Birds of Prey Volume 1: The Team Where Everyone Is A Bird

hawk-and-dove-birds-of-prey

 

I guess I’ve always been a fan of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey work. Not that I’ve been a regular reader, but when I find the odd trade at the library or over a friend’s place, I’ll give it a quick read. Birds of Prey Volume 1: Endrun became my prey, as it featured Hawk and Dove—by now you know that they are two of my favorites—joining up with the team of avian-themed lady crime-fighters.

There is a lot going on in this collection, ranging from a new villain from Black Canary’s past attempting to ruin her life all the while forming an uneasy alliance with the Penguin as the group are all considered to be fugitives of the save. There’s even a subplot with Oracle and two reformed criminals going on.

I guess the best part of this would be Birds of Prey #6, where Huntress fights Lady Shiva in a duel to the death with Huntress. The JLU cartoons really showed how awesome this character could be, and Simone’s take on the character is very similar. It’s a shame the Helena Bertinelli iteration of this character disappeared with the New 52.

Hawk and Dove didn’t get as much story time as I would have liked, but it worked. They’re pretty much brought into this story line to be supporting characters. Nothing to complain about there.

In all, it was a quick read. There’s lot of fighting scenes in this book; it’s a bit action packed. And if you like that, you should give this a try.

Hawk and Dove #8

Here it is…the final issue of Hawk and Dove. Our avian avatars have teamed up with Xyra to make sure they survive the prophecy that leads to their deaths.

Issue #8 is pretty much a pay-off issue for the story, in a sense that this is where all of the action happens. They storm the cult’s headquarters–conveniently located in Washington, DC just like them. Hawk creates a diversion against the cult, which is a bunch of ninjas clad in white just like Storm Shadow, giving Dove and Xyra breaking in on the other side of the building, fighting even more ninjas.

D’Khan, the avatar of flying lizards (which seems like a natural predator of birds if they were to have existed) finally appears and battles the two women. Dove gets the best of him, but can’t bring herself to kill him which D’Khan takes advantage of and beats the snot out of her. Eventually Hawk catches up with them and he has no qualms killing D’Khan. At no point does Hawk ever wind up in a point where he would kill Dove, so either they forgot about that part of the prophecy or it turned out to just be false. Xyra thanks the duo for their help, saying that they will always have an ally between her and her cult.

The book ends with Hank and Dove sitting on a rooftop, going over the last eight issues and then getting back to work stopping criminals in DC. It’s kind of a flat ending, as the weird relationship tension between the two is never addressed (let alone resolved).

Liefeld had some help on the art by longtime collaborator Marat Mychaels, and it’s amazing how the two draw so similarly. This was the first issue of the series where I had strong feelings negatively about the art. There were a few pages that felt like they were scanned at too low of a resolution and they tried to overcompensate with over the top coloring. That, and there was one page where it’s revealed that Dove and Xyra have exactly the same haircut/face and it looked like they were twins.

As a whole, I enjoyed the Hawk and Dove series while it lasted. Was it groundbreaking and a classic? Definitely not. But by no means it wasn’t a fun read. It’s pure super hero mayhem and nothing more. I  picked up this book solely for the fact that I’ve always liked the characters, an appreciation of Liefeld’s art, and really liking his run on the title back in the early 1990s, before he blew up during his New Mutants/X-Force phase.

Maybe with some stronger writing, this book would have lasted longer. Hell, if it was Geoff Johns and Liefeld’s book, it would have been a blockbuster seller. But for what it was, I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to see the characters surface again.

Hawk and Dove #7

The answer is yes: Hawk and Dove #7 does start out looking like a Dazzler comic book from the early eighties. The next-to-last issue in Rob Liefeld’s series starts out with Dawn and Hank (which I just noticed almost sound like their respective code names) at a very disco-like environment…they’re out at the club.

And as you can see, Liefeld has Dawn all decked out in the most skin-tight dress he could draw. Dawn is pretty bummed; her boyfriend Deadman dumped her so she’s out looking to pick up dudes. And this night she brings Hank along, who only starts a huge brawl once someone gets too close to her for his comfort.

