Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Comics Review: Hawk & Dove

Title:  Hawk & Dove (Amazon)
Authors:  Barbara Kesel (Official, Wikipedia); Karl Kesel (Official, Twitter, Wikipedia)
Penciler:  Rob Liefeld (Official, Twitter, Wikipedia)
Inker:  Karl Kesel (Official, Twitter, Wikipedia)

Hawk & Dove is the graphic novel that collects the 1988-89 miniseries of the same name.  I first got into comics about that time and this series was one of the first ones that I followed.  I loved the idea of Hawk & Dove and followed the characters into their own regular series that followed until it ended and Dove was killed and Hawk went nuts and became the villain Monarch in Armageddon 2001.  As it turned out Dove was never killed but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. 

Hawk & Dove were originally brothers Hank and Don Hall.  The duo was created by comics legend Steve Ditko and Steve Skeates and first appeared in June 1968.  Hank and Don were complete opposites; according to the Wikipedia entry for Hawk & Dove, their opposing nature was at the heart of their characters and hero personas –
Each character's name describes his attitude or approach to fighting crime. Hawk represents aggression, and Dove represents pacifism.

[…]

The Hall brothers fought crime together as Hawk and Dove, despite their diametrically opposed opinions about the use of force. The conservative Hawk (Hank) was hot-headed and reactionary, whereas the liberal Dove (Don) was more thoughtful and reasoned, but was prone to indecisiveness.

The original team had their own series for a time and were then members of the Teen Titans.  During the event Crisis on Infinite Earths, Don Hall was killed while rescuing some children from a collapsing building. 

In the early years following COIE, inker Karl Kesel came up with the idea that Dove should now be a girl and proceeded to produce a few sketches.  Soon after, Barbara Kesel saw his drawings and loved the idea for a new take on Hawk & Dove (actually at the time, the couple hadn’t gotten married yet and are now no longer married).  She took the idea to the editor folks at DC and then the couple started work on the series with up-and-coming artist Rob Liefeld.  The resulted was the five issue miniseries collected herein. 

The story opens with the introduction of the series villain who looks like a purple and black version of Hawk, Kestrel, in the midst of a long search to locate Hawk.  Hank Hall is a student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and has a few run-ins with some local criminals.  Hank is a complete hothead, totally arrogant, and a bit of an ass.  Eventually during a fight he meets the new Dove but doesn’t take to kindly to this young lady taking up his brother’s moniker.  Unlike Don Hall’s Dove, this Dove isn’t afraid to fight, albeit defensively, and is a rational balance to Hawk’s brashness.  At first Hawk is reluctant to work with Dove but by the end of the series the two partner together to defeat Kestrel.  During the battle, Kestrel alludes to the fact that Hawk and Dove are part of some experiment.  The miniseries ends with Hank and Dawn Granger (the new Dove) discussing the potential meaning behind Kestrel’s words.  In the monthly series that followed, it is revealed that Hawk and Dove are the result of a love affair between a Lord of Chaos and a Lord of Order.  And in many ways the series itself was a study of the balance between chaos and order. 

Reading this series now 20+ years later, I’m still drawn to these characters.  Hawk is actually a character that is hard to like because he is such a hothead, but his relationship with Dove is fascinating.  After becoming a villain, Hawk was eventually killed and then brought back to life in the Blackest Night event and both he and Dove played an important role in Brightest Day.  In the New 52, Hank and Dawn returned in another series (with pencils again by Liefeld) but it was sadly cancelled after seven issues. 

What I love about these characters and this series is the cosmic dynamic of the ideas of chaos and order (or war and peace in the New 52)—plus Dawn/Dove is just awesome.  For whatever reason, the series has never really taken off with fans and that is a shame and this graphic novel is an excellent example of what makes this duo so great.      

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