Solomon Kane, or Kull. The hero at the center is a violent man of action with somewhat heroic motives, surrounded by cowards and decadent rulers. If the entire issue was like the second half, this would be a much stronger read, but the slow start really hampers things.