Outside, they get into a huge argument, with Hank getting more and more misogynistic in a rant about why she can’t go dressed out like that and how he always has to protect her because all men are creeps (except for him). The whole scene is awkward, as Hank has never really expressed interest in her romantically. His over-protectiveness is just odd, and thankfully it’s ended when the two are attacked by some random villain that looks like Kraven the Hunter and Deathstroke the Terminator’s lovechild, simply named the Hunter. He kind of beats the crap out of them, cutting off the finger (or as he called it Talon) of Hawk and a bunch of Dawn’s hair. Hunter gets scared off by this woman named Xyra, who looks like a grown up version of Freefall from Gen 13.

While recovering back at their apartment, Xyra explains that she’s part of a long running secret society that has been worshiping the hawk avatar and that the Hunter works for some cleric named D’Yek, who coincidentally is part of an anti-hawk group that plans on destroying him (thus needing their hair/finger for totems in a magical spell). All the while, Dawn is standing around in her bra and panties, and a very open bathrobe showing off her goods. No wonder Hank is so overprotective of her; she’s always throwing herself at people!

The book ends with D’Yek and Hunter talking at their own secret lair discussing how they will destroy the Hawk avatar and that according to old prophecies Hawk will kill Dove, a nod to the prior continuity of how the same happened when Hawk was Monarch during Armageddon 2001. It also makes me feel really old remembering that was in all the comics advertisements of stuff I was reading twenty years ago.

So the stage is set for the final issue of the series. Will Hawk get killed by the Hunter and D’Yek? Will Hawk kill Dove? Probably not. But will I miss this series? That’s a yes.

Hawk and Dove #6

I’ve really been making a dent in my “to read” pile. Hawk and Dove #6 is a one shot with the avatars of peace and war going on a vacation to lovely Gotham City.

They’ve been chasing the New 52-ized Blockbuster who has stolen the Amulet of Ra from the Smithsonian Institute, only to encounter and then team up with Batman and Robin. It’s part of what happens when you visit that city.

So the three birds and the bat team up to stop Blockbuster, who is working with this sorceress Necromancer to collect these mystical totems like the Amulet to get some sort of magical powers. Obviously, our heroes aren’t impressed. They save the day; Hawk and Dove are on their way back home to Washington DC.

The issue was written and drawn by Rob Liefeld and is suited to his strengths. It’s pretty much a full issue of fights and such. I did like the way he had Damien as Robin characterized as being pretty an ass. Stands up on its own decently.

Deathstroke #9

Rob Liefeld. Deathstroke the Terminator. Lobo. This comic has everything that was great about the 1990s. With Hawk and Dove cancelled, Rob Liefeld moves over to Deathstroke starting with this issue.

I haven’t been following this title previously, and issue #9 establishes the Deathstroke-verse pretty quickly. Slade is at the grave of his deceased wife reminiscing, even to the point he is carrying a picture of her. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone carry a picture of a loved one when going to the cemetery, but I digress. Anyway, this happy moment is spoiled.

Slade winds up dispatching some commando types and some teen meta-humans called the Omegas (I wonder if this is an allusion to the Omega Men), as apparently some sort of test by a new character named Maxim. His goal is simple: to hire Deathstroke to kill Lobo, who has escaped imprisonment. Along with the Omegas and Zealot from WildCATs fame, our mercenary hero is off to collect his bounty.

This story kind of reminds me when my younger brother and I would play super heroes as kids. We would mix all the toys together, and before you know it, Spider-Man and Batman would be riding a Wheeled Warrior vehicle against Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Anyway, this was light enough to warrant waiting for the next issue. Typical super hero comics stuff. Art wise, the one thing that I noticed was that Liefeld’s backgrounds were kind of sparse. The colorists seemed to have improvised a lot to fill the pages.

Hawk and Dove #5

It really bums me out that this series is getting canceled this summer, but I’m going to enjoy what’s left of this series. The fifth issue of Hawk and Dove finishes up the first story arc with a conclusion to their feud with the villainous Condor.

Obviously they succeed and Deadman survives; there is an issue six you know. But the best part of the story was the relationship between Hawk and Dove. Obviously, they don’t like each other that much. But they do care about each other. Dove gets mad at him when he suggests that being in a relationship with Deadman might not be the healthiest thing for her. We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve had to tell a friend that, or heard that from someone else.

The book ends with Hawk being right, well sort of. Deadman dumps Dove because he feels he’s a threat to her safety. Poor Dove.

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying this series. Sterling Gates’ story has been fun and Rob Liefeld’s art has been bombastic as ever. Next issue sees Liefeld taking complete control of the book, and we get a visit from Batman. Sounds like fun.

