Saturday, 7 January 2012

Hawk and Dove #5 review

HAWK!
DOVE!
DONE!

I think this will be my last issue. A big part of my jumping on this book, when it debuted as part of DC's New 52 promotion, was the presence of Sterling Gates as writer. His Supergirl work showed a huge talent for story, plotting, action and characterisation. Interviews and the first couple of issues made it clear Gates was angling this revamp to suit the talents of artist Rob Liefeld - action all the way with a side of characterisation. And I was OK with that, so long as Gates' own instincts and interests weren't completely subsumed.

But we're up to #5 and the imprint of Gates is barely there as the Liefeld machine pummels forward. This issue Liefeld is listed as co-writer, and as of next month Gates is off the book altogether as Liefeld goes it alone. If this chapter is any indication of what's to come, it's time for me to go too.

The two mysteries set up early on in the series - the truth of Dove's origins and the secrets of the bird avatar cabal - look set to drag on and on. Hank is beyond stupid and selfish, Dawn is a weird combination of grim and sappy, the supporting characters are barely there, the villains are for the birds ...

'Cages and Crossroads' sees the opening storyline wrap, as our heroes search for Dove's fella, Deadman, who's been kidnapped by bad guys Condor and Swan. They talk to Deadman's chum, Madame Xanadu - off-panel - who tells them that a demon named Bob, in Salem, will be able to help. So they beat up a demon named Bob, in Salem, until he tells them they need to return to Washington DC and find the entrance to something called 'the War Realm'.

En route to save Deadman from they don't know what, Hawk insists Dove stop for a chat. He reckons she should consider dumping Deadman because he's brought only trouble their way. Dove is understandably peeved and insists they get on with the rescue mission

An old cinema hosts the entry portal to the War Realm, which sounds exciting and mysterious but Condor's hideaway proves to be a mundane city rooftop - I wouldn't have bothered. Condor, who at the beginning of this issue is a lookalike for Hawk, is now a giant birdman. His partner, Dove double Swan, is now dead. So there's been a betrayal, a death and a transformation - off-panel. A fight ensues and while Hawk doesn't do too well, Dove turns out to have an undefined light power that squishes Condor.

This climactic sequence happens in titchy panels, where you might reasonably expect larger views, maybe a splash page. But no, the spreads are used for a massive headshot of Dove, and a generic, sideways image of H&D diving off a roof. These money shots do feature decent Liefeld art - especially if you're a fan of improbable arses - but they don't help the story pacing. The Bob interlude uses up more room in a very random manner - who is this guy, how does he know anything, why Salem?

The coda sees an apparently Botoxed Deadman break up with Dove - like Hawk, he believes, 'I'm dangerous to you'. Dove is devastated - as a superhero, she's hardly going to be fretting about danger - while Hawk pretends to be sad for her. Next month, a Batman team-up which likely won't leave room for subplot progression.

While Liefeld pencils and inks, he doesn't handle the art alone. There are 'pencil assists' by Marat Mychaels and inks by Adelso Corona. As noted above, as a Liefeld art job it's fine ... the only panel I hate is the shot of Dove as Dawn, in which no one's bothered to draw any clothes on her upper body - Matt Yackey's colours and a few cuff-lines are the only indication she's meant to be dressed. It's lazy, but worse, it looks weird and takes you out of the story.
It's a shame that the finer points of storytelling, such as motivation, explanation and believability, seem to be on the way out. Only last issue, things were looking very promising for this series, with a pleasing balance between the talents of Liefeld and Gates. But with this month's sidelining, and next issue's removal, of Gates - he was meant to be writing #6 - I don't see this comic fulfilling its potential any time soon.

15 comments:

  1. Hi Martin! This is one of the books I've been relying on you to keep track of. And thanks for doing so. But I can't say I blame you for abandoning your unwitting role as my comics taster.

    That DC has decided in part to seemingly emulate the early Image books is ... beyond my ability to respond to in words. Thankfully it wasn't beyond yours.

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  2. I'm sorry to hear that it's going downhill. But to be honest, this is one of the New 52 books I completely forget is being published.

    (Also in that list: Blackhawks & Deathstroke!)

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  3. Hiya lads. As a fan of the Kesels' revamp of H&D I so wanted this to be a good series. You're right about the Image thing, Colin, it's baffling - all these Daemonite links, and writers dumped in favour of artists who can string the odd sentence together (if only they were all as promising as Manapul and Buccellato on The Flash).

    Blackhawks never got behind the first issue with me, Rob, while I never bought Deathstroke at all.

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  4. It's amazing that you even got this far. To me, the only reason to buy Liefeld work is to make fun of it, and I won't pay 3$ for the opportunity.

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  5. "improbable arses"

    That there is the main reason I never had any intention of picking this book up.

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  6. But Gary, there's a proud tradition of improbable arses in comics, hearkening back at least to the old Charlton title, Professor Bigbootay's Gallery of Badonkadonk. Ditko art, man -- an instant classic!

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  7. Sorry, Rob - I should have been more specific and said that it's Liefeld's arses I'm not a fan of, not the subject itself.

    As you probably know, DC's House of Derrières (hosted by Seth) was one of the seminal works in the sub-genre of backside improbabilities. That it only lasted a scant five issues before becoming a back-up feature at the rear of the Phantom Stranger does the work no justice at all.

    I for one am eagerly awaiting the Showcase Presents... reprint.

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  8. Anyone remember that Weird Western Tales series Arsehunter? Actually, that would've been 'mature readers'. Or even 'rears'.

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  10. And who can forget that classic Batman story, "Two-Cheeks' Double Rebuttal!"?

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  11. It's such a shame when you wait for a relaunch to come using the original, then it just seems destined to put them back in the tank again.

    After all Geoff and co did to get positive Dawn back and bubbly....

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  12. Ah Rob, how could I forget Two-Cheeks vs Buttman?

    I missed Geoff Johns' work with Dove, Dan - presumably in Brightest Day? I jumped off ofter two issues. I'll have a look.

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  13. not the least bit surprised this comic has been cancelled with issue 8...I was prepared to give it a try but the art [not to mention the script] is painful to watch.
    What has shocked me is that OMAC has been axed too, apparently! NNNOOOO!!!!!!!

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    1. I have Facebooked Dan DiDio with my top suggestion for a final issue title - One More And Cancellation. I shall no doubt win an award.

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  14. I know I am very late with this, but I have just now read issues #5 and #6 of this book - and the random demon is named Gob. Which is at least a name that sounds somewhat like a supernatural bad guy.

    Very disappointed with this issue, however. I had actually been a fan of this series up to this point, as you can't go wrong with zombies on a plane, evil doppelgängers and all around fun. There are other books for my more sophisticated needs. But everything you mentioned really drags this thing down now. I could not believe everything that happens here. It's not believable at all ("One single bad guy out of all the 30.000 bad guys we deal with every day has found you because of me - we have to break up, there's just no other way") and most of the cool stuff really happens OFF-PANEL. It's insane. Now I'm actually fine with cancellation.

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