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Year of the Artist, Day 196: Rob Liefeld, Part 5 – Hawk & Dove #1

hawkdove4004 (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Rob Liefeld, and the issue is Hawk & Dove #1, which was published by DC and is cover dated November 2011. Enjoy!

When the DCnU rolled around, I decided to read and review every single new #1. We know how that turned out! What this meant, of course, is that I bought a Rob Liefeld comic, as he was the artist on the new version of Hawk & Dove (I used the ampersand to distinguish it from the earlier Hawk and Dove, because that’s just how I roll!). So let’s see what happened when Liefeld returned to the book that got him noticed in the first place!

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And … here’s the first page. One thing I noticed pretty quickly is that Liefeld has pulled waaaaaay back on inking lines onto characters’ faces, and that’s nothing but a good thing. It doesn’t mean his art is great, but it certainly makes it easier to deal with. He still inks things a bit oddly, as with Alexander Quirk in Panel 2, who appears to have a mustache even though he doesn’t and still has more severe cheekbones than most normal humans. Panel 2 cracks me up a bit, as everyone sits, mouths agape, at Quirk’s announcement. Liefeld doesn’t do anything too egregious on this page, although the tables in the coffee shop do look a bit strange. The asymmetrical face on the newscaster in Panel 4 is charmingly old-school – Liefeld does everything free-hand, man! The inking in that panel is pretty good – it’s not excessive, obviously, and Liefeld even considers that she would have darker eye make-up on. Matt Yackey colored this, and we see the influence of the more modern techniques, especially in Panel 1, where the clouds are fringed with sunlight. Yackey’s colors are fairly restrained here – he doesn’t go overboard with rendering, so the light in Panel 4, for instance, looks far more natural than what many colorists would do. Liefeld seems like the kind of artist who would benefit from flat colors, and on this page, Yackey finds a pretty good balance between flatter colors and some more textured tricks that have sprung up over the past 10-15 years.

hawkdove1001

Liefeld’s characters aren’t as freakish anymore, but they’re still occasionally odd, anatomically. The zombie thing is … fine, especially as it’s supposed to be, you know, a zombie, as Liefeld’s commitment to basic shapes works for something degraded like that. The inking on the zombie is fine, too – it ought to be a bit more heavily inked, and Liefeld actually uses thicker blacks quite well on the body. Dawn’s body is a bit stranger. One thing you might have noticed about Liefeld over the years is that it often looks like he doesn’t erase lines. The lines in Panel 1 look a bit sloppy on the right side of the panel, but they’re overshadowed by the darker lighting and the zombie attack. Dawn is wearing a diaphanous capelet, I guess, but that doesn’t come across very well in Panel 1, and it’s not significantly better in Panel 2, although it’s certainly clearer. But look at Dawn in Panel 2. Her cape is haphazardly drawn, with the lines “below” it on Dawn’s body simply inked a bit more heavily to indicate the the cape is see-through. It’s sloppy, and it really does look like a sketch, as if Liefeld was simply laying out the page and decided to leave it as is. That’s one of the many things that’s frustrating about his art. Meanwhile, he gives Dawn fairly large breasts, which would work if it weren’t for the tiny waist he also gives her. Then, we can see that Dawn has fairly thick thighs, so her proportions are even more out of whack. There’s really no reason for it. Plus, her unfortunately-designed costume gives us the butt of the dove pointing right down at her crotch, which … yeah.

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Hank punches out a zombie and then insults it, which just seems mean. The poor dude didn’t intend to be a zombie, did he? Anyway, Liefeld gets to do his favorite emotion – pure rage – and he does it pretty well, especially in Panel 2, when he inks around Hank’s mouth, showing only his gritted teeth. Hank’s punch in Panel 1 is okay, although, as usual, the devil is in the details with regard to Liefeld. He shows a lot of characters from high vantage points so that he doesn’t have to draw necks. Hank’s mask allows Liefeld to draw another circle for his head, which makes it easy on him. Hank’s body is a bit better – it’s not great, but it’s better. His broad shoulders and thick torso don’t narrow too much to his waist, which means his giant thighs don’t look as silly as they did on Dove. Again, the inking on the zombie and Hawk is pretty good – Liefeld has learned a bit more about nuance, it seems. Yackey’s colors again straddle a good line between flat and more textured, so that this doesn’t seem over-rendered but it still looks modern. The biggest issue with Panel 1 is Hank’s “wings” or “cape.” Liefeld simply draws spears of fabric ending around Hank’s chest, but there doesn’t seem to be anything connecting them to his body. He does this constantly throughout the issue – how do they stick to Hank’s chest? It’s a mystery. Meanwhile, the poor zombie doesn’t have any man-junk – he’s like a Ken doll. That’s just mean.

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Washi Watanabe talks to Hawk and Dove about the zombies on the plane, and we get this sequence. Like we saw with Alexander Quirk, Liefeld inks the corners of Watanabe’s mouth in Panel 2 strangely to imply that he has a mustache even though he doesn’t. Like so many other colorists on Liefeld’s comics, Yackey doesn’t color Watanabe’s lips (women, of course, get thick red lips, as we’ve seen, but men obviously have tan lips), so his mouth looks a bit strange. But I wanted to take a look at Watanabe’s facial expression in Panel 1. Why is he smiling so devilishly? He’s looking away from the people to whom he’s speaking and smiling at the readers, as if we’re supposed to be sharing some joke with him. What’s the joke, Washi? It’s very disturbing. Also, his hand is a deformed stump. In the previous panel, he was holding what appeared to be a notebook, but I’m not sure what he’s holding here. Man. And thin mirror shades? 1999 called – they want their look back.

