Friday, March 23, 2012

Hawk and Dove Get Robbed

It seems like every comics-loving, comics-mocking blog - including mine - focuses almost exclusively on comics from the past. Aren't there any new comics worth mocking? Surely there must be new ground to tread, some comic published today more worthy of dissection than yet another issue of Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane? Isn't there anything terrible being put out by a major publisher?

Oh, right, Rob Liefeld still makes comics. In case you haven't heard of him, Rob Liefeld is one of the prime movers behind the major trends of 1990s comics. He took over penciling on X-Men spin-off The New Mutants, which was rebooted into the wildly successful X-Force, which he penciled, inked and plotted. He was one of the young creators behind the formation of Image Comics, a company still going strong today. Despite controversy, including disputes with fellow creators and allegations of swiping panels from other artists, Liefeld's work was immensely popular, and he continues to write, pencil and ink today for a pretty rabid fanbase. And if you believe half of what is written about him on the internet, he is the worst artist in the history of the medium, he's the reason you were fooled into thinking buying twelve copies of Youngblood issue one would put your kids through college, and he probably killed your dog.

But let's judge for ourselves, shall we? Liefeld is the writer, co-penciller, co-inker, co-cover artist and sole cover creditee for Hawk and Dove 7, cover dated May 2012 (it's from the fuuuutuuure!!!). The cover shows our heroes, Hawk and Dove, at the mercy of the Hunter! They seem to be at the bottom of a swimming pool for some reason, I'm sure it'll be explained inside. The Hunter's looking particularly...virile. His nether regions are certainly prominent, if a bit confusing. I'm not sure if I should be aroused by his ample manhood or revolted by his giant front-butt. I'm digging the facial hair - it must take a lot of work to style your beard exactly like your hair, but smaller and upside-down.

Smart of him to wear that weight-lifting belt if he's going to be hefting the heroes over his head like that. (And it's got pouches! Wouldn't be a Rob Liefeld character without tiny pouches. And shoulder spikes. And a biceps strap. And a severed foot sticking out of the small of his back.) Although on closer inspection, he isn't really lifting either of them - Hawk is holding onto his spear, and Hunter's just clenching his fist in front of Dove's neck without gripping anything - I'm not sure why she doesn't let go instead of holding on, splaying her fingers and gritting her teeth. Sorry, her tooth. Her single mouth-filling tooth.

Well, this action-packed cover certainly has me dying to know what's happening inside!

It's Dawn Granger, dancing at a club with two guys who I'm just going to assume are gay. I hope they don't notice that Dawn and Dove have the same tooth, that might reveal her secret identity.

The original Hawk and Dove were created in 1968 as supporting characters in Teen Titans. (Correction! Thanks to Martin for catching my mistake here - they first appeared in Showcase, and then had a brief run in their own title before being folded into the Teen Titans family.) They were originally symbols of war and peace, with Hank Hall a conservative tough guy and his brother Don a liberal pacifist. Don died and was replaced with Dawn (get it?), and with the Viet Nam war no longer quite so relevant Hawk and Dave were reinvented as "avatars of chaos and order". Dove's powers include super-strength, agility and flight, but not usually the power to stretch her torso into impossible configurations. I understand the need for some artistic license here - I mean, what do you expect Liefeld to do, pose her so that we can't get a side-shot of her ass and front-shot of her tits at the same time? Be serious. But it does look a bit like if you pulled on her head and her feet at the same time her torso would stretch into string and then neatly sever into two pieces, like a wax blob in a lava lamp.

Dawn's out dancing up a storm, trying to take her mind off of her ex-boyfriend, Deadman, a ghost she had a thing with. (It's nice that the necrophiliac community has a superhero to call their own.) Her partner Hank is tagging along to make sure she doesn't get into trouble.

Uh-oh, trouble! I have to admit, that line would totally work on me, and I don't generally like guys with one arm way more muscular than the other. Luckily, Hank is there to save the day, and he beats the shit out of Lefty for giving Dawn an unsolicited back hug.

There are a few things I like about Liefeld's art - his layouts are often interesting, and I like what he's done here, with Hank's head placed in front of the panels above and Dawn's placed behind, giving a sense of forward movement in a playful way. I had to spend a lot of time on this page before I noticed that, because it's hard to look at anything but Dawn's eyes her eyes oh god what's wrong with her eyes

"Gotcha nose! No, seriously, I've got your nose right here, in my pocket. It fell off while you were dancing." In Liefeld's defense, noses are hard. Look at Hank's nose in the top panel, it's like it's pushing its way out of his face, dragging all the skin behind it. No wonder Dawn doesn't have one, Liefeld needed a rest.

