Justice League Unlimited, “Hawk And Dove” (season 1, episode 3; originally aired July 23, 2005)
Before diving into the meat of this week’s episode, let’s all take a moment to appreciate the work of casting and voice director Andrea Romano, who populates each episode of JLU with actors that have amazing chemistry together and display a phenomenal understanding of their characters’ personalities. She outdoes herself on “Hawk And Dove,” bringing in high profile voice actors like Michael York and Ed Asner (both DCAU veterans) to voice Greek gods, and recruiting The Wonder Years duo of Fred Savage and Jason Hervey to bring the titular pair of superhero brothers to life. Savage and Hurley were originally intended to play similar roles as their former television counterparts, with Savage as the younger wimpier brother opposite Hervey’s raging brute, but they switched roles during their recording session to make an even better story.
Continuing JLU’s journey into more political territory than it’s predecessor, "Hawk And Dove" sees the superhero team intervening in a conflict between two opposing political factions in the same country. The titular duo was created by Steve Skeates and Steve Ditko to represent the different sides of 1960s politics, with the aggressive Hank Hall embodying the ideals of “war hawks” who wanted to see the U.S. engage in more military campaigns while his brother Don is a “war dove” who favors peace. To save their father, they were given superpowers by the mythical Lords of Order and Chaos, but this episode skips over their origin story and throws them right into action.
Kaznia is a country that has become primarily associated with Wonder Woman during the series, most notably in the season 2 Justice League episode “Maid Of Honor.” Diana has an inherent connection to the battlefield, and there’s a reason why Ares, the Greek god of war, is one of her main villains. Using a living suit of armor created for him by Hephaestus, Ares (making his first DCAU appearance) inserts himself into the social revolution in Kaznia, disguising his appearance as he works both sides against each other. His machine is powered by rage, and as long as the two opposing factions continue to fight, his Annihilator will only grow stronger.
Raised on an island of militant Amazons, Wonder Woman is one of the most aggressive members of the Justice League, and lately the rest of the team has been a bit worried about her behavior. When a group of bank robbers ruins her day off, Diana gives them such a pummeling that J’onn has to tell her to stop before she gravely injures them. Wonder Woman is a great character to pair with Hawk and Dove because she has a warmongering side and a pacifist side that she struggles to keep balanced, and teaming with the two brothers helps her achieve that equilibrium by seeing the extremes of those qualities.
Diana finds Hank and Don in the middle of a bar fight with a group of meatheads who don’t agree with Don’s bleeding heart liberal views, and she gives the brothers the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is by putting them in the middle of a war zone to see how their respective philosophies play out. Featuring the story by Ron Zimmerman and a teleplay by Robert Goodman, “Hawk And Dove” isn’t the most memorable episode of the first season of JLU, but it does continue to plant seeds that will grow into this first season’s anti-Justice League narrative. This is the second instance this season where the Justice League has interfered with a political conflict; who gave them that jurisdiction? Where does their sphere of influence end? Who would be able to stop them if they suddenly decided to stop fighting for good?
While there’s a negative side to the Justice League becoming more involved in international affairs, as this episode shows, there are clearly many benefits as well. If superheroes didn’t get involved in Kaznia, it’s very likely that the military forces never would have discovered the supernatural origin of Ares’ weapon. When fighting a god, it’s not a bad idea to have someone who’s more than human on your side. The advantage of having Hawk and Wonder Woman on the field is that the Kaznians now have a stronger line of defense against the Annihilator, a giant suit of armor that catches missiles like footballs. Those two heroes handle the physical side of things, but it’s Dove’s superhuman mind that ultimately saves the day. The weapon runs on rage, making the tranquil Dove the perfect opponent for it. When the Annihilator comes face-to-face with Don’s diminutive figure, it stops in its tracks, paralyzed by a new sense of peace.
The writers of this episode aren’t very subtle with their themes, but then again, Hawk and Dove aren’t the subtlest characters in the first place. Still, there aren’t many children’s cartoons that are tackling the philosophical differences between conservatives and liberals. JLU is actually a great tool for teaching kids about politics, tackling important world issues in the context of a fantastic superhero series. Not only does this episode introduce the idea that there are still countries plagued by civil war to young viewers, it does so in a way that resonates on a personal level through the competing ideologies of the two superhero brothers. It may be hard for a child to grasp the idea of a nation’s people rising up against their government, but everyone knows what it’s like to meet someone who thinks differently than you. There isn’t always a right and a wrong way to do something, and this episode emphasizes that communication is the most important tool for making everyone happy.
- When those two thieves see Diana standing in the middle of the road, they speed up their car because apparently they want to add vehicular manslaughter to their rap sheet.
- For a completely different take on Ares, I highly recommend reading the current Wonder Woman series over at DC, where Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have turned the formerly studly villain into a weary old uncle for Diana.
- Steve Ditko is a master superhero costume designer. He does fantastic work capturing Hawk and Dove’s individual personalities in their costumes, with Hawk’s red ribbons creating the illusion of a formidable wingspan while Dove is in a much softer suit that is more graceful than threatening.
- “They weren’t misunderstood! They thought we were food!”
- Hawk: “There’s no one inside that thing! How do you fight that?” Wonder Woman: “You hit it ‘til it breaks.”
- “Come back when you have more time, I’ll let that suit out a little.”