The long-awaited first full week of DC Comics’ New 52 has finally arrived! I’ll be reviewing all 52 #1 issues released this month, and you can find all of the reviews on the Comic Book Reviews index page. Although there have been a number of Hawk & Dove books over the years, this is my first one. I have limited familiarity with the characters and I’ve got nothing against Rob Liefeld (who I know isn’t the Internet Comic Fanboy Community’s favorite guy), leaving my expectations for this book essentially a blank slate. Thus, I head into this brand-new first issue pretty much unbiased. Will I be sticking around to order more issues of Hawk & Dove?
This review will be as spoiler-free as possible.
Hawk & Dove are not the world’s most popular superheroes. And so, in order for a Hawk & Dove book to be successful, it was going to need a little something extra. This book got that in the form of Rob Liefeld as its artist and the tidal wave of “New 52” publicity and promotions. I’ll admit that I probably would not have ever bought this first issue if it hadn’t been 1 of the 52 released in this launch and I was determined to read all 52. This series is the best chance that these characters are ever going to have to be a breakout hit in the near future, so Sterling Gates had to craft an exceptional introductory issue if he was to retain his readership past the first issue. Well, it’s not exceptional, but I thought the job he did writing this book was at least adequate.
Hawk & Dove are exactly the characters you’d imagine, given that they’re the avatars of war and peace: Hawk is a jerky, violent alpha-male and Dove is the serene, peace-loving female. But Gates manages to add a little wrinkle of intrigue to each character, which I really was not expecting. I actually want to read on–just a little–to see why Hawk hates this particular Dove and what this Dove’s connection is to the original. This is certainly no Shakespearean-level masterpiece, but Gates succeeded in finding something beyond the surface for these characters to keep me alert and entertained, unlike JT Krul’s Green Arrow #1, which had my eyes glazing over and struggling to finish the issue.
As part of the issue we also get a quick three-page origin story and history retrospective for Hawk & Dove. I know some people will complete that the way it was thrown in was a little clunky, but these are C-List characters being introduced to (presumably) tons of new DC Comics readers and fans and it was absolutely necessary. From reading this first issue, I know exactly who Hawk & Dove are as well as their personalities, what their backstory is, what abilities they have, what their current status quo is, and the mysteries surrounding the two characters. To me, that’s a first issue that succeeded, whereas the first issues of Static Shock and Justice League International failed.
In general, Rob Liefeld tends to be a pretty polarizing artist: you either like his art or you despise it. I’m not a fan, but he did draw some of my favorite issues of New Mutants and X-Force back in the day, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. Unfortunately, Rob Liefeld’s art in this book… really isn’t that good. It’s certainly not the worst art I’ve ever seen in a comic book, but there are enough inconsistencies in the proportions of characters and details between panels that it does get somewhat jarring. In addition, in some of the fight scenes it wasn’t entirely clear what was going on.
Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that the “villain” in this issue is a mad scientist who sends zombie terrorists to hijack a plane and attack Washington DC. Since Hawk & Dove are by nature not the most complicated characters, it would have been nice to have a really compelling, less shallow villain for them to play off of as a foil. The only way I can see this series really succeeding is with a villain or some other plot device to create philosophical dissension and drama between Hawk & Dove, and the “Science Terrorist” Dr. Quirk (no seriously, that’s his name) does not seem to be that villain.
Overall: Rob Liefeld’s attachment to this project has brought a lot of critical attention to Hawk & Dove, most of which negative. However, his art was adequate for most of this issue and certainly nothing that will be made fun of on the Internet for years to come. In addition, Sterling Gates turned in a competent script that made these characters interesting “enough” that I’m neither captivated nor bored to tears by them yet. Surprisingly, I feel like this book is a better effort than some of the books launching alongside it such as Justice League International and Green Arrow. Overall, this book earns a grade of completely “average”, because that’s what it is. It’s an average superhero series first issue that adequately introduced the characters and concepts of the series while setting up the potential for further character development. But ultimately, is being merely “average” going to be enough to keep a standard superhero book featuring Hawk & Dove from being canceled within a year? And once we know the connection between the past and present Doves and why Hawk hates Dawn, is there anything interesting enough about either of these characters to keep readers intrigued? I really am highly skeptical about both those questions, and as much as I’d like to, I just don’t see a bright future for this book.