Stealing people’s shadows? Well that would be one way to spread doom across the world. At first, I was definitely reserved about the decision to make the Shadow Thief the first villain who Carter encounters after his personal journey, but I’m slowly warming up to what this one can offer to progress the story. Will the nightmares get the best of him? Or will it be obstacles like the Shadow Thief who finally bring the Hawkman to a breaking point? That’s what we’re here for right now.
The great thing about this issue was the time put into us getting to know The Shade a bit better. This is a character who exists in the supernatural corner of the DC Universe, and thus you can’t expect that everyone will know who he is by a simple description. Sometimes you need a little bit more than “He used to be a villain, now he’s more of a good guy”. It went a long way that we could get a few pages out of this issue to better flesh out this past which the two shared. Through that flashback it made a bit more sense why it is that this is someone Carter Hall could turn to in his time of need.
Something I also appreciated about The Shade is that he’s a character who doesn’t mince words when he has something to say. Maybe that’s some of who he used to be talking, but it is welcomed when he is also the first person to see the kind of person who Carter is transforming into, and acknowledge this change. That is a kind of interaction you don’t get too much out of his allies. Most of them are more grateful just to see him than to actually analyze him. On top of this, a smart play for the sake of story progression because the big thing for this new arc was seeing that we weren’t ignoring the next step in Carter’s future. This is that time where at the same time we should be understanding this thing about his need for war and blood. Is this something that will slowly take form over time? Or will it all happen at once? Hawkman #16 so far serves as our first taste of what we should brace for.
Aside from this, the exploration of the Shadowlands was pretty cool. It’s been a good while since a story took us to this place, and it is just as unique as it has been before. Everything we did need to know about this realm was straightforward between knowing what made it different from any other shadow world, and what it does for a newly empowered Shadow Thief who now controls it.
I only had one issue with what happened in this chapter, and that was seeing the Shadow Thief as more of a means to an end than the villain. There was more expectation from what he should have been able to unleash upon Hawkman and The Shade to give them a run for their money. This realm was under his control, along with every benefit of having both Hawkman and The Shade’s shadows in his possession. Maybe it’s a bit too early to say that you could already see the end before the final battle began, but that is just the impression you are left with at the conclusion of the issue.
When it came to this art team, it was this issue in particular I was waiting for because it takes a sharp eye to be able to set a story in a place like the Shadowlands. When I say a sharp eye, I mean a combination of all their efforts which acknowledges that a setting is primarily one shade and needs distinguishing features. I’ve seen some books where either the inker or the colorist will get lost in the amount of black used and you pretty much have to hurt your eyes to see anything going on within a given scene. Fortunately that was not the case here. There was a solid blend of black, along with other cold colors to create a proper atmosphere. For even the shadow constructs, it helped that their base color wasn’t complete black. It was light enough where you could even create a shadow for those things. Beyond this, I believe the penciler did a much better job in this issue for the comfort that he seems to have gained in drawing Hawkman and other things which turned out looking better in greater detail.
For anyone who thought that this new story arc would ignore what Carter Hall is now experiencing after remembering his first life? Hawkman #16 assures you that everything comes with patience. Even as a technical tie-in to an event, this is still a book that aims to stay true to what was already unfolding before the madness of the ‘Year of the Villain’.