Oh, and check out Liefeld’s homage to the original Hawk and the Dove #5 cover by Gil Kane!

Hawk and Dove #3-4

President Barack Obama gets possessed by the ghostly hero Deadman

This series has been such a throwback to fun, over-the-top super hero comics. Last time we checked in with Hawk and Dove, they were trying to save President Obama from the evil Condor and Swan. Did they have get Barack back?

Of course they did. Issue #3 was filled with ridiculous fighting and destruction through the White House. How ridiculous? Deadman even gets involved in the action, “possessing” Obama for a little bit. How crazy is that. Issues like this really show Rob Liefeld’s strength as an artist. The issue ends with Hawk and Dove taking Condor into custody.

The next issue is writer Sterling Gates’ time to shine. Hawk and Dove have an opportunity to interrogate Condor. It’s a very well written, slow burn story that crescendos with Swan rescuing her partner in crime and revealing that this was all an elaborate setup to kidnap Deadman!

Seriously, go read these. Hawk and Dove definitely falls into the comics are fun category. I would say that this and Batgirl are the best of the New 52 books I’ve read.

Hawk and Dove #2

One of the joys of having a rage filled partner is that you never get a chance to fight super villains by yourself. Just ask Dove.

The second issue of Hawk and Dove continues the fun from the last issue. Writer Sterling Gates and artists Rob Liefeld are still at the helm. So what are our avian and emotion avatars up to this time?

They’re still fighting Alexander Quirk’s army of zombie monsters, but they have to take a break to celebrate Judge Hall receiving an award at the White House. President Obama vaguely looks like Obama, in case you were wondering. The book ends with the beige Hawk looking character from last issue crashes the party, and the book ends with Hawk and Dove having to save Hawk’s dad and the president.

The art is very good, so Liefeld deserves some credit. But most of the credit on this book should deservedly be given to Gates. His character building dialogue works well with Liefeld’s over-the-top action.

Plot wise, Gates accomplishes a lot this issue. The beige Hawk looking dude is actually called Condor, and he has a female sidekick named Swan. Apparently they have powers similar to Hawk and Dove. This issue started with the two of them beating up a greyish looking Hawk type (Ostrich?), so I wonder if we’re going to wind up with a bird version of the various Lantern Corps.

The dynamics of Hawk with the supporting characters gets explored as well. Deadman, Dove’s boyfriend, really makes it clear how much of an ass he thinks Hawk is, which puts her in a difficult spot. For some reason, Hawk’s dad invites his ex-girlfriend Ren (who hasn’t been seen or heard from in almost a decade) to the awards ceremony and makes things very awkward for everyone. For whatever reason, Hawk really hates her, and she displaces that hate on Dawn. Very bizarre.

Hawk and Dove has been fun, and I can’t wait to see where they go next, especially with all the Condor and Swan business. This will connect to Quirk at some point, and I cannot wait.

Hawk and Dove #1

Finally! Hawk and Dove #1 was a lot of fun, and I’m not saying that just because I’m a huge Rob Liefeld fan. So now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to read it, did it live up to almost four months worth of expectations?

The answer is yes.

Since Hawk and Dove really hasn’t been around too much in DC comics the last twenty years or so, there was a lot of reintroduction to the concept and how it plays out in the New 52. Hank Hall is still the avatar of war Hawk, and has an uneasy alliance with Dawn Granger, the avatar of peace Dove. He still doesn’t like her, as she replaced his brother Don as Hawk. So I guess that part of Crisis on Infinite Earths is still canonical. They don’t say exactly how done died, but I guess they will address that at some point.

This sets up the first story arc by introducing the new villain Alexander Quirk, a “self-proclaimed science terrorist” (yes, that’s a direct quote) who attempts to invade Washington DC with some weird zombie like creatures. Since this is the beginning and we’re still in the exposition phase of the story, Hawk and Dove quickly dispatch them and wind up denting the Washington Memorial in the process. The book ends with the debut of a new character wearing a Hawk inspired costume that is beige and brown. I guess he’s a more business casual version of Hank.

Art wise, this is some fun Rob Liefeld art. It’s bombastic. It’s kinetic.It’s over the top. But it’s also a lot of fun. It’s really good and I’m sure he was motivated on this.

