Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: Hawk And Dove #5

Hawk and Dove #5 came out last week and was co-written by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld, the transition issue for the creative team. Rob Liefeld is taking over as writer and artist on the title starting next month. And boy, does this feel like a transition issue. It almost feels like two half-issues. And, unfortunately, it probably means the end of me getting this title.

The thing about this title so far is that it has been a pleasing mix of wild action and some deeper mysteries behind the heroes' powers. What is the War Circle? What is the Don/Dawn mystery? Who is Condor? Why is he old? Why did Condor create ... or even need Swan as a back-up? On top of that there was the usual smoldering question of why these two very different heroes team up.

Unfortunately, this seems as though this issue was meant to simply truncate the arc, to just end the storyline without many answers, to wipe the slate clean for the next issues. And frankly,  it was the mysteries more than the wild action that had me coming back.

The issue starts with the kidnapped Deadman trapped in crystal and being used by Condor and Swan as a key to open up a portal to a 'magic world'. Let's remember that they are entering a 'magic realm' as that plays into a quibble coming up.

But also we have the hint of a betrayal here as Condor talks about things lining up nicely for him, rather than for them (he and Swan). I liked the idea of a villainous Dove in Swan. We have seen Kestrel and Condor. Swan was something of a new idea.

This double page spread was previewed over on DC, so I don't mind showing all of it.

The heroes are seen chasing a demon across some D.C. rooftops as they try to get some information about Deadman's whereabouts. It is a nice introspective couple of pages for Hawk and Dove. We hear more about Hank's relationship with Don, something I hoped would be flash-backed or commented on in this title. And we hear more hints about the secrets in Dawn's past. About how she would prefer to act alone.

There is some interesting stuff hinted at here. It is this stuff that made me come back to this title.

After learning something from the demon, we get another good moment between Hank and Dawn.

Hank wants to talk to Dawn about some of his concerns, but he wants to do it as people. For someone as bull-headed, as brash, as concrete as Hank, this has to be considered a big moment. He is worried about Dawn and Boston's relationship. He is worried that Deadman is affecting Dawn somehow, making her angry and violent. And he is worried that Deadman endangers them. After all, Condor found them because of Deadman. It is a good character moment for Hank, showing a depth to him that we don't often see.

Dawn doesn't want to hear it. In fact, showing some of that impetuous and violent new nature she smashes a chimney ... while in human form! It seems very out of character ... but I think that's the point. Something is different here.

But this is where the 'Gates-feeling' half of the issue ends. I could be wrong and maybe the whole issue was co-written. But the issue takes a left hand turn.

The demon the two heroes defeated lead them to a magical doorway, hidden in a movie theater.

This leads them to the 'magical realm' that Condor escaped to. Except, this chaos realm looks like ... city rooftops?? This seems wrong. Or maybe lazy?

And that isn't all that we see.

Condor has mutated to a more monstrous form.

Swan is dead ... eaten by Condor as she had fulfilled her purposes.

Deadman also has been 'eaten'.

So all of that stuff happened off screen? And Swan is dead? What was her purpose? Why did he need her? And why did he need to kill her? And why did he mutate further? And what about the War Circle?

It is as if a bunch of plot lines were simply cut, ended.

One new wrinkle to the mysteries is the reveal that Dove isn't part of the War Circle. Okay, I assumed that there was a Peace Circle as well and that the avatars are linked somehow. Instead we learn that Dove is something bigger that that.

Will these Dove mysteries be revealed?

And again Dawn's trouble origin is hinted at again. We once again hear her say the 'things she needed to do' to survive before she got her powers. Again, it was these mysteries about the nature of the heroes' origins that grabbed me on this title.

But before we can learn more, the Condor fight ends. Dove somehow uses her peace energy in a new way, or re-opens the wound Swan gave her last issue. Either way, she somehow shoots a beam of energy out of her belly which immolates and dissipates Condor.

It all seems too easy. What is this power? Did she know she could do this? Did she know what it would do? And what happened to Condor?

So four issues of plot lines are finished in about four pages. Condor and Swan are dead without really much of an explanation of what they were hoping to accomplish, why they needed each other, why they needed Dove, etc. The slate is clean ... but I wanted answers.

And, again unexplained, Deadman is not dead dead. He is somehow back alive, albeit in his spirit form. He, like Hank, realizes he threatens Dove by hanging around her and he doesn't want to hurt her. He ends their relationship because it could harm both of them. While I am glad Deadman is out of Dove's life (I never quite understood it), this should have had more punch than a quickie break-up in four panels.

And while Hank consoles Dove, this is done in a tiny last panel. And that moment deserved more time, a way to build off the earlier conversation or show how these two care about each other.

Next issue is all Rob Liefeld, a Dove solo story as she teams up with Batman. So that is that. We are forced to hit the pause button on whatever is left of the mysteries of the first four issues.

Anyways, part of the draw of this book from it's inception was Sterling Gates' presence. After seeing how he handled characterization and relationships in Supergirl, I thought he would handle Hank and Dawn very well. And I also felt like he would be able to bring a fresh approach to the mythology of the avatars. And we saw the roots of that in the first 4.5 issues.

But frankly, the way this was all wrapped up, I doubt that Rob Liefeld is going to be able to write the sort of Hawk and Dove book I want. I'll give next issue a try. But I wonder if this is my jumping off point.

Overall grade: C-


Martin Gray said...

Well it's certainly mine. This issue was a mess, and without Gates - or a strong editorial hand - I can't see it getting back on track.

That moment with Dawn smashing a chimney is likely sloppiness, rather than mystery.

Anj said...

The sad this Mart is that I like these characters, liked the Kesel run, and thought Gates had the right touch for this book.

And I enjoyed the first issues, thinking that we were building to something big.

So this seems like a quick trigger by DC to 'change directions'.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit that Liefeld's art isn't so bad if he actually puts a lot of thought and effort behind it, as these panels show.