Remembering the Demons Past

February 1, 2005

Hawkman: Allies and Enemies TPB
Writers: James Robinson, Geoff Johns
Artist: Rags Morales

By Avi Green

The first number of issues was great stuff, now, we get even more, such as a focus on the origin of Kendra Saunders, and even the return of the Hawks’ leading archnemesis…though not quite as you might be expecting, and that’s a double-bladed point too at that.

The book opens with a nice dialogue between Carter and Ray Palmer/the Atom at a resturant in Saint Roch, where Ray’s arrived for dinner with Carter via phone (no kidding, he can really travel that way!), and giving these two former partners, as they were towards the end of the Atom’s book in the Silver Age, a chance to get to know each other again. Ray’s dialogue is very well written, and Robinson and Johns do him a lot of justice here.

Speed Saunders, Kendra’s grandfather, is on an adventure in Tibet, looking for the city of an old tribe called that Zhang Zhung (no kidding), and has apparently been captured by said archnemesis, and so the Hawks have to plan a search-and-rescue mission for him. And who might it be, besides the traitorous mountain guide who’s led them to the hideout where their enemy is waiting? Hath-Set, but not quite as you might’ve expected. Rather than making his reappearance as a man, even as Anton Hastor, he now exists, it appears, in the body of a woman descended from his line named Helene Astar, who was once the proprieter of a company under his 20th century incarnation’s name. Astar may have first appeared in Infinity Inc. back in the 1980’s, and it was in this guise that Hath-Set had tried to corrupt and force Carter and Sheira’s son Hector Hall, the former Silver Scarab and now Dr. Fate, into helping attack Hector’s teammates.

Hath-Set/Astar is plotting to put the Hawks to death in his usual hatred for them, and it’s a good thing that Carter thought to bring some special insurance along, in the form of the Atom, who appears in the first story compiled here as a guest star. And Ray Palmer certainly helps provide more than enough stuff to help out.

This was certainly a most enjoyable part, since it gave Ray some good exchange of banter with Kendra as well. What a cool cinch! And wait’ll you see what happened to the guide, Helene’s lover, too.

The baddies are routed, with Astar being turned into salt (?), and the guide buried under the avalanche of snow, and then the goodies are able to return home, though Speed parachutes out on the way, looking for adventure in other places. A pretty good nod to some classic pulp tales of yore.

Before the book gets on to the next story that has what to do with an awful moment in Kendra’s past, however, there comes the issue called “Fine Day for a Hanging”, a flashback story to one of Hawkman and Hawkgirl’s previous lives, which was in the late 19th century, as two gunslingers named Nighthawk and Cinnamon. They met during an incident in Saint Roch of the times, when a black estate manager whose name was Cyrus Evans, the ancestor of Oliver Evans, was falsely charged with slaying his boss, and fell in love with each other very quickly, of course. They soon teamed up to help the man evade a lynch gang summoned up by Matilda Dunney, the real culprit in the case, and he takes them to the estate which, in modern times, will come to be known as the Stonechat Museum.

Nighthawk, as a character, was first seen in Western Comics #5, published October 1948. And Cinnamon was first seen in Weird Western Tales #48, published September-October 1978. And it’s quite amazing how Johns and Robinson could link these two Lone Ranger-ish protagonists to modern-day continuity. The two would continue to travel the old West on many adventures together, until Dunney, the culprit in the murder here, succeeded in murdering the two of them as well. And yes, it does appear that Hath-Set may have been that very antagonist at the time, or that Dunney could’ve been an ancestor of Helene Astar herself!

Which brings us to the part that relates to Kendra’s background, and the terrible encounter she and her late mother once had when she was 14 years old: they were held hostage by two racist police officers around Austin, Texas, where she first came from, who tried to rape her mother while they were out on a landscape painting trip in the country in the suburbs. Kendra had fought back against one of the cops, who was trying to restrain her, and in the ensuing struggle, the other one, whose name was Darryl Banks, was killed with the first cop’s gun. (And the first cop may have been grazed by his own weapon too.) The cop was doubtless terrified of that he could very easily be convicted for his crimes, thanks to this, and fled, and Kendra’s mother urged her not to think about that horrible moment ever again.