Story wise, Sterling Gates did a great job. His characterization is spot on, even if you’ve never read any of the previous versions of the characters. There’s a lot of tension between our two heroes. Dove gets a lot of character expansion, as not only is she currently dating Deadman (I have no idea how that works.’s fiancee), but she was previously in a secret relationship with her predecessor Don! Gates has also brought back Hank’s father, Judge Hall, into the equation and he serves as a calming counterpoint to Hank.

Hawk and Dove #1 didn’t disappoint me in the least bit. It was great fun and I can’t wait to continue reading this series.

Happy Birthday Steve Ditko

Today we celebrate the 84th birthday of one of comics legend Steve Ditko! The ever-elusive creator of Spider-Man enjoys his privacy and probably wouldn’t want us to acknowledge his birth, but that won’t stop us from talking about some of his best contributions to comics!

Let’s look at some of Ditko’s better known creations.

You can’t argue that Spider-Man isn’t Ditko’s most successful project. Here’s a clip from an interview with Stan Lee where he talks about what he feels was Ditko’s best work from their run on Amazing Spider-Man.

Ditko’s run on Spidey was semi autobiographical

Over at DC, Ditko created the super hero brother duo Hawk and Dove. One peace-loving, the other war mongering, the Hall brothers made their first appearance in June 1968′s Showcase #75. Dial B for Blog has a great account of their creation.

Ditko also created the Creeper, an outspoken talk show host who moonlights as a psychotic super hero. Simply put, the Creeper is insane. HyperDave at Data Junkie put together a great retrospective of Ditko’s run.

Also during this run at DC, Ditko created Shade the Changing Man, a new Starman and the Stalker. I’m not going to go too much into them, as I really haven’t been exposed to them enough.

During this time, Ditko did some phenomenal stuff over at Charlton, creating the original Captain Atom and the Ted Kord version of Blue Beetle, both of which became key staples in DC’s Justice League International books. He also created reporter turned faceless vigilante the Question. Eric Newsom runs an invaluable resource on the character, filled with analysis, interviews and commentary about the faceless hero.

Ditko went on to create a more hardline, Ayn Rand influenced version of the Question called Mr. A. The great people at Dial B for Blog have a much better description of the character.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; there’s much more non-super hero work in his bibliography. Keep in mind, Ditko’s career began in 1953, and he’s still creating stuff to this day. He remains super elusive and doesn’t give interviews. If you would like more information about Ditko’s career, there was a great book Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko that chronicles his career, as well as the BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko. You can find clips on YouTube.

On a final Ditko note, when you research his works and his life its hard to miss mentions of the influence of philosopher Ayn Rand. At one point, he even pitched adapting her novel Atlas Shrugged to Marvel. So in a bit of Ditko magic, my work day began with me taking a pile of Rand’s books–including Atlas Shrugged–from the free book pile in the staff room. I think its fitting; if Ditko had a birthday party, I’m sure that would be his party favor of choice.

 

 

Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko

When I picked up Blake Bell’s Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko, I figured I would learn more about the comic book creator. Instead, after finishing this book, I only have more questions. This isn’t a shortcoming of the author; his subject is just that complex.

Bell shares a glimpse into the mind of Ditko, someone who is very important in the history of American comics but at the same time is more elusive and mysterious than the Question–a character he created.

So what did I learn about Ditko?

By the time you finish Strange and Stranger, you learn what motivated Ditko. It’s not fame and fortune, or other forms of personal success. It’s following the Ayn Rand philosophy of objectivism. So what’s that?

“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” Ayn Rand

So what does that mean and how does it apply to Ditko? Basically, he had his own strong sense of what was right and wrong, and he would only do things on his own terms. This strong sense of black and white in his worldview is what influenced his career. Bell shares many stories from Ditko’s peers–and excerpts from the artist–that show how they shaped his business decisions, for better or worse.

Bell does a great job of showing how the characters created by Ditko incorporated objectivist theory, like how Hawk and Dove may have differing theories on how to get there but ultimately coming to the same conclusion of what is right. I can now look back at his work on the Creeper and the Question and see how this influences the characters’ actions. I also was introduced to Ditko’s Mr. A, a somewhat more sinister and objective version of the Question, who wasn’t afraid to take a life of a criminal.

Even if you don’t agree with them, you can’t help but not respect Ditko’s decisions. He is a man who would rather lose personal success then compromise his personal values. This is evident in the tale of Frank Miller wanting to collaborate on a Mr. A project, but Ditko refusing since Miller didn’t share the same views on the character.

