The Eighties! For many a time of electro-pop, the miners’ strike, Thatcher and the terrifying spectre of nuclear Armageddon. For others a time of swords, sorcery, wizards and dragons! Cinematic offerings like Excalibur, Krull and Conan the Barbarian were re-watched time and time again on VHS tapes by many, providing a magical escape from reality. One of the most fondly remembered of these fantasy films is Hawk the Slayer, now resurrected by no less a team than Garth Ennis and Henry Flint. Should we crack open the mead to celebrate of is it a bit of a Knightmare?
The story opens with a landlord of a suitably rustic hostelry conveniently recounting what has gone before, just in case you’ve forgotten what happened in a film that came out 42 years ago. This works surprisingly well. It doesn’t feel forced and enables long-time Hawk fans to relive some of their favourite moments. It doesn’t take long for the action to begin. Hawk and his companions find themselves battling against terrifying eyeless warriors, a face from the past re-appears and locked in the tower of an isolated nunnery, a sinister cloaked figure plots his revenge!
Series writer Garth Ennis hardly needs any introduction (but I’ll give one anyway). The author of countless Dredd stories, Hitman, Hellblazer, Preacher, The Punisher and The Boys is clearly having a ball here. Licensed properties can be real mixed bag. For every Mantlo and Golden’s Micronauts or Tom Scioli’s Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, there are all too many clunky cash-ins. Hawk the Slayer is clearly a film close to Ennis’ heart. Publisher and Rebellion co-founder clearly feels the same, writing in a heartfelt introduction that since watching the film as a child “Hawk and his colleagues have ridden at my side for the rest of my life”.
The art is top notch here. Once you get past the dramatic painted cover from Greg Staples, Henry Flint’s art leaps off the page. Flint will be known to many as the artist on 2000AD’s Zombo, the re-launched Action, Aliens, The Omega Men for DC and most recently Proteus Vex. His style is instantly recognisable but it also suits the time period of the source material really well, conjuring up elements of Brian Lewis’ House of Hammer artwork and those great colour spread from Carlos Ezquerra’s Strontium Dog.
Labours of love can unfortunately sometimes turn out to be overly self-indulgent but that is not the case here. Even if you haven’t seen the original film and you don’t know your Princess Brides from your Ladyhawkes, by Crom there’s plenty to enjoy with Hawk the Slayer!