Hank tells Dawn it's her fault that guy assaulted her (" just worked him into a frenzy with your delicate bump and grind."), so Dawn promises to stop having fun and Hank forgives her. DC Comics, the home of strong female characters.

Just as the two are about to head out for chicken and waffles, Hank is shot through the shoulder with a harpoon by this guy...

The Hunter! He looks a little different than he did on the cover, but that's fine, covers often depict events that don't literally happen within the book. He's changed out the funky zebra print vest and giant metal shoulder pads for some big gold suspenders, the better to show off his freakishly massive chest. He's added a metal strap around his thigh. The wrist bands have become long cuffs covering his whole forearm. Looks like the weight-lifting belt is gone too, but in return, more pouches! Oh, and he doesn't have a face.

Liefeld frequently utilizes a shading technique which some might call an "artistic use of shadow" but which I call "he didn't feel like drawing that part". I can't quite figure out where the source of light would be in this picture. The moon is glowing like the sun behind him, but the shadows on his back leg and the ledge suggest a source slightly above and in front. Either way, that is one highly focused beam of illumination, to leave his entire body relatively lit, but plunge only the very front of his face into pitch blackness, so that not even his eyes are reflecting light...but his teeth are perfectly visible. And there's a cutout in the light for his widow's peak, which falls into the shadow yet is somehow still lit. Yeah, this is not artistic license. This is, "Ugh, I have to draw another face?!? I JUST drew a face!"

Hawk and Dove shout their names, causing their costumes to appear. (One of their stranger but more convenient super powers.) Dove flies to the roof after their assailant, but the Hunter captures her in a net. Hawk, who cannot fly, flies to her rescue.

Meanwhile, Hunter has changed his costume. Since the previous page. The suspenders are gone, replaced with his zebra print vest with pointy gold shoulderpads. The thigh strap has changed legs, although it looks like he slips it off completely sometime between getting shoved by Hawk and hitting the wall. All the pouches seem to be gone, which is going to be a pain later when he gets home and can't find his keys. Most of his face seems to have appeared, he's just missing his left eye. So either Hunter shares Hawk and Dove's power of instantaneous costume change, or Liefeld just doesn't give a shit. Guess which option I favor?

Here's Hunter again, in the very next panel. The weight-lifting belt from the cover is back, but still sans pouches. The wrist cuffs have shrunk down to wrist bands, the better to leave his forearms unprotected. And he's added an adorable little necklace, maybe a shark's tooth? Can't really tell. I'm sure it's from something he killed, like the zebra vest - sorry, Siberian tiger vest. He's lost his guns somewhere, but he found a nice big knife. I'm going to assume he had it stashed on the roof somewhere, because I haven't seen anywhere on any of his costumes where that could have comfortably been hidden. Hawk asks about his missing eye, so I guess that's not shadow after all. It's a glue-on eye patch, maybe?

You know what else sucks to draw, besides eyeless sockets and faces and costume reference pictures? Backgrounds. Screw backgrounds, man, let's get to the action! I remember that they are fighting on a rooftop, so I guess those turquoise bubbles behind them are the night sky? Or maybe they're floating above that swimming pool from the cover? Or maybe it's a generic background image Liefeld found in his photo-editing software? Whatever it is, we're going to see a lot of it.

Ouch! Hunter slices off the top of Hawk's finger. All that chlorine in the pool is really going to sting!

While this has been going on, Dove has finally managed to get out of that net, and kicks Hunter from behind, causing him to drop his knife. Which is fine, because now he has a whip! Not sure where he managed to stash that either, there aren't a lot of hiding places in this blue-green bubbly void, but it appears in his hand mid-conversation.

Where did the back of his vest go? It was there a page or two ago. It's not really a vest anymore, it doesn't even connect at the bottom, it's just two distinct pieces of fur he's hooked on to his belt and shoulderpads. This panel gets worse the more I look at it, it's looks like his head is on backwards. Let's move on.

The object of Hunter's conquest is some of Dove's hair, which he doesn't need to get close to her to get, but does anyway, because a whip is really more of a close-range weapon. He manages to slice off a few locks with the whip, rather than just pulling them out by the root as one would expect. I guess it's a really sharp whip?

