Review: Hawk & Dove #1 by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld

Hawk & Dove #1
Written by Sterling Gates
Art by Rob Liefeld and Matt Yackey

Created by Steve Ditko and Steve Skeates, brothers Hank and Don Hall first busted crime in Showcase #75 back in 1968. The vigilantes were antipodal, with Hank as the hot-headed impulsive guy always bickering with his more thoughtful and liberal brother Don.

There’s a fun and fitting bit of history here: Ditko left by the second issue, after arguing that Hawk was a violent reactionary and that Dove was the only “balanced” character. Skeates felt that Dove was being portrayed as a wimp rather than a pacifist.

And so Hawk & Dove whiled away in the background of Teen Titans until Dove perished during Crisis on Infinite Earths, leaving Hawk to become an excessively violent anti-hero of sorts.

In 1988, Karl and Barbara Kesel brought Hawk and Dove back.

Sidenote for another comic history factoid: Barbara Kesel established herself in the comic book industry after submitting a 10-page letter to editor Dick Giordano about the portrayal of female comic book characters. Sound familiar (looks at Gail Simone)? Anyway, Kesel (whom you may know from Sigil or Meridian) is a very outspoken opponent of sexism in the industry and has helped develop strong female leads, a cause I also champion. And I mention it because:

This time a woman named Dawn Granger was cast in the role of Dove, her powers revealed to have been passed on from Don Hall when he passed on. And unlike the old Dove, this Dove was much more confident, aggressive, and even seemingly had greater physical and mental capabilities than Don.

Now, Hawk fought as aggressively as ever, while Dove brought a defensive and controlling strategy to their partnership.

Also important in this revival of Hawk and Dove is the artist who helmed the mini-series, because he’s the artist on this series: Rob Liefeld. New Mutants, X-Force, Cable, Deadpool, Youngblood, Image, jean model – yes, Rob Liefeld. A famous convention tale about Rob’s cheekiness involves this series, when he laid out the story in a sideways manner to further emphasize the chaos dimension the story was taking place in. This wasn’t called for in the script, and editor Mike Carlin and Karl Kesel had to lightbox and cut and paste the panels back in a proper manner as the issue called for.

I’m a longtime admirer of Liefeld, and it’s this kind of outside the box thinking and intuitiveness that has cemented him as one of my creative influences since I was a middle schooler.

So now Hawk and Dove have a series in The New 52, and now you can appreciate the history and meaning here when I tell you that Rob Liefeld has returned home to roost and give us art. And now with Sterling Gates (Supergirl) penning the adventures of the dischordant duo, we can be assured that Barbara Kesel’s vision of a strong, independent female in Dawn Granger will not be wasted.

Of course such a politically charged duo would be found in Washington, D.C. battling zombies. The political allegories don’t get any more four color than this, folks. After this excellent popcorn action scene, things wind down for a quick reintroduction to the duo (with a cameo from Deadman!), and then close out with a cliffhanging appearance of a villain hunting them down.

As a story, this is precisely the kind of first issue I wanted out of New 52. It hits the ground running, keeps things accessible, nods to the history, and gives just enough action, intrigue, and comic book melodrama to hook the reader, old or new. Batgirl almost played the same game, but had the cost of a more valuable character and continuity to play with. While Hawk and Dove have their fans, Gates plays a little faster and looser than some of the other DC titles have been able to so far, and I love it. The dialogue is a little cornball, and at times it reads like Venture Brothers or The Tick sound on TV, but the character’s are distinct and like I said, this reads like a great superhero comic.

Part of the corniness might be Liefeld. Now keep in mind, I like Liefeld. He really is a comic book artist, and for all the blows and jokes he takes over the years, the man is in love with the medium and passionate about what he does. His style hasn’t really evolved over the decades, and at first glance, this feels like a 90s comic. Because, admit it, Liefeld was one of a handful of artists who defined that decade. He had imitators. It’s all hear. Lots of triceps and deltoids and abdominals. Clenched fists and gritted teeth. Pouty lips agape. Larger than life action poses for the simplest actions. But you know what? I eat this stuff up. When Rob Liefeld is on, when he’s passionate, you can tell, and he’s pouring his heart into these pages. And while his overall style may not have evolved, his linework and inks have cleaned up beautifully. I was honestly giddy when I saw classic Liefeld unfold in each page turn.

Hawk and Dove is just a nostalgic bonus, I would love to see Liefeld’s bold and vibrant style on JLA or Wonder Woman (Avengelyne and Glory were great, don’t deny it).

Matt Yackey’s colors make the presentation all the more gorgeous, with crisp, bright superheroic colors. Admittedly the background isn’t as detailed as other artists, and the coloring is a little flatter than some of the more pioneering colorists, but with this style of art, clean and flat compliments the package perfectly. You’re not here to admire backgrounds, you’re here to see Hawk and Dove kick some ass, and Yackey spotlights this and plays to Liefeld’s strengths.

This is what New 52 is about. You may be caught up in the reimaginings and dream teams reuniting or tackling newer projects, but Hawk and Dove does exactly what DC set out to do. It’s a fantastic, classic superhero book that feeds the action junkie in all of us who are tired of uncompressed, talky books. It’s an old concept that’s near and dear to DC, repackaged for another audience to take a chance. Nothing was broken, and nothing needed fixing.

You get Sterling Gates bringing his brand of Supergirl derring do and allowing comic legend (and Hawk and Dove alumn) Rob Liefeld to bring this vision to life. I am as excited for the potential of this book as I am of Action Comics, and I applaud DC including this team and these characters as one of the New 52 contributors.

If you’re on the fence, please hop off it and give this book a try. It’s fresh, exciting, over the top, and isn’t that why you got into comics in the first place? I know I’ll be recommending this right alongside Action Comics to my friends and family who want to get in on the new DC.

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