Brave and the Bold #181 (Batman & Hawk & Dove)

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #181; Dec. 1981; DC Comics; Dick Giordano, editor; featuring Batman and the Hawk and the Dove in "Time, See What's Become of Me...", written by Alan Brennert and drawn by Jim Aparo.  On the cover by Aparo, a giant symbolic figure of Batman watches as the Hawk and Dove wrestle with each other.  Cover caption: "Two brothers gifted with remarkable powers in a time past.  ONE AN AGGRESSOR... ONE A PACIFIST!"

Review by Bill Henley (not much of an aggressor, but not a pacifist either)

I've mentioned this story and talked about doing a review of it before, and here it is.  It's not chronologically a Silver Age story, but it makes a nice coda to the original HAWK & DOVE series, which did qualify as "late Silver Age".  It's one of a small but memorable handful of BRAVE & BOLD team-ups scripted by Alan Brennert, who dabbled in comics as well as television writing before becoming a novelist.

The story begins with an "all-too-rare social visit" between three friends-- Bruce Wayne, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, all in their civilian identities.  When Bruce insists that he needs to cut the visit short in order to take care of business as his alter ego, Barry complains, "Seems like the only time we get together any more is to stop Throgg the Omnipotent from taking over the world!"  This was back when Batman/Bruce Wayne was somewhat less obsessive and capable of having friendships and a social life as Bruce, even if they always took a back seat to his Batman duties.  Bruce departs with a wave and, "Give my regards to Throgg, guys...!"   The more laid-back Barry and Hal prepare to race each other back to Los Angeles (and out of the story; this isn't a Batman/Flash/GL team-up). 

"Within minutes, Bruce Wayne has shed his evening clothes and is giving new meaning to the phrase 'swinging playboy'"... literally swinging from rooftops, as Batman, on his way to stake out a drug deal.  It seems that mob boss Thomas Kurland has  "handed the local heroin trade over to his son... on the job training, as it were".  Bats plans to watch the younger Kurland make a rendezvous with a drug client, and then follow him to his father.  But another costumed character is also taking an interest...

The Hawk is lurking on a rooftop nearby, after having gotten info on the impending drug deal by "working over a pigeon". Even though despite his super-powers he has to cope with a fear of heights (a detail from the original Hawk & Dove series), he is determined to stop the drug buy from taking place, in his own, shall we say, forthright fashion.  Thinking to himself, "Gotta face my FEARS, like DAD always said..." he leaps down and lays into young Kurland and his henchman-- much to the dismay of Batman, who had other plans.  "THE HAWK? Haven't seen him in years!  What's he doing here, fouling up my stakeout?"  (An editor's note indicates the Hawk's last appearance was back in TEEN TITANS #25.  Though didn't the Hawk and Dove appear briefly as part of "Titans West" in the short-lived 1976-77 TITANS revival?)  Hawk doesn't want Batman interfering with his action either; "I'm not the KID you and your JLA buddies used to patronize any more!  I can handle this MYSELF!"  Maybe not, Hawk... Batman prevents one of the thugs from shooting him, and then young Kurland climbs onto a roof edge in order to get a better vantage point to fight back against the Hawk.  (Kurland's thought balloon; "The guy's a LOON!"  Wrong bird, guy, though I can see your point.)  But in trying to kick the Hawk, Kurland overbalances, and neither Batman nor Hawk can grab him before he falls to his death!

Caption, partly echoing the cover copy; "They were products of their TIME-- the 1960's  Two brothers-- one the aggressor, one the pacifist-- gifted with remarkable powers.  Twelve years later, Kennedy, King and Lennon are gone, and the '60s exist only as a merchandising tool, a NOSTALGIA ITEM for those too young to REMEMBER... and like so many of their generation, the Hawk and the Dove must ask: TIME, SEE WHAT'S BECOME OF ME...?"   (Yes, the line is from Paul Simon, not Lennon.  And yes, in this story twelve years of "real time" have passed since the original 1968-69 HAWK & DOVE comic-book series, and, as we'll see, Hank (Hawk) Hall and his brother Don (Dove) have aged from teenagers into adults.  As some fans complained when the story appeared, this makes the story off-continuity, since other teen characters such as Robin and the other Titans had not aged that much since appearing in the comics of 1969.  But I didn't and don't care.  Ignoring continuity was an old tradition for BRAVE & BOLD, and Alan Brennert did so here to better effect than most of Bob Haney's "Earth-B" off-continuity yarns.)

