*SPOILER ALERT* This is a review of a recently published comic book.
Issue #2 of the Dark Nights: Metal dropped today and I can see that this coming Halloween we are going to be seeing some very scary looking Bat-men and Bat-women roaming the streets, but you know me… all I want to talk about is Hawkgirl who is kinda/sorta in the Metal series at this point. It is confusing, mysterious, and I am trying to make sense out it.
The “Hawkgirl” character that I am referring to is Kendra Saunders, who for a decade (1999-2009) was Hawkgirl. By my count, she was Hawkgirl #4 and she was the grand-niece of the first Hawkgirl, Shiera Saunders. In the Metal storyline, She is also Lady Blackhawk and I think that makes her Lady Blackhawk IV (or is Kendra also the mysterious un-named Lady Blackhawk III of a decade ago?).
So far this is the mystery that the Dark Metal limited series has presented to us in the first four-issues: two prequels, Dark Days: The Forge, Darks Days: The Casting, and issues 1 & 2 of Dark Nights: Metal. The series is expected to run for a total of six issues and a number of spin-offs. One such spin-off is titled: “Hawkman Found”
A key element (pun intended) within the story is “Nth metal” and this something that is firmly grounded in the Hawkman/Hawkgirl mythos. “Nth Metal” (originally “Ninth Metal”) was introduced in the very first Hawkman story in Flash Comics #1 (1940). In that story, archeologist Carter Hall becomes Hawkman.
Shiera makes her first appearance as Hawkgirl in the summer of 1941 in All-Star Comics #5, when Hawkman made himself a duplicate set of wings and another belt of Nth metal… in case of an emergency. Note, that even then he still calling it “Ninth Metal”. Eventually, they settle on the name of “Nth Metal”. The element is described as having extraordinary powers, as being non-conducting, and able to repel electricity which is the base of the force of gravity. It also has recuperative healing powers.
On the very first page of the first prequel, Dark Days: The Forge, we are presented once more with the Hawkman origin story. The voice is that of Carter Hall reading from his journal. The pictures we see are from ancient Egypt and the characters are undoubtedly Prince Khufu and his consort, Princess Chayera along with a troop of guards. They are racing across the desert to a place where a giant spaceship has been spotted. We do not need to be told that what was seen was a warship from the planet Thanagar – just like the one that Katar and Shayera used to fly around in back in the Sixties. (Yes, Virginia there really was a Silver Age Hawkman & Hawkgirl!)
We are told that this ship was a clue to greatest mystery in the history of mankind. “And it was written in metal.”
It is part of a mystery that Batman is determined to solve. While his compatriots in the Justice League seem equally determined that he does not kill himself and/or destroy the multiverse while he strives to solve the puzzle. All the while, like eerie background music, we hear Carter Hall (Hawkman) calling from the pages of his journal warning everyone about the dangers of “Nth Metal”
In the 2nd prequel Dark Days: The Casting, Carter’s journal contains a strange entry in which he states “My wife and I, we died fighting it back into the dark from whence it came. Shuttering the door between its world and ours.”
“It” is described as a demon who took “the sigil of a great and terrible bat”.
Yet, it seems that he refers to an earlier occurrence of one of their many deaths throughout history. I say this because we see them still alive afterward.
We are told that the Hawks were informed by the Immortals that the metal was cursed and must be eliminated. But Carter ignored the Immortals and secretly (guarded by the Blackhawks?) worked to find answers to the purpose of the mysterious substance. We learn later that the place where their lab was located was Blackhawk Island.
At some point, a “switch” is flipped and something really horrible happens – an enormous and very scary looking monster appears. It was waiting for something or someone.
And then what happens? We do not know. We have not yet been told what happened to Carter and Shiera Hall.
The first question that I have is where within the timeline of the most recent Hawkman continuity – Post-Zero Hour/Pre-Flashpoint – does the incident on Blackhawk Island occur.
Then in Metal #1, the story takes us to Blackhawk Island in the here and now. Almost immediately there is a connection to Hawkman. For one, there is big, giant, sleek golden statue of the winged-warrior inside a structure on the island.
Kendra introduces herself by telling Batman and the other members of the JLA, “I’m not just Lady Blackhawk,… my name is Kendra Saunders.”
Yet, it is her statement… “And you don’t know me, but I know all you.”… that is the greatest mystery. We, the loyal fans, know that they, the heroes of Prime Earth, would not know Kendra Saunders because up until now Kendra has not existed in the Post-Flashpoint continuity. We know that in the previous continuity she appeared to have died – see The Blackest Night #1 (2009). So, the question is where did Kendra Saunders come from? Who is she really? She seems to be extremely knowledgeable. She knows things that no one else knows! I will reveal no more than to point this out.
Kendra makes some mysterious comments that I am very curious about.
She describes her relationship in the context of the same relationship that her great-aunt, Shiera, had with Carter Hall – as BF/GF and later as a married couple. So, this seems to jibe with the events of Blackest Night, but if Kendra accepts that she and Shiera are one and the same, why does she not go by the name of the elder woman?
