It’s not that I don’t like Hawkgirl, it’s just that I wonder why I keep reading.
Hawkgirl was one of the One Year Later titles I picked up solely on the basis of its new creative team. Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin are two of my favorite cartoonists, and together I figured they could do no wrong.
Well, to make a long story short, wrong was done. Aside from the emphasis on Kendra’s sports bras, and the sexually-symbolic monsters, Simonson and Chaykin seemed to be going for a pretty traditional young-hero-in-the-big-city approach. Still, it ended up being Nancy Drew as reimagined by Maxim, and the combination of Simonson’s breathless scripts and Chaykin’s flashy art was, for the most part, overstimulating.
I was ready to drop Hawkgirl when I heard that Chaykin was leaving. That news prompted me to stick with it to see if the artistic change would make an appreciable difference; and it did. Between Joe Bennett’s two issues and Renato Arlem succeeding Bennett, there’s a lot less sensory overload than the Simonson/Chaykin issues had. Unfortunately, it also feels rather inconsequential, so that even when issue #61′s cliffhanger involves a Giant Robot Hawkgirl — which really ought to have produced a Godzilla roar like Giant Lard Lad had — it almost doesn’t seem enough to bring me back every month. The conclusion of Giant Robot Hawkgirl in this week’s issue #62 was goofy at best, although I did think Simonson still had a good handle on the Female Furies from his Orion days.
And yet, with Hawkgirl’s sales declining steadily, it’s tempting to hang on just long enough for this series to end, so that I don’t have to make the choice to drop it.
Likewise, Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis has gone through some creative changes since its initial One Year Later makeover, but it seems to have found a direction. It was made over originally as Underwater Barbarian, with a looked-older-than-he-should’ve Arthur Curry almost literally falling into the role of Atlantean scion. That sounds like a simple premise, but it was saddled with baggage, particularly the transformed presence of the original Aquaman. The series also couldn’t quite decide how connected it should be to the rest of DC-Earth — would occasional visits with the Sea Devils and guest appearances in Action Comics lead to full-on crossovers? Under writer Kurt Busiek and artist Butch Guice, SoA (which also never quite emphasized that subtitle) was decent, even good; but it never seemed comfortable with its own setup.
Eleven issues in, new writer Tad Williams and artists Shawn McManus and Walden Wong aren’t revamping everything. Instead, they have the advantage of being able to build upon the Busiek/Guice issues and develop what they think is workable. For the most part this includes a more superheroic approach using familiar Aquaman elements (many of which the previous regime reintroduced). This includes bringing back Tempest and creating (a second in this continuity?) Topo, thereby playing the original sidekicks (or forms of them, at least) against the current Aquaman. Generally speaking, although the new team’s lone issue to date throws several characters and ideas at the reader, it seems more focused than the nomadic approach begun with the initial OYL issues. To be fair, a lot of that comes from everyone having to protect Atlantis, something to which Busiek and Guice may well have been building. Thus, I may be crediting Williams, McManus, and Wong for a payoff their predecessors facilitated. Additionally, what I call “focus” could very well be dubbed “simplicity.” Finally, because I can only go by the one issue, there’s nothing preventing the new guys from spreading that focus like their predecessors did.
So what’s the verdict? Well, according to the February numbers, neither title is selling particularly well, but Hawkgirl‘s figures are pretty dire. Issue #61 sold 16,575 copies to retailers in February, less than half of its initial OYL level and about two-thirds of its pre-OYL level. With Giant Robot Hawkgirl out of the way, #62 ends on a decent stopping point, so right now it looks like my last one. Two issues’ worth of fighting Blackfire turned out to be dull, and next issue’s Batman appearance even feels a little desperate. I hate to do it, because I still like Simonson and I think the book has potential. If Giant Robot Hawkgirl — I never get tired of typing that – had shown up earlier, and the book weren’t so dependent on the Kendra/Carter romance, my attitude might be different.
As for Aquaman, it was on the bubble (ho ho) until #50, but I think the change in creative teams has been positive. Even if it’s cancelled in six months (its current numbers are slightly better than Hawkgirl‘s, but slightly less than the pre-OYL level), at least it’s trying to do something demonstrably different. I especially like the fact that it aims to try something new within the superhero genre, albeit by moving away from “barbarian” and back towards “superhero.” Therefore, congratulations, Aquaman: Sword Of Atlantis — you’ve earned a reprieve. Make me proud.