While an angry Batman accuses Hawk of causing Kurland's death, Hawk finds himself involuntarily changing back to his non-powered civilian identity of Hank Hall!  (As the original H & D series established, the brothers did not have complete control of their identity changes; they could change by saying their hero names only when "injustice was present", and they changed back automatically once the "injustice" was no longer present, even if it was an inconvenient moment for them and their secret identities.)  Hank catches Batman off-guard with a kick and flees.  And now Batman is fearful for the Hawk's life, for if the vengeful Kurland Sr. finds out who he is, from a henchman on the scene who also fled, "his life won't be worth a pound of GRANOLA!"  And Batman is also concerned about the Hawk's state of mind; "He was always HEADSTRONG... AGGRESSIVE... but tonight he seemed on the verge of a BREAKDOWN!"  Batman must find the Hawk and protect him from Kurland-- and perhaps from himself-- until he can put the senior ganglord behind bars!  "Except I don't know the Hawk's true identity... and didn't get a GOOD look at his face when he changed!  How do I find a fugitive SUPER-HERO in a city of over a million people!"

In nearby Berkeley, Don Hall is dismayed to learn that he is being laid off from his job at the "Federal Welfare Center" due to budget cuts. He muses bitterly about how it seems "humanism has become a dirty word" since the 60s," but also about how his feelings of anger almost caused him to "act like Hawk!"  Spotting a couple of thugs attacking another man with a tire iron, Don assumes his superheroic identity and intervenes, getting between the men and trying to persuade them to "discuss things rationally".  One of the thugs sneers about the name of the Dove; "What kind of name is that for a COSTUMED CLOWN?"  "Boy, do I feel OLD!", thinks Don; "They don't even remember what it MEANS!"  As he stops the thug with a bit of "passive resistance" judo, Don reflects on how "hawk" and "dove" were familiar labels all those years ago when he and his brother quarreled incessantly over the Vietnam war.  Then the names acquired new meanings for them when they were locked in a mobster's hideout and a power represented by a "mysterious voice" granted them superhuman powers and costumed identities!  "I only wanted to protect the VICTIM, but Hank seemed to get TRUE PLEASURE out of pounding the CHEESE out of criminals!"  And yet, Don still misses his brother, as well as their father, a judge who functioned as the "moderate ground between two extremes" and warned them (though he didn't know about their costumed identities) "You boys don't THINK about your positions!  You live by your REFLEXES, not your MINDS!"  (It's indicated Judge Hall is still alive, but that the brothers haven't seen him in a long time.) Returning to his home, Don quarrels with his significant other, Michelle, who urges him to move beyond civil service and "use your talents in politics, communications, anything!"  When Don responds that his brother Hank's mundane life has gotten him nothing besides "a CREDIT LINE and an ULCER," Michelle replies in turn, "There it is again!  Your BROTHER!  Don, I love you... but you've got to stop measuring everything you DO against your BROTHER... or you'll never be more than HALF a person!"  And as she storms out, Don wonders if her indictment is correct; "For what, after all, is a DOVE without a HAWK... YIN without YANG?" 

