Review: Hawk and Dove (Kesel) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm not sure why I didn't read Karl and Barbara Kesel's 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).

[Contains spoilers]

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!
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15 comments:

  1. I got into the ongoing Kesel/Guler Hawk & Dove series in the 1990s (the one that lasted 28 issues and ended at Armageddon 2001) and managed to get this miniseries in floppy form. I really liked it, and I really liked the ongoing series. There was some great stories and lots of humour. I really grew to like how Hank/Hawk was written (smart-alecy, headstrong, brash) and how Dawn/Dove was written to counter him. It also continued fleshing out their friends from the miniseries and made them just as interesting as the main characters. It got a little dark at the end, which I think was the direction the Kesels were told to go with it, but overall it was a great series. It ended before it's time IMHO, and it's too bad it has never been collected. I think you'd really like it.

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  2. So glad a fan of the original series chimed in. I read the last issues of Hawk and Dove (War of the Gods crossover) and they were dark, but I liked the way all the friends supported one another. I had not until recently known about all the international intrigue involving Hawk in Booster Gold, Suicide Squad, and elsewhere. There's some hints Sterling Gates's new series might get back to that kind of thing, and I'm curious to see it.

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  3. The first 20 issues or so and Annual #1 were fairly light and fun (with one or two exceptions), then it started to go a bit dark. There was some awesome fleshing-out of their origins in issues 13 - 17; that was some really creative stuff by the Kesels. I loved the supporting characters, and the sort-of-nemesis Barter character was pretty cool. I didn't know about Hawk in Booster Gold or Suicide Squad at the time so I didn't get those issues, but I did manage to snag the Teen Titans Spotlight 2-parter on him (by Mike Baron and Jackson Guice) later on. I started to pick up the current Birds of Prey series because Hawk and Dove were in it, but of course there hasn't been a lot of focus on them. I'll pick up Gates' new series to start with to see where it goes. I'm not sure about the Liefeld of today drawing it, but I thought his stuff in the 1988 miniseries was pretty good and I'm more of a story guy than an art guy anyway so I'm willing to give it a chance.

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  4. I remember stopping near issue 25 or so....when the original Dove seems to have returned & Hawk seemingly performs a few robberies to be re united with his brother or something....never even found out how it ended. Theoretically, did the book still exist to go upto War of the Gods as Hank had been turned into Monarch in 1991 while Wotg was 1992....wondering?

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  5. The last issue (#28) was a War of the Gods crossover, and came out before Annual #2 which was the Armageddon 2001 crossover. Turns out that it wasn't the original Dove who was trying to come back, it was Roscoe Dillon (Flash villain the Top). It tied back into Annual #1, where they met Dillon and a bunch of other villains in that weird purgatory/limbo place. Bringing Dillon back (in the body of a Senator that they had arranged to die prematurely) turned out to be pretty long-lasting.

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  6. I recall being impressed with this, that it seemed that the Top had caused a lot of mayhem disguised as other people -- but then I hadn't read the limbo issues, so maybe the Top revelation was telegraphed more than I realized. With both War of the Gods and Armageddon 2001, it did seem like Hawk and Dove was the title with stuff really going on for a while, but perhaps that was only the last gasps of the series end.

    Seems to me the entire Hawk and Dove series would make a good Showcase Presents, like they did with Booster Gold.

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  7. The Hawk & Dove series was also one of the first places to see Oracle in action after her debut in Suicide Squad. Count me as a fan who was burnt by the Armageddon 2001 switcheroo ending. It made no sense and it was needless.

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  8. I was only vaguely familiar with Hawk and Dove at the time of Armageddon 2001, but I don't remember thinking "this doesn't make sense" when I read the end and Monarch was revealed as Hawk. Seemed perfectly acceptable to me! I didn't find out about the "switcheroo" until the last few years when I got back into comics and the comic news sites. I read that JLE annual (being a huge JLA/JLE/JLI fan), and looking back now it sure makes sense that it'd be Captain Atom, but again at the time it was an easy thing to overlook. Not to mention that they had already established during the series that the mere act of Waverunner touching someone could change their future! That was how they explained him visiting Superman multiple times (as they had annuals for each of his many series).

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  9. In Hawk and Dove Annual #2 (the Armageddon 2001 crossover), Hawk and Dove were shown to be still around in the future and were actively fighting Monarch (and it was the only one out of all of the crossover annuals that showed it's title characters in the future with Monarch) so it made absolutely no sense to me when Hawk was revealed to be Monarch. How could Hawk have been Monarch when his future clearly showed him and Monarch to be separate characters? I didn't know at the time about the switcheroo, I just remember thinking that the Hawk and Dove annual now didn't make sense, and I was really bummed that Hawk and Dove was cancelled and that DC had done that to them.

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  10. All those who didn't think the Hawk for Captain Atom swap wasn't a sudden swerve probably weren't reading The final issues of Captain Atom at the time. Atom was in Africa battling elemental gods and he basically ends up being possessed by dark ancient spirits. His series ended around 2 weeks before the revelation of Monarch's identity. I remember thinking at the time 2 books were ruined and cancelled because of this editorial u turn.

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  11. I didn't read the H&D annual at the time, nor was I reading Captain Atom, so I guess that's why I was okay with the switch. I do think it was a stupid idea to switch just because it was leaked or whatever; this was in the pre-www days, so I'm sure very few buyers actually found out about who Monarch was supposed to be ahead of time. Why bother to change it?

    I doubt that either series was cancelled because of A2001; probably more a case of "these series are getting cancelled, so here are our Monarch candidates". Considering how poorly Cap Atom fared post-A2001 (or am I wrong about that?), Hank Hall may have been no better off.

    Besides, if the switch hadn't happened, we wouldn't have had all that Monarch stuff in Countdown, with the huge LASTING EFFECTS to the DCU that that series caused! ;-)

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  12. Oh, I was all for Monarch being Hawk/Cap Atom. What I thought was that the Dove resurrection storyline ended with Hawk treading the thin line of walking between being a hero & villain, and the series end would cut to ...to be continued in A2001 2.

    Monarch in the post IC Universe was actually Captain Atom. So it'd have happened irrespective of who ends up being Monarch.

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  13. Cap became Monarch in Battle for Bludhaven, but I didn't think that Hawk's time as Monarch/Extant was wiped out by an Infinite Crisis retcon?

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  14. I don't think it was wiped out by a retcon, but when Hawk was resurrected in Blackest Night it's pretty clear that it's the pre-Monarch/Extant Hawk and I haven't seen much if any mention of that time since. I think they've just chosen to forget that all happened, and it seems that they've chosen to forget about Captain Atom being Monarch too.

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  15. In the Captain Atom co-feature that ran in Action Comics during the New Krypton saga, his Monarch persona was explained away as a magical brainwash by Mirabai from Sorcerer's World. However, I've yet to see a DCU character acknowledge Hawk's past as the original Monarch/Extant ever since he came back to life.

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