Hawk and Dove, algorithms and applies, plus Hellfire!

After my recent Atomic Junk Shop post on Hawk and Dove, I realized I didn’t have the complete miniseries that launched the 1990s reboot of the characters. Ordering HAWK AND DOVE: Ghosts and Demons by Barbara Kesel, Karl Kesel and Rob Liefeld plugged that gap. Hank Hall is back in college (after a stint in Nicaraguan jail for trying to overthrow the Sandinistas), trying to start his regular life over while occasionally fighting crime as Hawk. Then a woman turns up claiming to be the new Dove, the identity taken by Hank’s dead brother Don. Hank is not happy and determined to find out who’s behind the mask. Then there’s Kestrel, a claw-fingered psychopath who’s determined to become Hank’s new partner for reasons of his own.

This was a fun five issue mini-series, like the ongoing one that followed. Making Hawk and Dove avatars of War and Chaos was a great idea, and it’s a shame later writers dropped it.

WEAPONS OF MATH DESTRUCTION: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by mathematician Cathy O’Neil looks at how Big Data algorithms have become increasingly popular as a totally rational way to evaluate college applications, job applicants, figure where to prioritize policing and so on. Unfortunately they’re put together by people, which often results in perpetuating biases or social inequities. As O’Neil says, if colleges in 1960 had an algorithm to evaluate applications, it might have noticed that male graduates do much more with their education than women (it was still legal to discriminate against women in hiring back then); obviously men are better suited to college than women! A lot of this is stuff I’ve read about before, but O’Neal does a good job putting it together. That said, I don’t buy that Big Data is the real issue in some of the examples she cites; it may make it easier for Facebook to curate political news and shape what we see, but Fox and Rush Limbaugh were sucking people into their alternate facts years earlier.

Lisa Goldstein’s IVORY APPLES is a welcome return to form after her disappointing Weighing Shadows. Protagonist Ivy is niece to Maeve, the reclusive author of the eponymous cult classic fantasy (I thought of her as Harper Lee if To Kill a Mockingbird had been a fantasy, though Goldstein has said her influence was Lud-in-the-Mist author Hope Mirrlees). Enter Kate, an initially friendly, then creepy woman who insinuates herself into Ivy’s family, takes over and proceeds to gaslight and abuse everyone (Goldstein describes her as Evil Mary Poppins though she reminds me of Diana Wynn Jones’ Aunt Maria) — if that’s is a trigger for you, think twice about reading this. Ivy flees and takes to the streets for three years, then decides she has to return home and help her siblings. But Kate wants to find Maeve and she’s not giving up until she does …

Goldstein’s magical realist work is always a little off-the-wall, and this is no exception. It feels like a rather grim Y/A mashed up with a fantasy about children’s fiction (something she’s done before — I must reread Dark Cities Underground soon) and creativity. Tying creativity to some sort of magical muse is a concept that has come to annoy me; while it’s not a dealbreaker, it did bug me some. Overall, though, I liked this one.

As a fan of The AvengersHellfire Club episode and the Marvel Hellfire Club inspired by that episode, I was interested to learn about the real club in Evelyn Lord’s THE HELLFIRE CLUBS: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies. Unfortunately the book was a major disappointment: while I’m not surprised to learn the club’s reputation for diabolism and blasphemy was exaggerated, the reveal that they mostly sat around drinking, whoring and maybe talking atheism and politics (“maybe” because the Club’s activities were secret and there’s still little known for sure) hardly requires writing a book.

Apparently Lord couldn’t make a book out of it as she brings in multiple other clubs (the Mohocks, the Beggars Benison) with similar reputation only to assure us they weren’t as black as they were painted either. Another problem is that Lord’s a ploddingly dull writer. If this had been shaped as a narrative it might have held my interest but instead the information just sits there like a lump puddying.

#SFWApro. Covers by Rob Liefeld (top) and John Byrne (bottom).

 

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