So ultimately, I’m more intrigued about Steve Ditko than ever before thanks to this book b y Blake Bell. Does anyone have any recommendations of where I should start?

Comic Con ruminations

Walking Dead plush

Assorted Walking Dead merchandise at San Diego Comic Con 2011. Photo courtesy SupahCute.com on http://www.flickr.com/supahcute

So apparently there was a San Diego Comic Con this weekend. Did I miss anything important?

Usually I wind up geeking out in front of the computer, constantly refreshing the web browser to find all the latest gossip. So here’s a recap of SDCC, with what I’m excited about.

  • Matt Fraction’s new Defenders book—This is going to be cool. I’m a fan of Fraction’s writing, and this team up of Namor, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Red She Hulk and Silver Surfer just seems like a can’t miss. Did I mention it’s going to be drawn by Terry Dodson?
  • EC Comics—Everyone’s favorite horror comics from the 1950s are going to be reprinted by Fantagraphics next year. I can’t wait to get to read some vintage Wally Wood.
  • More Marvel Television—Sometimes it’s just as much fun to watch comics on the television show. I’m really looking forward to Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, a cartoon show featuring Hulk, She Hulk, Red Hulk and Skaar going around, smashing things and helmed by Paul Dini. I also can’t wait for aka Jessica Jones, an adaptation of Alias.
  • Hawk and Dove Teasers—Yes, I love Rob Liefeld and I love DC’s characters Hawk and Dove. Some of the newly released art has already been adapted into wallpaper for my computer.
  • New Marvel Universe toys—Everyone may have been excited about the return of the Marvel Legends toy line from Hasbro, but I’m still enjoying the smaller Marvel Universe figures, especially the She-Hulk, Scarlet Witch and Punisher. However, the Marvel Legends Build-A-Figure Armin Zola figure is amazing. And while we’re at it, some of the new He-Man and Thundercats stuff makes me very nostalgic.

So what was your favorite part of SDCC?

30 Things I Like About Comics–#24 Rob Liefeld

I’ve always enjoyed Rob Liefeld. Rob Liefeld's Uncanny X-Force

His art, with its over muscled and hyper exaggerated movement, is certainly a style that works in his projects. When you look back at the titles that Liefeld worked on, none of them fall into the serious “comics-as-art” case studies. Instead, his books were always the over-the-top super hero adventures with lots of explosions. His men are drawn with more muscle striation than you could find in a He-Man action figure. On the other side, his ladies had hotter and more unnatural proportions than Barbie.

Liefeld works best when he is teamed up with a strong writer. Case in point, look at his run on Hawk & Dove in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Written by Barbara and Karl Kesel, they created a damn fine series that still holds up to this day. Karl’s inking certainly Rob Liefeld's Hawk and Doveworks well with Liefeld’s art, maintaining the kineticism, but keeping it focused.

His work with Louise Simonson and Fabian Nicieza on New Mutants and X-Force respectively is solid. It also brought us Cable and Deadpool, both of which are cornerstones in the X-franchise. Youngblood was certainly a big deal when it came out, as were his Heroes Reborn takes on Captain America and the Avengers.

His fan reception is certainly polarizing. As successful as he is, there is also a vocal number of people who have an immense dislike of him, finding criticisms of his artistic skill and his storytelling.

I’ve never been one of the cynical fan types, but one thing I have noticed is that everyone is looking for the next Watchmen. Instead of enjoying a book for just being an escapist action/adventure fantasy, they unleash their frustrations on it for not being the next big groundbreaking work or for it not advancing the art form.

I think that Liefeld would find Michael Bay to be a kindred spirits of sorts. They both have a similar storytelling mantra, with big action and bigger effects, and not focusing on the more serious or realistic side. Because of that, they have a lot of vocal detractors.

But ultimately, they have dedicated and loyal fanbases, not to mention the ability to create ‘event’ stories that capture outsiders attention. Bay has grossed over $3 billion worldwide. Granted, Liefeld hasn’t generated money to that level but he’s certainly sold some funny books over the years.

Regardless what you think of him, you have to accept that Liefeld loves comics. Whenever you read any of his interviews or listen to him talk at a convention, you cannot argue that he isn’t a fan. He loves this industry. And not only that, he’s always super friendly to his fans.

And besides, how many comic creators have had television commercials?

Check out Lifeld’s blog for all kinds of arty goodness.