In 2018, Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch presented us with the Grand Theory of Carter Hall in their Hawkman opus, elegantly unifying every version of Hawkman and Hawkwoman there has ever been into a single timeline of dual reincarnations—from billions of years past, to a happily ever after some 2,000 years in the future. Carter and Shayera Hall are forever linked by fate and by love, destined to find companionship and completion in each other in all the many lives they live, through all of eternity.

All of them, except for Kendra Saunders.

Kendra Saunders is, decidedly, not Shayera Hall. Although she inherited the lives and memories of every incarnation of Hawkwoman before her, Kendra is defined by her rejection of the love story that’s defined every other version of the character. As we learned in the 1999 JSA series in which she was introduced, unlike every other life in the Hawkwoman cycle, Kendra came upon her awakening through a self-inflicted tragedy—one that jumpstarted the reincarnation process early and caused her to react to the binding of so many past souls to her own a little differently. Rather than be subsumed by the many lives which preceded hers, Kendra’s life as she knew it to that point remained her most dominant self. All the evidence told her that she was the reincarnation of an ancient princess, destined to fall for a winged hero forever across time. But even as she recalled it, she never heard her destiny’s call. That may be who Hawkwoman is, but that isn’t Kendra Saunders.

Don’t get it wrong, there’s plenty about the Hawkgirl mantle she’s inherited that Hawkgirl loves. The flying is probably first. But who wouldn’t like to fly? The strong sense of justice may be from her past selves, or it could come from being raised by her grandfather and one of the original Golden Age adventure heroes, Speed Saunders. Her affinity for history is something she shares with Carter Hall, as a museum curator in the 2002 Hawkman series. But Hawkman’s story is a romance, while Kendra’s is…well, that’s the crux of the matter. To be frank, we don’t really know what Hawkgirl’s story is. Not yet, anyway.

Since she was introduced, Hawkgirl has had roles in the Justice Society of America and the Justice League of America, something her predecessor Hawkwoman had done before her. The difference may be that Hawkgirl’s time in the JSA was defined by a sisterhood she shared with the team’s other women, an opportunity the Hawkwoman before her never had in a historically predominantly male society. On the Justice League, Hawkgirl tried dating outside of the Hawk pool, but was too distracted to truly commit. A different romance may not be the way out of her destiny.

Once, just once, Kendra made the decision to let fate take its course and open herself up to feelings for Hawkman. For her trouble, she was immediately murdered by zombies. That was how Blackest Night started. She’s probably not doing that again.

The fact that we call her Hawkgirl, and not Hawkwoman, is telling itself. It indicates that Kendra isn’t finished growing—that she acknowledges she’s still trying to find her own place. It brings to mind another hero who’s long been defined by her juxtaposition to those around her, while struggling to find her own identity: Power Girl, the Earth-2 counterpart of Superman’s cousin. A reflection of a reflection in her own right.

It’s no coincidence that Power Girl and Hawkgirl are both getting their own solo series right now. No coincidence that Helena Wayne, the first Huntress long relegated to the background in favor of her Bertinelli crime family successor, is at the forefront of the new Golden Age. It’s the same reason the Titans have taken the Justice League’s place as the DC Universe’s premiere heroes this year, that Conner Kent is finding his purpose in space, that Cyborg is breaking out as his own superhero. That this entire latest publishing direction began with Nightwing, Batman’s first sidekick, taking the spotlight in Dark Crisis.

Here's what I see as the true thesis of 2023’s Dawn of DC: legacy is complicated. It follows a winding path, moving forwards and backwards, often overshadowed by your forebears. Nobody represents that better than Hawkgirl, a character who carries every version of her who’s ever existed on her back. Even with an Nth metal harness, that’s a heavy load to bear. But who you’ve been and where you come from are only a part of who you are. Like Kendra Saunders, every one of us has the agency to define who we are going into the future.

You don’t know who Hawkgirl is? That’s fine. Neither, quite honestly, does she. In the new Hawkgirl series by Jadzia Axelrod and Amancay Nahuelpan, we’re all going to find out together.

Hawkgirl #1 by Jadzia Axelrod, Amancay Nahuelpan and Adriano Lucas is now available in print and as a digital comic book.

Alex Jaffe is the author of our monthly "Ask the Question" column and writes about TV, movies, comics and superhero history for Find him in the DC Community as HubCityQuestion.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Alex Jaffe and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.