Hawk & Dove #1
Writer: Sterling Gates
Artist/Cover artist: Rob Liefeld
Colors: Matt Yackey
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
Though he’s been writing for DC Comics for a little while now, I’m not familiar with the work of Sterling Gates. I’d heard some good things about his work on the recently cancelled Supergirl series (to be relaunched later this month), so I was interested in what he might have to offer as one of the creators tapped to help DC make its New 52 initiative a reality. Mind you, I was disappointed he was paired with artist Rob Liefeld, whose work I am familiar with. Liefeld’s emphasis on style above all else has never really appealed to me, but I understood why he was granted this assignment. Of all the super-hero artwork he’s ever given the medium, some of his earliest work — specifically, his work on a Hawk & Dove mini-series from the late 1980s — was the most attractive. His style has changed significantly since that time, though, and I wasn’t taken with what I found here. I wish I could say differently about Gates’ script, but that disappoints as well. This new Hawk & Dove is exactly what readers expect it to be. I wasn’t expecting much, but I’m sure Liefeld fans will get what they’re looking for.
Hawk and Dove prevent a terrorist attack (complete with zombie super-soldiers) in the skies over Washington, D.C., but their incompatibility as partners make for a less-than-perfect result. It’s OK — I’m sure the Washington Monument will be patched up with little fuss. The duo rejects an offer to work with a federal agency once again, despite a warning the heroes made a powerful new enemy. As Hank Hall, AKA Hawk, laments to his father about his disappointment in the new Dove, Dan Granger, while she confides in her boyfriend she’s been keeping a secret from her super-hero partner, one that could make their rocky relationship even more tumultuous.
The big selling point of this book is Liefeld’s art. Sure, it’s not a selling point for me, but for others, it’s appealing. I think I understand why some like his work; it’s always intense and extreme in tone — unrelentingly so. The cover is a bit puzzling. The title characters are featured not once but twice, but the extra depictions don’t provide any more information than what’s to be found in the main, generic image. I’ve always been fond of the simple character designs, but those are attributable to the legendary Steve Ditko, not Liefeld. As usual, Liefeld’s backgrounds are incredibly lacking. There’s rarely a strong sense of place, and what details can be found are broad and vague at best. The generic henchmen look too much like agents of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., and the villain introduced on the first page isn’t threatening in appearance at all. The figures in long shots are incredibly rough as well. I’ll give Liefeld credit, though, for the zombie monster men. There’s something to the texture of their skin that works well; I can’t help but think they might be something of an homage to the zombies from The Walking Dead by Liefeld’s Image partner Robert Kirkman.
Liefeld has a history with this property, as he was the penciller who illustrated the first series to feature the second Dove, Dawn Granger. I remember that series, and I remember enjoying the art. The difference between that Hawk & Dove and this one? Liefeld inks his own work on this new project, while his pencils were inked by Karl Kesel, who co-wrote the 1988-89 five-part series with his wife, Barbara Kesel. They rejuvenated the Hawk and Dove concept, and they also provided a solid launching pad for Liefeld’s career. Kesel’s inks were detailed and brought a lot more personality to the characters, and honestly, I wish we saw more of his work as an inker today than yet another comeback for Liefeld.
Gates succeeds in one respect with this script, and that’s in his and DC’s effort to offer an accessible introduction to the title characters. I was even surprised that the incorporation of past continuity — specifically, the original Dove’s death in Crisis on Infinite Earths — didn’t hamper that effort. The key lies in the fact Gates (and Liefeld) offers as little detail as possible about the circumstances of the original Dove’s death without being mysterious about it. However, the accessibility of the issue is marred a little by Deadman’s appearance. I was quite surprised to find the Deadman/Dove relationship survived not only the former’s (second) death in Brightest Day, but the New 52 relaunch as well. Hawk & Dove readers really aren’t given much information about the relationship or Deadman’s deal, and given the apparent popularity of the New 52 stunt and the likelihood of Liefeld fans following him to this new title, there are bound to be a lot of new readers who aren’t privy to those details.
Gates’ script is quite awkward. The opening sequence introduces a new (if underwhelming) villain, but a subsequent scene conveys all of the same information again. That latter scene also makes it clear the heroes didn’t know who was behind the threat they prevented, which begs the question how they got involved in the first place or ended up on the plane that was careening toward a deadly impact with the U.S. capital. Given the fact this book was slated for a September release, I’m surprised the writer and editors opted to maintain not only a terrorism angle, but the image of an airplane on a crash course with a symbol of national pride. There’s certainly no solemn tone to the action, so it doesn’t work as any kind of 9-11 tribute. Furthermore, the threats the heroes dispatch in the first act of the comic never seem all that dangerous in the context of the DC Universe, and the revelation of a new villain at the end of the book disappointed as well. We’ve already seen malevolent counterparts of the title characters in the past, and introducing another one by just tweaking the color scheme somewhat comes off as redundant and a bit lazy.
The one aspect of the story I found interesting was Gates’ decision to link Dawn Granger to Hank Hall’s past, to a time before they met and before they became super-hero partners. That’s a compelling hook, and it promises a much more interesting interpersonal conflict than the bickering and nitpicking that passes for friction in the first act of the book. Still, that’s not nearly enough to get me interested in this series on an ongoing basis. 3/10
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