Review | Hawk & Dove #1

Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Rob Liefeld

When the four comics critics held a draft to see who would review which issue each week of the New 52 rollout, I had last pick. And as such, I got Hawk & Dove, more by default than disdain. The two characters are powered by gods of chaos and order, or war and peace, depending on the writer. Here, Gates brings back the 1988 incarnation of Hawk and Dove, with Hank Hall—the original Hawk, whose brother was killed—as the avatar of war and Dawn Granger—who assumed Dove's powers when the original died—as Dove. This is, by my count, the 455th incarnation of these characters, but there's nothing really broken with the formula. After all, who doesn't like a good buddy movie? But my reaction to the book was pretty divided, so I'm going to review it from my Hawk side—the one angry about a lot of the choices made here—and my Dove side—the one that can see the positives and potential for improvement.

Hawk: EVERY SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE IS EXPOSITION EXPLAINING WHO SOMEONE IS AND WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. It's more than a little frustrating. It goes beyond the need to inform readers about relatively obscure characters, while also managing an action plot. It simply has no regard for the intelligence of the reader, or even a basic understanding of a reader's love of mystery and nuance. After the issue's initial battle sequence, Hank and his dad argue about whether he'll go back to school at Georgetown, and discuss Hank's dead brother Don. This exchange ensues: Hank: "Don's half the reason I'm in this mess, Dad. I got these powers—became an avatar of war—because of him." Dad: "What do you mean?" Hank: "You remember a criminal named Dargo?" Dad: "How could I forget him? He tried to kill me before I could send him to jail—." I know you don't need me to tell you why this is bad, but I think a great corollary would be to imagine this realistic conversation: George W. Bush: "Dad, you remember a dictator named Saddam Hussein?" George H.W. Bush: "How could I forget him?" Also, every single male character looks like Cable.

Dove: It's a first issue, and more than almost any other superhero title, Gates had a lot of explaining to do. That's all out of the way now, and he can get to telling a good story. And to be truthful, the story in the background here is pretty good. Alexander Quirk—the mad scientist turned political activist who unleashes a horde of super-zombies—is an intriguing villain, in no small part because his motivation is political: He claims he wants to rid the country of the rot that has created two useless parties. He's the illogical end of the Tea Party. And though it's true that Liefeld's stiff-jawed men have looked the same for 20 years, I grew up in the age of X-Factor and Youngblood and have a little nostalgia for his artwork. And he does draw some mean zombies. There's potential for this book yet, though someone else will have to tell me if Gates and Liefeld reach it.

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