Return of a Legend

JSA: The Return of Hawkman TPB
Writers: David S. Goyer and Geoff Johns
Artist: Stephen Sadowski

December 17, 2004

By Avi Green

This is something I’m quite proud to review, though it doesn’t start all at once with the return of the Winged Warrior. Before that, we have a story in which the JSA faces the menace of one of their old foes, Johnny Sorrow and the new Injustice Society.

Before the former arrives, the latter is what proves a threat for starters. Count Vertigo, who may also be a foe of Green Arrow, attacks Black Canary and Dr. Mid-Nite in a resturant where they’re going on a first date. The Rival, Jay Garrick’s old nemesis, who appeared in the last issue of the first volume of the Flash from the time he was the star, has also reappeared, and is out to murder his loving wife, Joan. And the son of the original Icicle, and the daughter of the original Tigress, Artemis Crock, along with the Thinker, whose memories now exist in computerized form, infiltrate the JSA’s NYC headquarters, and when attacking, injure Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, with the spawn of Blackbriar Thorn, who’s by no means dead from his last encounter with Wildcat, and use the Thinker to lock the openings to the building. Happily, Star-Spangled Girl and Hawkgirl save the day, ditto Mr. Terrific when he works to save Alan from death, and Dinah and Pieter succeed in downing Count Vertigo. And Jay, well, to beat Rival, he’s really got to go to some extreme measures, and that means siphoning off his own power supply via the Speed Force, which renders his own body a bit dark as well for a short amount of time.

Blackbriar Thorn was a druidic demon first seen in DC Comics Presents in February 1984, when pre-Crisis, Superman teamed up with Etrigan/Demon, the Jack Kirby creation who dealt with occult threats and spoke in rhymes whenever he could. Here, he’s a simpler villain who’s made of tree wood, what the original one turned into when he sought to evade the Roman troops who invaded Britain in ancient times, but certainly a dangerous foe for Alan Scott, given how his power ring is useless against wooden objects. And Crock, the daughter of both the original Tigress, who was also the first to bear the name Huntress prior to Helena Wayne/Bertinelli after she went over to the crooked side during the Bronze Age, certainly makes a fitting foe for Hawkgirl here. And Rival/Edward Clariss, he escaped jail years ago, and in doing so, accidentally entered the Speed Force, but was able to emerge in time, thanks in part to Sorrow’s meddling. His premise here is also an interesting one, that later got explored in the new Kid Flash’s series from the time he was Impulse.

I also liked the pairing between Black Canary and Dr. Mid-Nite, who make a smart couple here, and work well together when faced with the danger of this villain who uses sound waves as a weapon.

Now, let’s turn ahead to Johnny Sorrow.

When Johnny Sorrow first appeared in the Golden Age, he was a silent movie star put out to pasture when the talkies took over the movie theaters, one of the cleverest premises for a villain at the time. He often used a special teleportation device to elude his pursuers, and it was when Sandy Hawkins, at the time he was the original Sandman’s sidekick, Sandy the Golden Boy, shot a special arrow at the device itself, that it sent the mechanism haywire, and Johnny ended up being disintegrated into the afterlife.

But it wasn’t over. Soon, Sorrow made a deal with the devil of some sort in which he was able to return from the dead as a figure wearing a mask, that, when removed, whatever face was shown behind it was likely to kill anyone who beheld it. And that was precisely what happened when Sorrow paid a visit to his wife, and put her to death when he foolishly removed his mask. For this, he tried to murder Sandy as well, kidnapping him to a playhouse in Chicago where he could offer him his last wishes before doing him in. Luckily, the Justice Society, with the Spectre in tow, comes to his rescue, although Jim Corrigan, the original Spectre, finds cleaning up a nasty threat left around by Sorrow more than he can handle.

Now, Johnny Sorrow is back again, in a world conquest scheme, and with him comes a huge army of giant beetles to stir up trouble in an around New York. And it looks like even the Spectre, this time being Hal Jordan, may be hard pressed to stop him. But it’s quite amazing how they do, with the help of Black Adam, who’s trying to reform and tries to help the goodies, and with Jay’s help, they’re able to knock him back into the afterlife…though Jay ends up knocking himself back to the Egyptian era in the process, which makes for the next storyline, presented in a JSA Secret Files and Origins issue.

The aforementioned special is where we also get a look at what’s really the main focus of this enjoyable compilation, and that’s…the return of Hawkman to the spotlight!

Jay finds himself in Egypt at the time when Hawkman was prince Khufu Kha-Tarr, and Black Adam was Teth-Adam, an aide of his who flew and had superhuman speed and strength, though is still less so than Superman. And Kendra Saunders, she’s also recently been starting to voice dialect that sounds more like her great aunt Sheira Sanders-Hall, who’d been killed in a merger she and her husband had with the second Hawkman, Katar Hol, during Zero Hour. Sandy Hawkins turns to her grandfather, the compulsive adventurer Speed Saunders, and learns that Kendra had tried to commit suicide when she was 17 years old, but, after having been presumed dead for a few minutes in the hospital, she suddenly recovered – or was it more than just that? Her eyes, which had been green, were now suddenly brown, just like her great aunt’s, and it was when seeing this that Speed suddenly realized that Sheira must be reincarnated within the body of his own granddaughter, though her memories apparently clashed with those of Sheira’s, so she hadn’t realized she could actually be her own great aunt. It was then that he began to encourage her to train for taking up the role Sheira excelled in years before.

Kendra meanwhile, goes to visit her parents’ grave, and is met by the angel Zauriel on the way, who explains to her the possibilities of what’s happened. But she’s understandably confused and in despair by all this, though soon after this experience, she’s transported to Thanagar, quite by surprise, where she discovers that the planet’s facing a conquest by a cruel dictator named Onimar Synn, (though he is honorable enough to put a prisoner to death out of mercy) who uses Ninth Metal to his advantage in several ways. And when the rest of her teammates come to find her and to save the planet, they too are captured when taken by surprise by both the dictator and his cohorts. And it’s during this adventure, that Kendra, in quite an amazing way, “pulls” Carter out of a pit filled with fire, from the limbo his spirit was stuck in. He maintains a lot of Katar Hol’s memories, given to him by his erstwhile successor when sacrificing his life to enable Carter to return.

And what a grand reappearance it is indeed for Carter Hall. His hair, once blond, is now brown colored, probably a side effect of what he’d been through in the mid-90’s when merged with Katar Hol, and now, he’s back to help avenge the planet’s innocents, the Hierophants and Downsiders, from the enslavement they’ve been subjected to. And how he and Kendra succeed in bringing down Onimar Synn is an idea that really pleased me a lot.

This is a wonderful story of how a legend returns to business in the DCU, with even some interesting commentary on how a few of the Golden Age superheroes have outlived their Silver Age counterparts, and which even connects perfectly between Carter Hall’s origins as Hawkman and Thanagar’s Ninth Metal, and how Carter acquired it when he was a prince in Egypt.

And it’s all very well worth reading about, with some great characters to make all the more worthwhile.

Update: I no longer stand by this review. This too, like the prior entries in the 1999-2006 JSA series, is garbage.

Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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