But of course, such things simply don’t go away, and it’s hard not to have them come back in recollection, as it does for Kendra here, when she thinks about it before she goes on the adventure to Tibet.

Her mother and father later learned that the cop may be in the St. Roch area, and it was when they traveled there to investigate, that they were murdered, apparently by a meta-human villain named Warwhip, who gets killed in this same book here.

Now, this past incident has come back to trouble her again, after the authorities come and charge her with officer Banks’ death. And Carter’s certainly not happy about it either, but for now, he must uphold the law, and let Kendra be taken into custody for questioning.

Which doesn’t happen, however, as the police car she’s in happens to be driven by the very same officer whose gun went off and killed his partner, and that, as it turns out to be, is Chief Nedal himself. He had apparently fled to Louisiana, where he started life over, continuing the same profession, and eventually made his way up to the top brass, becoming the city’s police chief. Now, he’s hoping to finish her off, lest she identify him to the authorities and testify against him. Not to worry, she’s much more clever than you’d think, and uses a trick to emerge from her handcuffs and try to wring his neck, though this had the result of causing him to run off the road and crash the car at a bayou in the St. Roch Parish. He flees, and with Hawkman soon on the scene and Kendra soon getting her Hawkgirl gear out of the car’s trunk, where it was stored, they set off to search for him. But instead of Nedal, they find an old adversary of theirs, the Gentleman Ghost.

What is he here for, and what does James Craddock, that being the Ghost’s real name, want of the Hawks? While it’s not revealed right away, as he vanishes from view shortly after speaking to them, it will be soon. But first, the Hawks find that they must head back to the Stonechat Museum, where Nedal has gone, told to murder their friends there, and Jayita Sahir, if anyone, ends up dead from his bullets, officer Isabella is injured, and Danny takes a gun from him to fire at Nedal all around the museum as the crooked policeman tries to murder him as well. Nedal is stopped when Hawkman flies in, and is almost hung by our hero here, but Kendra decides it best not to, and persuades him not to make another mistake, and Carter pulls back from putting Nedal to death.

Instead, it is the Gentleman Ghost who does the dirty work, and Nedal is hung on a railing on the museum building by a noose.

And he reveals something that Carter once did, to his regret, but could not remember clearly until now: Craddock (who also appeared in the 7th issue of this series), whom he’d met when in his life as Nighthawk, was hung by Carter when the gunslinger version of our hero discovered what he thought was Craddock trying to rape Cinnamon in her hotel room one morning. In actuality, all he’d been trying to do was to steal the sherriff’s badge that belonged to Cinnamon’s father, a lawman himself, and the girl gunslinger woke to discover this, leading to a scuffle between the two of them. But it was only after Nighthawk dragged Craddock out and hung him by a railing on the hotel that he found out, after Cinnamon came out and explained everything, that he realized that it wasn’t the horrific crime he thought it was that took place. But by then, it was too late.

Nighthawk regretted his actions, but for Craddock, it simply wasn’t enough. Certainly not after, as he discovered, his being a ghost had to do with his being stuck in the resurrection cycle of the Hawks and their archnemesis Hath-Set, and while he would’ve been happy to just go peacefully into the afterlife, the resurrection curse that affected the Hawks had the effect of rendering Craddock a ghost in the world of the living, and Craddock wasn’t pleased with that.

So now, as he reveals to them, he’d been whispering things to the now deceased Nedal that he could do in the past few years, and while he certainly hadn’t encouraged Nedal to attack Kendra and her mother (something that to be sure, occurred before Craddock took to becoming a “guardian devil” for Nedal), “who do you think told him where to find your parents in St. Roch?” he asks her. In other words, he took out his anger upon Kendra as well as Carter by tipping Nedal off to Michael and Trina Saunders’ location in the city when they were searching for him.

With that, it wouldn’t surprise me if Gentleman Ghost becomes as much an enemy to Kendra as Hath-Set is to the both of them as well. And it was certainly quite a surprising revelation too, no doubt garunteed to haunt Carter for many years to come.

That wraps up another good entry in the fourth volume of Hawkman, which leaves us with a possible cliffhanger of what’s to come in the next issues at the end. Until then, this too is a good book, and highly recommended for reading.

Update: I no longer stand by this review. I've long concluded that this run was overrated trash.

Copyright 2005 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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