Rann-Thanagar War

Well, I was doomed to finally hit a comic I didn’t like as much as the rest surrounding it.  Of course, I don’t hold it against Rann-Thanagar War, I just don’t think this is my type of comic.  Interstellar superhero stories (with the exception of some Green Lantern) aren’t really my cup of tea, and that’s pretty much all this is.  The planet of Rann has been teleported a little too close to Thanagar, upsetting their ancient pact to leave each other the heck alone. What’s more, Rann’s appearance has thrown Thanagar off orbit and decimated the entire planet.  A handful of other civilizations have flown in, hoping to steal Rann’s technology and form alliances to further their own causes.  Hoping to help, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Captain Comet, Adam Strange, a few Green Lanterns, and a host of others join forces to fight the good fight and bring down the evil forces at work.

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That evil force is primarily Onimar Synn, but quite frankly there are so many devious and deceitful characters in this story that just about everyone is suspected of subterfuge at one point or another.

I love character-driven stories, so maybe that’s why this one just didn’t do it for me.  There was a ton of action on nearly every single page, but not much in the way of character development. The focus is instead on the epic battles that take place, which is perfectly fine, just not really enough to keep me interested in the story.

I’ve read far less about any of the characters here than most, so with the exception of the GLs, I wasn’t really too invested in what all happened.  At one point Shayera dies, which I think is supposed to be this big emotional moment, but I was just left confused: why is Carter Hall so upset? I thought Kendra was the new Hawkgirl, having taken over a new body?  Again, the fact that this wasn’t explained may not be the comic’s fault; perhaps it’s referencing back to earlier stories that, had I been into Hawkman, would have been obvious.

I stress that it’s not the comic’s fault that I didn’t like it because I really think I’m just inherently not a fan of these types of stories.  This could be the greatest interstellar superhero war epic ever written, and I’d still be forcing myself to finish it. I like my comic books just a tad bit more grounded in reality, or at least on this planet.  What’s more, I felt like this story didn’t really tie into any others I’ve been reading lately.  Truth be told, there is only a brief reference to a “crisis” that’s coming, and it’s tacked on to the very last page, as though the editors wanted to remind readers that this story takes place in the same universe as all the rest, and will be affected by Infinite Crisis as well.

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Quite frankly this story felt like it could have been placed at numerous points along the shelf.  The Green Lanterns were the only grounding force in the story for me, reminding me of its place in the timeline simply because Kyle Rayner is Green Lantern.  I appreciated being able to fixate the story at a certain era of the timeline, but nothing else pinpointed exactly when this takes place.  The story floats around with little connection to the rest of the DC universe, and given how tightly written recent stories have been, I found this disappointing.

Sorry Rann, Thanagar, and all the other civilizations referenced in this comic. I just don’t really care too much about what goes on up there.  I just keep telling myself that maybe these characters are going to pop up again during Infinite Crisis, so reading this comic wasn’t completely random.

-Jess

JSA: The Return of Hawkman

I can’t even figure out where to begin with this trade.  There’s just simply so much going on that it’s almost overwhelming.

The point of the storyline is to reintroduce Hawkman to the continuity, but in order to accurately explain the context, the trade collects quite a few issues prior to Hawkman’s return.

As the trade opens, we see the JSA facing a new challenge: having to battle against an old foe, long thought dead.

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Truth be told this portion of the story is all build-up, providing a base on which to build Hawkman’s return.

Eventually, to defeat this old enemy, Flash must run at the speed of light, an act that somehow tosses him back into ancient Egypt, where he meets an old friend.

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Flash is informed of a prophesy that states Hawkman will return in the present day to play a key role in a future battle.  He is given a golden glove to give to the resurrected Hawkman, and returns to the present.

While all of this is happening, we start to see an imbalance in Kendra Saunders, the new Hawkgirl.  Confused and scared, she flees the JLA and encounters the angel Zauriel, who informs her of some rather distressing news.

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We learn that Kendra’s soul died after a suicide attempt, but that Shiera’s soul inhabited her body after this.  The Kendra we have known since her first appearance has been Shiera after all.

Just as she learns this, Kendra is whisked off to Thanagar, when the residents are being oppressed.  It is up to Kendra to resurrect Carter Hall so that he may liberate the Thanagarians.

Again, this is all build-up and backstory.  Hawkman doesn’t even make his big reappearance until a bulk of the way through the trade.

When he appears though, it’s pretty epic.

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Carter and Shiera fight and ultimately save Thanagar, which was all well and good, but I found their relationship to be far more intriguing.  Kendra has not fully accepted that she is actually Shiera, and Carter tends to lay his feelings on pretty thick.  He is constantly professing his undying love and devotion which, let’s be honest, would be pretty difficult to swallow.

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Luckily, Kendra isn’t too timid to voice her concerns. She puts Carter in his place, telling him to stop with the “but we’re soulmates” schtick.  She has her own issues to work out, and dealing with the supposed love of all her lives is not high on her list.  While I can feel for Carter because I know they actually are soulmates, I’m glad to see that Kendra is portrayed in a more realistic light.  With all of these earth-shattering realizations crashing down on her at once, it’s nice to see that she doesn’t just fall into the arms of this newly appeared man, and that she’s instead choosing to be on her own while she works through all of these changes.

The whole point of this storyline seems to be to reintroduce Carter and Shiera Hall back into the continuity, with a unified history connecting the previous versions noting their connections to Thanagar and Ancient Egypt.  The story combines elements from all of these to make a single, cohesive history for the characters.  I found it to be clean enough to make sense, while still remaining true to the many versions that have preceded it.

Once again the JSA comic exists as a means of reintroducing classic Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age characters to a younger audience, reimagining their stories while still providing a bit of history for the characters.  The comic serves a key purpose in the continuity, allowing readers to learn about past storylines without having to track down countless back-issues (a nearly impossible task at times).  These JSA trades are an invaluable addition to the comics universe, introducing readers to a host of older characters who may not be present in other comics, but who nevertheless serve a key role in the overall continuity. This would be a great jumping off point for anyone who doesn’t have much knowledge of Hawkman lore, and like all the other recent JSA trades, a great place to start gathering information on these older characters’ histories.

-Jess