Hawk and Dove miniseries and series when it first came out. Ultimately, however, my first introduction to Hawk and Dove was at their apparent end, in Armageddon 2001, when the future villain Monarch killed Dove so that Hawk would become Monarch in turn.
I was not up on the comics industry scuttlebutt at the time, and it wasn't until later that I learned that Captain Atom was meant to be Monarch and not Hawk. In my initial read, the suggestion that Captain Atom was Monarch at the end of Justice League Europe Annual #2 seemed an obvious red herring, and Hawk progression to Monarch made sense -- Monarch being the seemingly totalitarian despot hiding seething anger underneath, the perfect combination of Hawk's chaos under a misguided attempt at Dove's order.
Given my overall nostalgia for Armageddon 2001, the subsequent use of the Hawk and Dove characters have therefore held a special place for me -- when Monarch became Extant in Zero Hour, the JSA's revenge against Extant and the return of Dove in Geoff Johns's JSA series, and then the introduction of the new Hawk in Teen Titans (another reason why, even if the quality is so-so, I'd have liked to see the uncollected Hawk and Dove issues of Teen Titans appear somewhere other than the DC Comics Presents book).
With the first Hawk resurrected as of Blackest Night, my growing understanding through the DC Trade Paperback Timeline of Hawk's appearances in Booster Gold and Suicide Squad after Crisis on Infinite Earths but before the initial Hawk and Dove miniseries, and especially the announcement that Supergirl's Sterling Gates would team with original series artist Rob Liefeld for a new Hawk and Dove title in the DC Relaunch, I thought it was more than past time to check that original book out.
Hawk and Dove is most certainly rough in all the ways one might expect a collection from 1993 to be rough. The printing is done such that most shading and color is made up of fine dots, giving every panel a wavy pattern to it; the colors routinely bleed over the lines and even cover over intended white space if the details are too small. The clothes and especially hairstyles of the characters are ridiculously dated, but I think that's a sign of the times and not necessarily something for which one can blame Liefeld. To Liefeld's credit, this story at the beginning of his career offers suitable superheroic art without much of the exaggeration his work would take on later.
And in the book's introduction, Karl Kesel himself notes some awkwardness to the book's writing. Most egregious to me is that between the first issue, where Hawk Hank Hall and his friends meet Dawn Granger (Dove, unbeknownst to them), Dawn never gets a chance to introduce herself, but by the next issue Hank knows her name and she's become an established part of their circle of friends. Also the story's main villain, Kestrel, bestows some of his power to a street tough that takes on the name "Shadowblade" -- a better example I don't think you could find of the kind of ridiculous throwaway character one could expect from early 1990s comics.
One should forgive Hawk and Dove's flaws, however, coming from a creative team new to comics, especially given how the concept of this Hawk and Dove would continue to stir in comics' imaginations a good twenty years later. One thing I like about the Kesels' structure of the miniseries is that, even as Dove's secret identity is perfectly obvious to the reader from the first issue, the writers keep Hawk in the dark until almost the end, and tell the story to the reader from Hawk's perspective. As such, the story is very much Hawk's -- deservingly so, since Hawk has been a DC character since at least the 1970s -- and charts Hawk's emotional journey to the acceptance of the death of his brother, the original Dove. That the Kesels tell the story in this unusual way, from the perspective of only one side of the team, may reflect their early writing inexperience, but it's a choice that I think distinguishes the book overall.
Second, in the few original Hawk and Dove issues that I read and also here, I like what the Kesels build in terms of Hank and Dawn's supporting cast. In contrast to today's Green Lantern or Flash, which have little "normal" supporting cast to speak of, the Kesels portray Hank and Dawn as ongoing college students, with a group of slightly loopy friends who tease one another, go on dates, and get together for coffee. It's remarkably normal, a throwback to the Seinfeld and Friends era of things. I applaud the miniseries for being convincingly youthful, something Titans of late has failed to achieve. There's a good tone here, and despite lacking a little polish, that alone made the book worth the read when I finished.
In following the DC Universe, what has fascinated me are the little unexplored eras -- that after Crisis, Hawk-sans-Dove did a stint in Nicaragua with the Suicide Squad, referenced in the Hawk and Dove book, before the new Dove showed up. Hawk and Dove may not deserve a firm place on your bookshelf, but with the pair making appearances in Birds of Prey and soon to headline their own series once again, I recommend giving the collected miniseries a glance. It's a fair enough introduction to these two characters, enjoyable despite the rough spots.
[Contains full covers (with logos, no less!), introductions by both Karl and Barbara Kesel]
More on the DC Relaunch coming up, plus Zach King's next in our series of Invisibles reviews, and next week ... Time Masters!