I am thinking that Shiera died again and that she and Kendra share the same body as they did once before.
(Or it is entirely possible that these story points cannot be reconciled and that the Hawkman continuity is still a confused mess?)
Moving on… From Kendra, we get a lot of detail on the “science” or “magic” stuff that the story is based on. She gives us a clear definition of Nth metal as being a substance that “defies all rules of science and magic” and at certain times, it seems to broadcast a strange kind of energy.
It seems that she is describing a third “way”.
She reveals that opposite of the multiverse – the one that contains all 52 known universes made of matter and antimatter in existence, there is a place that she calls “a dark multiverse”.
Here she is describing a third “place” made up something she refers to as a “third material”.
Kendra illustrates her point by flipping over a map of the multiverse and revealing a blank, yet black background.
Right off the bat, there is something going on between Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman… All Wonder Woman can see is “the back of a map”.
…and Flash is totally hitting on Kendra by pretending to be a dimwit.
The part that has me really curious is when Kendra says: “I destroyed my wings and devoted my life to ending Nth metal.”
Finally, she gives us a clue as to Carter’s whereabouts when she says “Carter had a journal… It’s been lost ever since he followed the Challengers into the dark.”
Earlier, in the second Prequel, there are those last two parts that we heard from the journal. This is where Carter describes the incident on Challenger’s Mountain, at the center of Blackhawk Island, where we see him and his wife, Shiera staring back into the eyes of a giant monster. Then a few pages later, we see Cater entering a mysterious and awesome-looking portal alone.
Again I ask the question as to when did these events take place in reference to the current meeting of Kendra on Blackhawk Island. And what happened to Shiera?
After reading Metal #2 today, my first question from that was what is Kendra doing rubbing elbows with Vandal Savage and other “Immortals” living somewhere in Antarctica? Notice how she uses the pronoun “we”. Is she one of the Immortals?
And what the heck did she mean when she told Wonder Woman and Batman that she had destroyed the tomb of Khufu decades ago? When did this happen?
I want to do some more reading on the Kendra Saunders as “Hawkgirl”.
Before Kendra became Hawkgirl she was succeeded by her great-aunt Shiera Saunders, the pre-Crisis Hawkgirl of the Earth-2 continuity. Hawkman was in the JSA.
Also, pre-Crisis there was the Silver Age Hawkgirl, Shayera Hol of the planet Thanagar. These Hawks resided in Midway City on Earth-1. Hawkman and later Hawkgirl were members of the JLA.
Annually a “crisis” would occur. Each crisis involved both Earth-2 and Earth-1 and we would see the JSA Hawkman and the JLA Hawkman as two separate and unique individuals.
In the “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, it was reported that the Hawkman/Hawkgirl of Earth-2 survived the merging on their Universe with parts of four other Universi. We read the same report as concerned the Hawkman/Hawkgirl of Earth-1.
One couple goes off to Ragnorak to fight the eternal fight of good vs. evil. They later show up again at Zero Hour.
The other couple remains on New Earth. They fight the Shadow War and then they get into some crazy shenanigans with the guys and gals in Justice League International. All the while they are oblivious to what the future might hold for them.
In the early post-Crisis days, a retconned continuity known as the Hawkworld continuity introduced a third Hawkgirl (make that Hawkwoman) named Shayera Thal.
I believe that this was done primarily to sow confusion and make a lot Hawkgirl fans angry.
By the end of the Nineties, things settled down and Kendra Saunders made her first appearance as “Hawkgirl” in “JSA Secret Files and Origins” #1 (August 1999).
Her grandfather, Speed Saunders, told her to “grab her wings and go.”
From 1999 to 2009, she appeared in the both the “JSA” and “JLA” series. Most of her backstory was revealed in the Hawkman vol. 4 series which was later renamed Hawkgirl.
My mission now is to find out as much as I can about the Kendra Saunders as “Hawkgirl”. I am also curious about the Blackhawks, Blackhawk Island, and Lady Blackhawk.
My reading list now consists of the books that I have mentioned above. Some of these I have read before, but I am sure that I will enjoy having a second look at them.
JSA Secret Files & Origins #1 (1999)
JSA #21 (April 2001) – I understand that in this issue there are details regarding how Kendra came to be Hawkgirl.
Following issue #21, there was a four-part story arc regarding “The Return of Hawkman” (JSA #22-25). I will read this once again.
I think that now I am about half through reading issues of the Hawkman vol. 4 series. This was actually the longest Hawkman/Hawkgirl series. It ran for 66-issues from 2002 to 2007. First as “Hawkman” (#1-49) and then as “Hawkgirl” (#50-66)
Word has it that Kendra Saunders appearance of death came in Blackest Night #1 (July 2009)
Finally, I am interested in the Blackhawks and their squadron. I am particularly curious about “Lady Blackhawk III” who appeared the short lived “Blackhawks” series which ran for 8 issues 2011/12.