NEW 52: Hawk and Dove

In the late ’60s, brothers Hank and Don Hall were created as representations of opposing ideals regarding American involvement in the Vietnam war (Don’s a lover, Hank’s a fighter). As Hawk and Dove, they made scattered appearances in Teen Titans and later joined the first incarnation of Titans West. Don was killed in the final issue of 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths:

A female Dove, Dawn Granger, was introduced in 1988. Hank and Dawn got their own monthly title in 1989, which would last until the 1991 crossover event Armageddon. The Armageddon miniseries would become famous for being one of the first pre-internet comic book events to be ruined by (and subsequently altered because of) spoilers:

That’s Dawn freshly murdered at the hands of a future version of Hank Hall, who’s determined to drive the current version of Hank Hall insane (he succeeds) and prompt him to become the villain Monarch. Both Hanks are eventually killed.

A new “alternative” Hawk and Dove appeared in the late ’90s, just as grunge was breathing its dying breath. They didn’t last long. In 2003, Dawn was resurrected and Hawk’s insanity was retconned into being a manipulation of the evil wizard Mordru. Dawn learned she had a (British!) sister, Holly, who then became the new Hawk. Holly briefly joined the Titans East and aided her sibling during the events of 2009’s Blackest Night.

This is how that turned out:

Hank Hall was revived at the end of Blackest Night and the new (old) Hawk and Dove were featured prominently in its follow-up, Brightest Day. Shortly afterward, the New 52 gave the duo get its second chance at a monthly series.

Of the six recently-cancelled New 52 titles, I think most people found Hawk and Dove‘s termination the least surprising. Not because the characters themselves are uninteresting, but because this new series was being drawn by one of the most notoriously mediocre (and inexplicably successful) artists in the history of the business: Rob Liefeld.

In the ’90s Liefeld was famous for angry faces, excessive pouches, impossible anatomy, and a conspicuous lack of feet. He was also perceived as being slightly overrated, a resentment that can probably be traced back to this Spike Lee-directed commercial for Levi’s 501 jeans in which Liefeld brags about having no artistic training and disregarding his parents’ (sensible) advice to maybe pursue a different career path.

So what was DC thinking? Nostalgia, perhaps. Liefeld helped establish the modern-day male/female Hawk and Dove dynamic back in the 1988 Hawk and Dove miniseries. And though I’m loathe to admit this, Liefeld’s art has actually improved over the years, primarily due to modern-day computer-enhanced coloring techniques. Also: visible footwear.

And yet I still wouldn’t describe Liefeld’s art as being particularly good. Many of his characters seem to suffer from near-permanent bouts of rage-face, and Hawk and Dove are no exception (and I don’t want to know what’s happening to Dawn’s eye/eyebrow in this one):

There’s also a weird surplus of J.J. Abrams-style Star Trek lens flares:

And frequent, bizarre abuse of Photoshop’s blur tool:

There’s also something strangely inert about Hawk’s terrible new costume and the way action scenes are drawn, but I’ve picked enough low-hanging fruit for now. What about the story?

In 2008, the seeds for Blackest Night were being planted, and Green Lantern introduced audiences to the concept of the “emotional spectrum,” with Green Lanterns, Yellow Sinestros, Violet (Pink?) Sapphires being joined by Red Lanterns, Indigo Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, and Orange Lanterns to create a Lucky Charms of superpowers. The following year, DC released the Red Tornado miniseries, which, in addition to the titular hero, featured androids named Red Inferno, Red Torpedo, and Red Volcano.

The New 52 Hawk and Dove, scripted by Sterling Gates, gives us Osprey, Condor, and Swan:

There’s talk of other avatars and a mysterious “circle” is referred to, but, yeesh, enough already. Pretty soon Green Arrow will be doing battle with Fuchsia Arrow, Puce Arrow, and Goldenrod Arrow. Gates exited the series after issue #5 (presumably to go home and twirl his mustache while staring at his script for Faces of Evil: Prometheus), with writing duties being handed to…Rob Liefeld.

This is how that turned out:

The “pain” Dawn is dancing away in her vagina-showcasing dress is heartache over her break-up with Deadman, not grief over the death of her sister, who appears to have been retconned out of existence since she’s not mentioned once in this series. Later on, there’s stuff about a dragon and the age of avatars, Dawn disses Captain Boomerang for no reason, and the eight-issue saga finishes without ever resolving the fiercely-guarded secret of Dawn’s connection to Don Hall, which, I dunno, seemed like the only intriguing mystery offered by Hawk and Dove. Maybe next time.

The final frame of the series appears to be Hawk and Dove enthusiastically leaping to their deaths from the top of a building:

So maybe not next time.

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4 Responses to NEW 52: Hawk and Dove

  1. Thiago says:

    Great article, as usual. And very funny too! (but it’s probably inevitable when Rob Liefeld is involved)

    • Thanks dude. I didn’t want to just bash Liefeld. I really believe his art has improved over the years. If you compare the two stories in DC Retroactive Justice League ’90s (or DC Retroactive Batman ’90s) you can see how the same sort of shading/depth that modern-day coloring techniques provide actually works against a genuine talent like Kevin Maguire (or Norm Breyfogle). Liefeld was able to make this advancement in technology work in his favour, which is no small feat considering how reviled the guy is.

      • Alex says:

        I agree with you when you said Liefeld was over-rated. I never liked his work. He always seemed like an amateur to me. He lacked background and his artwork is very simple…not much depth to his comics. Just a lot of bright colored backgrounds.

  2. Luis says:

    I thought Kesel did a great job inking Liefeld’s work in the original series of 88/89 I think. I also think the newprint paper and solid color jobs made a lot of artist’s work look better since the newsprint paper made a kind of overall texture over the whole page. That’s why a lot of older artwork that we thought was great looks like crap when it’s reproduced again on better paper. Many artists throughout their careers devolve and it’s not like it’s genetic. It’s because they no longer have the drive or commitment to continue to improve their skills. Only the very best continue to make it work.
    Liefeld’s work today has no contrast. No dark areas or crosshatching as he used to do. I would have been studying better anatomy and come out like a badass again. The coloring doesn’t help him. It makes his work very hollow. In my opinion computer coloring killed Liefeld’s work. His stuff looks best with flat colors. A lot of coloring in comics today is very bad. Sometimes you need to be a painter to know how to do it. Unfortunately most (I’m guessing) aren’t.

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