So he's got Hawk's finger and Dove's hair, which he insists on calling her "feathers". He also seems to think that losing a few strands of hair will weaken Dove enough for him to gain the upper hand, and...he's right?

I'm not even sure a bird losing a few feathers would significantly weaken it; I'm positive Dove's strength does not come from her hair. She's not Samson. I could understand being a little bemused from getting your hair cut with a whip, but there's a whole panel in between these of him gloating, plenty of time for her to recover. Maybe Hunter was supposed to do a lot more damage to Dove, but there was a miscommunication between the writer and the artist? Oh, right, both Liefeld. At least he remembered to put a wall in there, so that she didn't just travel forever into the blobby turquoise vastness of infinity.

Just as Hunter has our terrific twosome at his mercy, he's struck from behind by an unknown assailant. Since he's got the claw and...sigh...feathers he came for, he decides discretion is the better part of valor and teleports away. But who has saved our heroes?

She is a hideous monster freak, is who she is. She looks like she lost a fight with a taffy puller. Is this meant to be attractive? I'm so distracted by her elongated torso I almost didn't notice another example of Liefeld drawing a clenched fist in front of an object instead of holding it. She's supposed to be lowering her hood to reveal her face, but drawing hands holding stuff is hard.

The lady with all the extra ribs is named Xyra, she's a servant of Horus and a follower of the Hawk god, and the Hunter works for the D'yak, who oppose the Hawk god. Got that?

It's D'yak, Hawk, not Dayak! The apostrophe is silent. Can't you read?

Yes, please, get off that roof! It's making me fuzzy too. It almost looks like Liefeld forgot to put Xyra in this panel so just assigned her word balloon to Dove, which makes no sense at all. I must be drunk on turquoise sky bubbles!

The trio head off to either Hank or Dawn's apartment to rest and recuperate. They don't say whose apartment it is, but whoever it is has a really spartan design sense.

Hank's individual weakness is, I guess, getting a finger cut off, which is oddly specific but understandable. Dawn's is losing some hair, which is more specific and less understandable. Unless she's talking about being cross-eyed? Because that would probably be a disadvantage in battle. 

(I cropped this picture a little weird because otherwise I would have had to make it too small to read. That's not her vagina asking her questions.) (Although it wouldn't surprise me in the least.)

There's not much in the way of furniture in this apartment - this giant living room seems to have only one chair and a gigantic television. And as I said, there's virtually no decorations on the walls - that's a doorway behind Dawn, and what appears to be a painting of the same doorway behind Hank.

I like the color scheme, though. It's very institutional - a pale green stripe above paler green walls.

Oh, no, sorry, it's a darker green than I thought.

I mean brown. With no stripe at the top. Sorry.

Who can choose just one color? Let's go with the turquoise void again. (Are they back on the roof?) Yes, these are three sequential panels. But it's my fault for paying attention to the backgrounds again, instead of all this exciting exposition.

Yes, Dawn, please go to the safe house. This house is not safe, as its dimensions seem to be folding in on themselves. And you may want to get that crack in the wall fixed. And I'd say hit the light switch on your way out, but someone forgot to install any switches.

Meanwhile, the Hunter teleports to the lair of his boss, D'Khan, who enjoys a good featureless room as much as the rest of the cast.

You can call it "feathers" as much as you want. It's still fucking hair.

The issue comes to an end with a dramatic revelation and a striking pose from our villain, but all I see is that Hunter's eyepatch was clearly made with Photoshop's diamond shape and bucket fill tools. Hawk and Dove has sadly been cancelled, so Liefeld's got one issue left to wrap things up. Shall we tune in next issue to see the prophecy revealed, to find out whether Hawk will kill Dove, to see if Hunter settles on a costume, to watch more fight scenes between characters with impossible anatomy spouting stilted dialogue in front of unrealized backgrounds?

Nah. If the writer and artist can't put the effort in, why should I?


  1. And well done Brian. I jumped off the Hawk and Dove train a couple of issues back - I've now saved six dollars and my sanity!

    I do think you should buy next issue, and tell us all about it ...

  2. Thanks, Martin. I'll have to see, when the next issue comes out, if "it will be funny" triumphs over "it will be terrible".

  3. i've been laughing for five minutes straight!