Hawkworld miniseries (a.k.a. Hawkworld vol. 1) was followed by an ongoing series that ran from 1990 to 1993 (a.k.a. Hawkworld vol. 2). The original mini was written and pencilled by Timothy Truman, with inks by Enriqué Alcatena; Truman stepped back for this series, co-writing its first nine issues and pencilling its last three. All thirty-two of its issues (plus its three annuals) were written by John Ostrander, who I know best as a consistent presence in Dark Horse's Star Wars comics (scripting Clone Wars, Legacy, Agent of the Empire, and Dawn of the Jedi, among many others).
The Hawkworld mini was an origin story for Katar Hol, one that didn't actually see him assume the role or title of Hawkman, as the story was set entirely on Thanagar. It ended with a set-up for the series to come: the treasonous Commander Byth had escaped with a shape-shifting drug to a small blue planet. In the Hawkworld ongoing, Katar and his new partner, Shayera Thal, are sent to that small blue planet (i.e., Earth, duh) to track down Byth, but also help the Thanagarian ambassador to Earth repair relations between Earth and Thanagar. (During the ten years that elapsed during the middle of the mini, when Katar was in exile, Thanagar was among the alien planets that banded together to attack the Earth in Invasion!)
Ostrander and Truman actually manage to balance this really well. Of course, Katar and Shayera travel to Earth, take up residence in Chicago, and become known as superheroes. But though they bring Thanagarian artifacts for a museum exhibit, that's not the only form of cultural exchange; Katar finds himself entranced with American liberal, democratic values, seeing them as a solution to the problems plaguing Thanagar. The "Hawkworld" of the original's title obviously referred to Thanagar, but the ongoing justifies the move to Earth by expanding the meaning of the word. It's a world where the strong prey on the weak, and Katar and Shayera soon realize that despite the values it holds, Earth can be one of those too.
Though Ostrander is one of those writers who excels at comic book plotting (each individual issue has a real story to it; each issue adds up to a bigger story, too), the main characters themselves are the real highlight of Hawkworld. Katar is a man of principle trying to make up for past mistakes, but often too much of an idealist to act quickly. Shayera is young and sure of herself, and quickly forms fierce loyalties. I liked both characters, but I loved Shayera. I'm glad that Ostrander (and Mike Gold, editor on issues #1-25) acknowledged that the series was not called Hawkman by keeping the focus on both characters pretty much equally. I'm disappointed to know that when Hawkworld was cancelled, it was replaced in short order by a series called Hawkman, which I assume means a reduced for for Shayera.
There are a lot of highlights to the series. I'm glad the Byth plotline wasn't overextended. I appreciate the series's embeddedness in real social issues (typical of Mike Gold's editorial work: see Mike Grell's Green Arrow run, which he also edited). I liked the use of the original Carter Hall Hawkman to occasionally invoke the mythos of the JSA. I liked that what could have been grim often had a nice sense of humor and a lightness of touch. I liked the ties into the bigger DC universe, including recurring appearances from Weng Chen, formerly Blackhawks's "Chop-Chop" (another Gold-edited title). I liked the large cast around the Hawks: in addition to Weng, there's the Thanagarian ambassador to Earth, various staff and donors to the Chicago museum, a young black woman and her son who move in with the Hawks, the Hawks' PR man, a couple reporters, and several cops. Things like this help keep the series grounded and real.
But it definitely does create some problems, which cause tons of people to write into the lettercols, and worse, the story itself has to answer them. I don't mind a little bit of retconning, but at times, too much space and energy is given over to them. Like, no retcon will be completely elegant; I feel like Ostrander should have tossed something out that kind of worked overall (as he did in Hawkworld Annual #1) and ignored the details. Not all of them add up: it always felt kind of lame how it was established that Katar's dad had had a secret trip to Earth, and nothing can explain away why the Golden Age Hawkman is named Carter Hall with a wife named Shiera, while the new Hawkman in a complete coincidence is named Katar Hol with a partner named Shayera.
The comic also begins to lose its way near the end, which I suspect is due to the fact that Archie Goodwin replaced Mike Gold as editor, and probably brought with him a new set of priorities. Escape from Thanagar! is a great story, and probably the highlight of the whole run, but it definitely wraps up a number of ongoing plots too quickly, and once it's over, a number of recurring side characters vanish. There's also a costume change around this time I didn't really care for.
It transitions the comic from social relevance into something pretending to be edgy but really only banal, and it doesn't bode well for when I eventually pick up the successor series, the retooled Hawkman. I read Hawkworld because of my interest in DC's space-based comics, but the tail end of Hawkworld is clearly pulling back from those space elements that made Hawkworld interesting to me in the first place, and I suspect the title change will unfortunately cement that. (I don't have much of a sense what Hawkman vol. 3 is like. You can find a lot of write-ups on the Internet about the Hawkworld ongoing, but Hawkman vol. 3 is usually only mentioned for the bare fact of its existence.)
Previous Overviews of 1980s/90s Space-Based DC Ongoings: