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Rann-Thanagar Holy War 1 by Jim Starlin

01/05/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Rann-Thanagar Holy War 1 in the USA - or Buy Rann-Thanagar Holy War 1 in the UK

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Rann-Thanagar Holy War 1 by Jim Starlin, Rob Lim and Rob Hunter. pub: DC Comics. 168 page graphic novel softcover. Price: $19.99 (US), $22.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-2254-3.

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In some respects, I feel with the first volume of the ‘Rann-Thanagar Holy War’ that I’ve been dropped into events that are already taking place although it isn’t difficult to get up to speed. For those not in the know, Rann is the place where Adam Strange has been transported to from Earth by zeta-rays since the 1960s for his adventures and is their hero. Thanagar is the home planet of police officer Hawkman Katar Hol, usually on detached duty on Earth with his wife, Hawkgirl Shiera Hall, where they are also both members of the Justice League. Until this story, I hadn’t realised how close these two planets are, relatively speaking, nor the fact that both have been affected by some apparent gods which are manipulating them to war against each other. On Rann, it is the goddess Lady Styx, and on Thanagar, it is, well, sort of nameless. Although written in 2008 originally and released in softcover a year later, it is also a very obvious take on religious differences going to war. Only with this particular story, you have a selection of super-heroes who know that Lady Styx is a super-villain whose memories have tainted the people of Rann and need to get into the middle of things before they get out of hand.

Apart from Adam Strange and Hawkman, there is a potpourri of power talents amongst them ranging from Comet and Starfire to lesser abilities like Animal Man and Tigor from the Omega Men. Into this mix there is also the Weird and even Bizarro, aptly controlled by Starman. Like them, we have to follow them as they try to work out what is going on and will no doubt be resolved in the second volume so I’m being very cautious as to how much I should say in case it goes into spoiler. One thing I am confused by is how at the end of one story, Hawkman is beaten unconscious and yet is in an apparent different story in the next with no hint that he’s dreaming it or been transported into the past of his earlier incarnations in ancient Egypt.

In many respects, Hawkman has always been seen as a second-string super-hero over the decades but then again, so has Adam Strange. It is problematic with the winged policeman that his ability to fly in based on a mechanical wing technology and, if memory serves, an anti-gravity element in his belt. His weapons are primarily a mace and shield which in many respects are hardly useful against a variety of super-villains. Then again, the Batman battles crime with far less so what do I know? Hawkman does look interesting visually, even if he goes around bare-chested but it’s obvious from some of the earlier stories here that the artists involved didn’t know quite what to do with him because of his mask and ended up having him from side-view only. There have been attempts in the past to make him at least better armoured although this appears to be dispensed with here.

Oddly, Adam Strange also has similar problems brought across from the 60s in that he has a Buck Rogers type costume and instead of wings, a jet pack, and has to use his brains to out-wit the problems he’s solved over the years. By default, he becomes the pro-tem leader of this motley team, even if the powerful Comet is a reluctant accomplice. Having Bizarro in the mix seems an odd choice but brings a little levity into events.

In many respects this is a bold experiment but only volume two will reveal whether it was worth it or not.

GF Willmetts

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