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Ethan Hawke's Comic: Violent, Paternalistic, and Pretentious


The actor publishes his second comic book with artist Greg Ruth, 'Meadowlark' (Planeta), adding to his four novels

Vignettes from 'Meadowlark', with drawings by Greg Ruth and script by Ethan Hawke.
Vignettes from 'Meadowlark', with drawings by Greg Ruth and script by Ethan Hawke.

Ethan Hawke has always claimed to be more than just a Hollywood actor. He is one of those politically engaged stars who doesn't hesitate to speak out against Donald Trump or the dictatorship in Venezuela. But he also wants to showcase his total creative side, as a director and screenwriter. And as a writer. Hawke has published four novels (the latest, "A Bright Ray of Darkness," about an actor working on a Shakespeare play while his personal life crumbles), and now his second comic book, Meadowlark (Planeta), arrives in Spain.

His first comic book, Indeh (Libros singulares), co-created with artist Greg Ruth, offered a non-colonialist view of Apache wars and made it to the New York Times bestseller list. However, its Spanish translation went completely unnoticed. Planeta now bets on Meadowlark, a graphic novel whose protagonist shares the same features as Ethan Hawke, also illustrated by his colleague Greg Ruth, known for works like Conan and The Lost Boy.

Father of four children, Hawke has written an intimate coming of age story set in his native Texas, a sort of road movie that focuses on the relationship between a father and a troubled teenager expelled from school for drug possession. The story is supposed to be "inspired by his own childhood," and the publisher promotes it as an "epic journey."

The comic starts as an intimate and supposedly profound story about how young Cooper deals with his parents' divorce and gets expelled from school. But it soon shifts towards gratuitous violence with a plot full of loose ends. Since Cooper doesn't go to school, he accompanies his father Jack to work (even though we see the face and even the gait of Ethan Hawke). Jack-Ethan turns out to be a prison guard and takes the boy through the prison corridors on his surveillance rounds, exposing him to several dangerous inmates. On that very day, a riot breaks out (no spoilers, but the causes already undermine any hint of realism).

Undoubtedly, the highlight of Meadowlark is the artwork by Greg Ruth, an artist away from the mainstream but known for the high quality of his strokes: character portraits, close-up gazes, solitary landscapes, the slow and atmospheric pace of several dialogue-free pages (reminiscent of the slower tempo of manga)...

As the adventure becomes increasingly wild and violent, the father-son conversations become worthy of a psychologist's office. The National Rifle Association could perfectly sponsor this story, which struggles to find the balance between noir and intimacy.

Someone who unabashedly embraced the most gore violence was Keanu Reeves with the script of his first comic, BRZRKR (Planeta), a hit in the United States, released in 2021 just before the premiere of Matrix. Also featuring a protagonist resembling Reeves, his science fiction story with brutal action was a treat for fans of both Matrix and John Wick.