Elsewhere, gangster Thomas Kurland looks at a picture of the unmasked Hawk (apparently a police-type sketch based on the account of the thug who saw him change) and vows to learn his true identity and destroy him! He wonders if he should have pushed his son into joining his gang operaton, but "Maybe killing this HAWK charactre won't let YOU rest any easier... but it might help ME sleep a little better!"  And meanwhile, Batman's quest through newspaper records to track down the Hawk is getting nowhere-- until it occurs to him to seek out the Hawk's one-time partner, the Dove, who is known to operate in Berkeley.  "If I can track him down, maybe he can lead me to the HAWK-- before Kurland plucks his feathers!"  Meanwhile, the man he is really seeking, Hank Hall, has come home to his suburban abode, only to find that his wife Linda isn't any happier with him than Don's Michelle is with him.  She knows that Hank is the Hawk, and she accuses of him of "taking out your frustrations on any poor CROOK that happens along" instead of facing the real problems with his life and their relationship.  Angered, Hank reaches out to slap his wife!  It's not clear from the art if the blow actually connects, but Hank is still horrified at himself.  "But in moments, HORROR has turned to RAGE," as Hank bemoans how "I did everything a man's SUPPOSED to do... served in the Navy... got a good job... a good wife" and yet everything is turning out wrong!  And yet again, instead of dealing with his problems, Hank takes refuge in his Hawk identity and sets out-- riding a motorcycle commandeered from an innocent by-rider-- to bring Thomas Kurland Sr. to justice.  He convinces himself that is what "the-- ENTITY that GAVE me these powers" would want; "I've got a responsibility to a HIGHER POWER!" 

Across the Bay, Don Hall is roused from bed by an unexpected visit from the Batman ("May I come in?  The neighbors are starting to STARE..." ) He explains that he was able to track down Don's identity by matching names from an old Elmond, Oregon phone directory (the town where the young Hawk and Dove lived) to men in their late 20's in the Berkeley neighborhood where the Dove has been seen-- and suggests that if Don wants to continue as a secret crimefighter, he'd better get an unlisted phone number!  Upon learning of the danger Hank is in, Don willingly reveals Hawk's true identity to Batman and goes along to help his brother.  They don't find Hank, but they find his wife Linda captured as a hostage by Kurland's thugs!  In his eagerness to stop them without violence, the Dove accidentally propels himself and one of the gangsters out of a high-rise window, but manages to save himself and the thug with his super-athletic abilities.  Ironically, this convinces the thug that the Dove is as much of a "maniac with feathers" as his brother the Hawk, and he fearfully reveals to Batman the whereabouts of Kurland Sr.
As Batman and the Dove go in pursuit, Batman warns Dove that if he wants to help his brother, he needs to avoid any more "dumb moves" trying to stop the enemy without violence; "I appreciate your PHILOSOPHY-- but we may not be able to AFFORD it right now."

And meanwhile, Hawk is raiding a nightclub owned by Kurland's crime empire.  So intent is he on tracing the ganglord, that he seizes a girl dancer and threatens, "Does somebody TALK... or does this little lady get HURT?"  "Once, Hank Hall would have been REPELLED by what he is doing... but his mind is CLOUDED now, by ANGER, by FRUSTRATION, by all the ways life has BAFFLED and CHEATED him..."   "Fortunately," he is saved from the crime of harming an innocent when one of Kurland's thugs knocks him out from behind! 

