"Hawkman" #9 is a marked improvement from the previous issues of this series and I've got to give credit where credit is due for the upgrade: the fantastically detailed art of Joe Bennett with Art Thibert on inks.
Bennett has returned to draw the high-flying adventures of Hawkman, just as he did in 2005 with writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. That run was hot on the heels of a much-ballyhooed stretch that featured Rags Morales' art to Geoff Johns' words. Many fans weren't happy with the transition then, but like the transition on this volume from Tony Daniel and Philip Tan to Rob Liefeld, Mark Poulton and Joe Bennett, the change-up was dynamic.
Carrying over from his first run on "Hawkman," Bennett continues to draw Carter Hall's Nth metal armor as designed by Philip Tan, but in this issue it looks much more like Bennett's designs for Golden Eagle's uniform from that initial flight. Bennett's detail (and by extension Thibert's patience, dedication and technique) on the costume is exquisite; his backgrounds are deep and his characters alive in their emotions. One minor flaw that I found in the art, however, is Carter Hall opening a door with a pull handle by pushing on it, but I'll chalk it up to random capabilities generated by the Nth metal.
Just flipping through the comic before I sat down to read and review it, I thought DC had somehow acquired the rights to Stryfe, as a character with a flared-wing helmet, shoulder pads and oddly placed spikes gets in Hawkman's face. Turns out this character is Xerxes, the big bad of the piece who brings a trio of characters with him that look like rehashed Liefeld designs resurrected from 1995, which prominently displays a lack of creativity in expanding Hawkman's universe.
Coupled with the fact that Liefeld has bragged about a lack of awareness regarding the character's recent adventures, it completely baffles me why Liefeld would have been given this assignment instead of a creator who actually cares for and understands the essence of the character. After all, Geoff Johns and Pete Tomasi did a fine job with Hawkman in "Brightest Day" and James Robinson has professed all sorts of interest in the character throughout his career. Surely one of that trio was available to give Bennett a story worthy of his art.
That said, this first issue of the "bold new direction" takes a step in the right direction by adding in some action and having Hawkman actually fight people, but it lacks passion and power. We have villains referring to themselves in the third person only because there is a lack of story progression to provide that information organically. Yes, it helps advance the story, even if it does sound dumb when read aloud. The dialog problems don't stick with the villains of this piece. In the heat of battle, with his knee connecting to Ironside's jaw, Hawkman shouts, "You have no idea the lengths I'll go to protect myself and the innocent lives you've threatened!" Evidently Carter Hall has also been brushing up on his drama classes.
For someone who declared May 18 to be "SLAP a decompressed comic fan Friday" on Twitter, Liefeld really takes his time meandering through this story. Sure, there's action and explosions and fighting, but it all just seems to be dragged out so Liefeld can insert placeholder foes and inventory villains, or leap through plot holes and jump around the story to set up a "big fight" in the next issue.
This is one of those reviews that I truly wish I could split into an art rating and a story rating. Bennett would receive four stars and the story would get half of one. Hawkman has an underlying concept that works in every incarnation. "Brightest Day," which gave Swamp Thing and Aquaman a direction to move forward into in this new DC Universe, had a great set-up for Hawkman. It truly seems like no one can pull it all together. That said, this is the first issue and Bennett (with Thibert and colorist Jason Wright) has produced some great work. I'll open an extra packet of patience and see how this first arc plays out.