TBT: Hawkworld

With war in Europe and lots of foolishness here at home, it seemed like a good time to look back at the excellent three-book miniseries, Hawkworld.  It details the stellar character arc of Katar Hol (Hawkman, essentially) and his rise, fall, and redemption in a corrupt, decadent empire.  His home planet of Thanagar sustains its selfish elite on cheap labor and imported luxuries, doping its citizens with designer drugs and endless parties.

It’s like a grimmer, grimier Metropolis (1927).  It’s also a powerful Silver Age comic that I highly recommend, and one I will probably reread soon myself.

With that, here is 9 March 2021’s “Hawkworld“:

Over the weekend I picked up several comics at Player’s Choice, a mecca for nerds of every stripe.  Player’s Choice, Bass Pro Shop, and a high-end piano store are pretty much anchoring the one majestic Myrtle Beach Mall, which otherwise looks like the eerie mall level from Left 4 Dead 2.  As I noted yesterday, the “resident comic book guru” took the time to walk me through some comic selections (which, to his credit, resulted in another $30 or so in sales for his store), but it was by complete happenstance that I stumbled upon Hawkworld, a three-book miniseries (later expanded into multiple issues), which I snatched up for $7.

Hawkworld‘s three initial volumes detail the rise, fall, and phoenix-like resurrection of Katar Hol, a Thangarian aristocrat and son of the man who invented the wings that allow Thanagar’s human overlords to fly from one high tower to the next.  Because Thanagar is mostly water, the elder Hol realized the future for his home planet was in the sky, and personalized wings allow residents to glide from one lofty tower to the next.

The aristocracy in Hawkworld enjoys a life of leisure, recreational drug use, cheap foreign labor, and imported luxuries.  Meanwhile, “Downside”—beneath the towers—teems an alien population drawn from dozens of conquered worlds, trapped in a world of brutality and exploitation.  Some more promising aliens end up working in the towers as servants and waiters to Thanagar’s elite, but the slightest error can result in their expulsion back below (as seen in the unfortunate episode involving Toolo, an alien waiter who commits the egregious offense of spilling wine on a highly-placed government official’s daughter).

Though an aristocrat, Katar Hol rejected the easy life of a cushy “tower job” and enlisted as an Ensign in Thanagar’s brutal police force.  This force regularly makes incursions Downside to track down alien arms dealers—and to keep the restless population in line.  Hol is a true believer in the old ways of Thanagar, and decries his planet’s reliance on cheap imported goods and labor, as well as its seeming inability to produce anything of its own.

If Hawkworld is beginning to sound like a metaphor for the excesses of the modern Western world, supported on the backs of imported labor, that’s pretty much what the comic is intended to be.  However, there’s more to it than a remarkably effective—and unsettling—glimpse into our own decadence:  Katar Hol’s character arc is a fascinating, oft-grim ride to the bottom, then back to redemption.

Hol starts out idealistic and high-minded, dedicated to the glorious imperial past of his people.  On his excursions Downside, he slowly begins accepting the mood-altering drugs his partner offers him, as it’s his only way to cope with the violent reality of his job.  He slowly becomes enmeshed in the decadence of the aristocracy, taking their designer drugs and nearly succumbing to the temptations of the aforementioned aristocrat’s daughter, who is herself spoiled, brutish, and violent.

But from this fall—both personal and professional—Katar Hol rises, following a long period of enforced isolation on a distant island.

I don’t want to go into much more detail, lest I give away any spoilers.  If you can hunt down these three volumes—and they’re fairly easy to find—I highly recommend picking them up.  Timothy Truman’s storytelling in this Silver Age reboot of Hawkman is exquisite—unsettling, redemptive, thought-provoking.

As above, so below.

13 thoughts on “TBT: Hawkworld

  1. Less Metropolis than the latter 4th Century through very early 5th Century of Rome; i.e., the time leading down to the fall. Or… The American elite in the mid-1920s, again before the fall. Or… Weimar Germany in the early-to-mid 1930s, this time right before the rise of the Nazis.

    Get the grim hint?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never heard of them but will take a look. I’ll admit, at first glance, half asleep and distracted, I thought I saw Ladyhawk, that awful Rutger Hauer film. You know, with some actors, you hope they’ll stick to the one good film they were in and leave it at that! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Port – you need to watch Roller Ball again (James Caan). It’s the future we’ll be living unless something nearly miraculous happens.

    I DO believe in miracles.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m pretty sure, as an aside, that I recommended Era Extrana (Neon Indian) to you as an album you’d like. I’m not sure if I recommended Psychic Chasms too (also Neon Indian) but you should definitely listen to both. After listening to your music, Neon Indian is definitely something you’d like. My favourites, at present, from Psychic Chasms are Deadbeat Summer and Terminally Chill.

    The track I really want is Change of Coast but he (Alan Palomo) did it specifically for GTA5 and, to the best of my knowledge, you can’t get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Okay, apart from Bladerunner which I watched MANY years ago I have no idea what any of you are on about. I will get back to Graham Greene, you know, good novel, great plot and most excellent writing, old fashioned I know but that’s what I am.

    Liked by 2 people

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