Batman and the Dove spot the unconscious Hawk being taken out to Kurland's boat in the harbor, but they cannot intervene for fear the gangsters will kill Hawk before they can reach him.  Instead, they will try to sneak aboard the boat-- planting an explosive on the hull as a distraction-- and not only rescue Hawk but get enough evidence against Kurland to "put him away for a long, long time".  And meanwhile, locked in the hold, Hawk has an epiphany.  Reflecting on the people he has hurt or almost hurt-- Kurland Jr., Linda, the nightclub dancer-- he reflects, "I-- I'm no better than the CREEPS I've been trying to STOP!  What's HAPPENING to me?"  And he is answered-- for the first time in twelve years-- by a voice out of nowhere, telling him, "You have just taken the FIRST STEP, Hank Hall!" "The Voice" tells him that neither he nor his brother have changed and grown in the way it hoped when it first granted them their powers.  Both have "atrophied"; "I had hoped, in time, you would realize the worth in BOTH your philosophies-- but you have not!"  Hank asks mercy from the voice he thinks is that of God, but it sets him straight on that point; "I am not divine, Hank Hall!  That is your GREATEST MISTAKE!  Thinking yourself above COMPASSION... on some divine CRUSADE that sets you ABOVE your fellow beings!  (But though it is not divine, we don't find out what exactly "The Voice" really is.)  "Perhaps your powers have prevented you from GROWING... perhaps only by LOSING them might you recapture YOURSELVES!"  And so, as he changes back to Hank Hall "for perhaps the last time," the ex-Hawk is told, "You can make amends by fulfilling your HUMAN potential...then when you have GROWN... when you are WORTHY... perhaps the powers will be YOURS again..!  Goodbye, Hawk.  I am confident that we shall meet again... ONE DAY..."

And below the ship, carrying out Batman's directions to plant a plastic explosive on the hull, the Dove also has a feeling that he is "about to lose something".  He prays that it is not his brother!   But what he loses is his costume and superhuman identity.  How can he help Batman save Hawk and capture Kurland and his gang, with only his normal human abilities? 

Aboard the ship, Kurland confronts Hank Hall and asks him, "Why'd you kill my son?"  Hank replies that he didn't intentionally kill him, but he was responsible and must face the consequences.  "I've been trying to PROVE something.. show my FATHER I was WORTH something...!"  And Kurland Sr. has qualms of his own, wondering if this young man is so different from his son whom he pushed into a dangerous life of crime.  Then Kurland is distracted by the bomb under his ship blowing up and Batman swinging onto the deck!  As Batman handles the rest of the gang, Don Hall sees his brother in danger, from one of Kurland's thugs aiming a gun at him, and lays out the man with a mighty punch!  Batman tells Don "Good work" but wonders why he is no longer in costume, and Hank says, "That's a long story... little brother".  Don is wondering what is wrong with Hank, who "just stood there" when he was about to be killed.  "And YOU laid into that thug like a BALL-PEEN HAMMER.  Talk about TURNABOUT, huh?"  Echoing "The Voice," Batman chides them both; "You've both been so afraid to admit you could be ANYTHING like the OTHER... that you've FROZEN yourselves into people you should have GROWN OUT of long ago!  We all have our VIOLENT sides... and our GENTLE sides.  We all HATE... and we all LOVE.  If we deny EITHER, we DIE a little inside.  As YOU did, Hank.  It's called being HUMAN."  (Yeah, I know, it's kind of ironic Batman being the one giving this little speech, especially considering how he's been portrayed so often since then, as obsessive and violent right up to the verge of killing.  Maybe he should have listened to himself.)  As Hank and Don begin to reminisce about their younger days, the final caption tells us, "They were products of their TIME... and perhaps, some day, that time will come AGAIN.  But before it DOES, they must learn again... what it means to be BROTHERS."

As far as I'm concerned it would have been just as well if this had been the last appearance of the Hawk and Dove.  And, indeed, in a "pre-Crisis" sense, it was.  During CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS (a series which I don't like nearly as much in retrospect as I did when it first came out-- and I don't think I'm alone in that) the Hawk and Dove are teenagers again and still have their powers, but the Dove is killed off in a quick "trivia death", leaving the Hawk alone.  There was another HAWK & DOVE series in which the Hawk was teamed up with a new female Dove-- I only read a few of those, and don't remember much about the series.  Then the Hawk was revealed to be the villain Monarch in one of DC's later "event" series, I think ARMAGEDDON (which I also didn't read) but I guess he too was killed off.  Better if this B & B story had been left to stand as the last statement on these two time-bound characters. 

At this time, BRAVE & BOLD had a backup feature "Nemesis" about a master-of-disguise type hero.  The stories by Cary Burkett never did much for me (though the art by Dan Spiegle was nice) so I won't take time to review the installment in this issue.