Writer Robert E. Howard is most famous for creating Conan, but his tragic life also created a wealth of other characters and tales, some of which have also been adapted by Hollywood, such as Kull the Conqueror and the more recent Solomon Kane. Hawks of Outremer is one of those lesser known stories. Hawks is the name of a trilogy of tales centered on Cormac Fitzgeoffrey in the Third Crusade. The final was incomplete at the time of Howard’s suicide in 1936 and was eventually finished by writer Richard L. Tierney before being published in 1979. So, not the most auspicious character to begin a new comic with, but BOOM! present an intriguing tale here.
This is a world torn from history, with Irish Christian soldier Fitzgeoffrey doing the kind of work that hairy warriors do best – seeking vengeance and wreaking havoc. The issue opens with Cormac visiting a rowdy tavern near Turkey in 1190 A.D. where he proves that the rumours of his death in battle are merely that. After a catch up with a fellow Crusader, in which he tells the tale of his new sword and his undiplomatic meeting with King Richard while slaying some unbelievers, the adventure begins in earnest. Upon learning that Gerard, an old friend who once saved his life has been killed, Cormac becomes enraged and hunts for Baron Conrad, the man who denied Gerard aid, ready to give him what-for.
I was rather impressed by Hawks. Having not read Howard’s original tales, I’m unaware of how much adapting went into this issue from writer Michael Alan Nelson (who incidentally provides BOOM! with some of their best series, such as Hexed). However, the dialogue is boisterous and fantastic. Each page is littered with words that you just want to say aloud with manly gusto and a tankard of ale. Case in point – “I am no French she-knight to fear wading in the muck,” and “I name you liar, traitor and coward, dastard, poltroon and villain!” Awesome.
Nelson has grounded this in a subtle, yet believable world, devoid of Conan-like sorcery and has scattered characters that are eager to defend their faith or own self interests, and with Cormac in such a harsh environment of religion and politics, there’s room for many grand tales yet. Artist Damian Couceiro does a great job of keeping things real. With an approach similar to the fluid simplicity of Cary Nord (Dark Horse’s Conan series) he gives a rough hewn texture and weight to both people and places and fills the fighting scenes with just enough bloodshed as to not be over the top.
The ending of this debut issue is rather open, so where Cormac goes from here could be anyone’s guess, but I’m sure there’s probably a conspiracy of sorts to be unravelled and heads to be bashed or removed, in the remaining 3 issues. I’ll be there.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering Outremer refers to the states governed by the Christians after the Crusades, and the soldiers would be the Hawks. So there you go.