It's no surprise that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Dark Nights: Metal event will focus on Batman. After all, the creators were behind the hugely successful relaunch of the Batman title in 2011, and Snyder's been working pretty steadily in the Batman universe ever since.
But one of the other central characters, Hawkman, is a more unusual choice. Although the character was popular when he debuted in 1939 during the Golden Age of comic books, he's experienced more of a downturn recently, not helped by his often confusing history.
That confusion can trace itself back to the two different versions of the character, one from the Golden Age and another that replaced him, launched in 1959 during the science fiction era of the Silver Age.
For years, the Silver Age version lived happily on Earth-1 and while the Golden Age incarnation continued on Earth-2. But after Crisis on Infinite Earths did away with alternate Earths, but DC tried to keep its Justice Society history, Hawkman had an identity crisis of sorts.
Suddenly, there were two different Hawkman origins on the same Earth — one called Prince Khufu who got his powers via the mysticism of ancient Egypt, the other called Katar Hol, whose origin was tied to the science fiction of an alien planet called Thanagar.
The two origins were eventually reconciled in the JSA story "Return of Hawkman," written by now-DC executive and "Rebirth" architect Geoff Johns with screenwriter David Goyer. This new origin — with a Thanagarian Nth Metal ship crashing in Khufu's ancient Egypt - was the official continuity of Hawkman through the early 2000's.
This version kept the idea of Khufu being reincarnated to reunite again and again with his beloved Hawkgirl, who was also exposed to the Thanagarian ship and its Nth Metal.
Native to Thanagar, the home planet of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Nth Metal gave Khufu and his betrothed Chay-ara their power of reincarnation. They also wore various artifacts — in particular, belts — made of Nth metal.
New 52 and Death
Johns' revamped version of Hawkman's history lasted for years until DC relaunched its universe as "The New 52" in 2011, giving Hawkman a new history as well. As most of the DCU became younger and less experienced, Hawkman joined the trend, now positioned as an archaeologist who couldn't remember his own history.
In a series called Savage Hawkman, Carter eventually finds out that, although his name on Earth is Carter Hall, he's actually Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar.
This "both-Hall-and-Hol" continuity lasted for the length of the New 52 until the character became the focus of a new mini-series at the start of "Rebirth." In the six-issue Death of Hawkman storyline, DC didn't hide that the main character was, in fact, going to die. And by the sixth issue, Hawkman was gone (although he said "see you in the next life" because, as we all know, Hawkman gets reincarnated).
Now Hawkman has returned, although Dark Days doesn't exactly clarify how his reincarnation took place. All we're told is that he had a vision this time, one that warned him of the dangers of Nth Metal and, we assume, their connection to the dark.
Of course the Death of Hawkman mini-series, which functioned with the "Rebirth" universe, ended about the time "Superman Reborn" was morphing the DCU into a mix of the New 52 and its pre-Flashpoint version. So this new version of Hawkman has an origin that goes along with that new approach.
Hawkman in Dark Days: The Forge is telling a new origin that harkens back to the one from "Return of Hawkman" from JSA. And it highlights even greater the importance of Nth Metal.
So it appears that the only impact Death of Hawkman has on the present day is his vision when he was "between" incarnations. And it might be important that, during the story of Death of Hawkman, Despero removed much of the universe's Nth Metal. So the Nth Metal at the center of Dark Nights: Metal should, theoretically, be a very rare object now.
When the Golden Age version of Hawkman was introduced, he used something called "ninth metal" to fly and fight crime. When the hero was revamped for the Silver Age, that material was renamed "Nth Metal."
As previously mentioned, Nth Metal is probably more rare than ever now, as the Death of Hawkman story eliminated much of the universe's reserves. But The Forge has introduced the idea that Nth Metal might be connected to a much deeper mystery in the DCU.
The mini-series showed that the energy signature that Batman found within two immortality-granting compounds called electrum and dionesium appeared to be Nth metal.
As Dark Days confirmed, the present history of Hawkman includes the hero's discovery of a spaceship made of Nth metal when it crashed in ancient Egypt. Hawkman says that Nth Metal is a "clue to the greatest mystery in the history of mankind." The issue hinted about the metal being part of an ongoing battle between clans who were around at the beginning of the Earth (including Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man).
Whether the missing time between Hawkman's death and his current appearance in Dark Days: The Forge will be revealed is questionable, but there's no doubt that the hero and his Nth Metal will play a major part in Dark Nights: Metal.