Hawkman #21, written by Robert Venditti, with pencils by Fernando Pasarin, inks by Oclair Albert and Wade Von Grawbadger, colors by Jeromy Cox and letters by Rob Leigh, continues the quest of our swashbuckling space heroes. Giving Sky Tyrant the center stage, the creative team provides us with a villain with the luck of a hero. More than just a leftover from Year of the Villain, this series takes the implications of that event seriously. With the stakes reaching a fever pitch, the story entertains and looks to be doing that for many more issues.
Venditti provides an interesting plot, that acts out almost like a series of object quests. With the cast of characters growing steadily, with Hawkwoman, Adam Strange, and the Atom joining the ranks, Venditti creates a team dynamic naturally. Without forcing instant connections, and adding in well-earned laughs, the team comes together to save Hawkman from himself. And though villains are often set up to fail, Sky Tyrant is of a different breed. Coming from Earth 3, where the roles of villains and heroes are swapped, Sky Tyrant is used to winning. And Venditti doesn’t shy away from giving this villain some power.
Pasarin, Albert, and Grawbadger’s art creates a thematic symmetry throughout the issue. We see many page layouts set up so that characters like Adam Strange or the Atom alternate with Hawkman. Even though he’s wreaking havoc as Sky Tyrant, we get the impression that the characters are moving towards him. They are trying to get closer to him to keep him safe, even though that’s putting themselves in danger. It’s their placement on the page in relation to Sky Tyrant that shows us their empathy for Hawkman.
Cox’s coloring often varies and a lot, but always for meaningful reasons. At one point, the alien planet is bright, almost neon, yet a page later the same landscape is dull greens and browns. Similarly, Cox colors characters like Adam Strange and Hawkwoman brightly. Yet when we see Sky Tyrant, he’s dull and grey. It’s a visual representation of the sickness coursing through Hawkman’s veins. As the issue progresses, the planet looks more and more mundane and earthly, until Sky Tyrant leaves. The Year of the Villain is not just affecting the infected, but everyone and everything touched by the infected.
Leigh provides a minimalist approach to the lettering that still creates a lot of fun. Instead of covering every page with wildly different styles of lettering, Leigh gives most lines the same treatment. Only Sky Tyrant stands out as having a different voice. And while many of the sound effects appear different, they are given similar colors to create an overarching style. The sound of rumbling shakes. The sounds made by Atom growing back to normal size grow alongside him. It’s a fun lettering style that manages never to be a distraction.
This issue takes on the repercussions of something like DC Comics’ Year of the Villain. Instead of quickly tying up loose ends, we see Sky Tyrant and Hawkman duke it out for control. This series continues to be a pleasure to read, and surely will for many more issues. Pick up Hawkman #21 on February 12th at a comic book shop near you!