Last issue I said, “This issue hits the bigness of summer comics for all it’s worth.” The same can be said for this issue, but this issue cuts some corners -- or characters. In doing so, however, it gives us a little more of the stories for some characters, particularly Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, and Hawkgirl. Aquaman and Firestorm are nowhere to be found in this issue, save for a Firestorm-centric advertisement for “Brightest Day.” The end result is a story that feels like slivers culled from issues of “Martian Manhunter” and “Hawkman” series that don’t exist.
Given the characterization and art for those characters in this issue, I would not hesitate to read either non-existent title. Johns has picked up where he left off with the Hawks, but given the winged warriors’ story a twist and a sharp turn. Elements of the history of Hawkman are present -- brave and bold. Tonrarr, the Lionmane, gives Hawkman (and us) a history of the Hawkworld Carter and Shiera are trapped on, while Hawkgirl takes the fight to Hath-Set. The Hawkstory leapt off the page and punched me in the face, with more than a few fist-pumping moments for me as I read the adventures of one of my favorite characters. Regardless of your Hawk-preference: Truman and Ostrander’s “Hawkworld,” Isabella and Howell’s “Hawkman,” the Hawkman under Messner-Loebs and Steve Lieber, or Johns’ collaboration with Rags Morales, this Hawkman (and Hawkgirl) tale offers elements of all the previous incarnations and does so with strength while avoiding the mire of Hawkman’s continuity.
Syaf is no Rags Morales, but this story works for Syaf. His art is sharp and keenly detailed. His storytelling evokes memories of many of the artists from Hawkman’s past, particularly Jan Duursema and Steve Lieber. This is a new era for the winged warriors, and it is delivered with a nod to what has come before while forging its own path.
Aside from a two-page appearance by Hawk, Dove, and Deadman, the balance of the issue focuses on the mystery of Miss Martian (whose freckles are much more pronounced under Gleason’s pencil, bringing her closer in line with the upcoming animated version), while Martian Manhunter tries to discover who attacked M’gann and why. Gleason’s penchant for detail and grotesquerie are played to the fullest here. It’s great to see an artist so aptly matched to his subject, and it helps make the story that much more engaging.
“Brightest Day” is chugging along nicely now, but issues like this make me wonder if perhaps the title might be better served as two titles, allowing characters to live, breathe, and progress a bit more as this issue does for Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter.
There’s an “Of course!” moment at the end of the issue that makes too much sense once all of the elements and clues of the “Brightest Day” brand are considered. This issue delivered in a huge way for me. I hope the next issue does the same for Firestorm and Aquaman as this issue did for Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Martian Manhunter.