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At this point, Dawn was dating Boston Brand, and I don’t even want to know how that worked. So she hangs out with Deadman, and we get this sequence. I’m not going to write about the backgrounds – Liefeld has never been too interested in backgrounds – and instead focus on the characters. Boston is bald, so again Liefeld can draw a nice, round head, and both he and Dawn are slightly under the point of view, so Liefeld skips drawing their necks. Liefeld gives Boston those wide shoulders so that his upper body becomes a “V,” and while some people might mock the fact that his legs end at the knees, I’m not going to, as the way Boston is “flying” makes it perfectly plausible that the lower half of his legs are hidden behind his thighs and torso. Dawn is more problematic, as it seems like Liefeld wants to imply that she’s running, yet the fact that both her feet are on the ground make it look like she’s power-walking. Her waist is a bit thicker than before – not much, but a bit – but her hips still jut out rather wider than is plausible. Liefeld inks in her ribs rather heavily underneath her breasts, which has the effect of making her look more gaunt even though her waist isn’t as wide as it was in the earlier example. In Panel 3, Liefeld draws her jumping off the building and landing on a completely random car, crushing it. What the fuck, Dawn? She’s just running along rooftops chatting with her ethereal lover (hey, remember the Human League song “Ethereal Lover”? – good stuff!) and she decides to jump down on a car and crush it. Isn’t she supposed to be a superhero? Man, that’s a dick move, Dawn.

So that’s a look at Rob Liefeld’s career. He was working for DC in the brave new rebooted world, but I’m not sure what he’s doing right now. He’s had a very odd career, and while I don’t like his art very much, I do wish he hadn’t gotten so big so fast, because it’s clear from his early work and even intermittently since then that he knows what he’s doing, but he too often lets flash take precedence over substance. But what do I know – the dude is living the life he wants, I guess, and that’s great for him.

It’s time for a new artist tomorrow, and I was thinking about doing a bunch of Image founders in a row, but I decided to break them up a bit. I was also going to focus on one old-school artist, but I’m still missing a crucial section of his career, which I think should be getting shored up soon, so I can’t do him yet. I will go old-school, though, just with a different dude, one who drew one of the most influential stories in comics history! Come back to see who it is, and spend some of your precious, precious time in the archives!

30 Comments

tom fitzpatrick

July 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm

If I didn’t know any better, it seems like Liefeld’s art looks “clean.”

Well, it’s a lot better from his Youngblood days.

Still, I wouldn’t go out and BUY every Liefeld book on the market today! ;-)

Man, those glasses on the newscaster in the first panel are really twisted. The earpieces don’t connect to the same place on either side.

Then, in the last panel here, where Dawn is landing on the car, I think her right leg is growing laterally out of her hip. And where she’s “power walking” why is her right hand cocked way up in the air like that?

This is all better than X-Force, but it’s still not very good.

tom: Yeah, I got this one for free – well, at least on credit from my store. That mitigated it a bit!

Nu-D: The glasses on Quirk (he’s the villain, not a newscaster) are part of Liefeld’s old-school charm, as I noted with the woman on the page – she’s asymmetrical, but Liefeld ain’t care, man! It’s goofy but, to me, a bit adorable.

The leg on Dawn in that last panel, though – yeesh. I missed that. Thanks for pointing it out. And I guess her arm is so high because she’s meant to be running, but she’s not? Beats me!

Whoever they’re on, those glasses would sit on his face like a ship tilting at sea!

That page reminds me of McFarlane’s old Spawn gimmick with the three newscasters on each page.

I think this art is a world away from those X-Force pages. The panels are far better constructed: clear panels and images, and while his ability to draw people in the world isn’t much better, he knows to avoid those images.

The critiques of anatomy don’t mean a lot to me. His artwork is a kind of Michael Bay fantasy. It would be as unreasonable to critique the exaggeration of Scottie Young.

There is a lot of laziness still. In that Hawk & Dove, I remember one page a guy is putting on a bow tie, and on the next, it’s a neck tie (or something like that, I’m not going back three years to reread it). But that’s an editors mistake, and should’t have been accepted.

I’m surprised at the amount of development I can see in these panels. I had forgotten how muddy and unreadable those X-Force issues got.

Unrelated to the art: Boston was resurrected at the end of “Blackest Night” and developed a relationship with Dove over the course of “Brightest Day.” This appears to have been one of those rare plot threads that continued from the DC-old to the DCNu. I don’t think it lasted well into the Nu52, though–Boston possessed a woman’s body and propositioned Dove, and she was pretty disgusted by it. I’m not sure whether it was because of the possession, the kinkiness of using a woman, or Boston just being a jerk, but I think the relationship dropped from there.

That’s not a random car. It’s the car driving away from the police in the first panel.

I love that laptop in the…dare I say it…background, on the first page has like 12 rows of keys. Proof that Liefeld isn’t drawing with any software assistance.

That lady in Panel 4…it’s like her eyes are symmetrical to shape of her head, so it’s her nose, mouth and jaw that are actually asymmetrical. Now human’s faces aren’t 100% symmetrical but this is pushing it quite a bit.

Boston Brand is rocking a stock Liefeld Flying Pose. Dove’s tiny little T-Rex left arm is cute.

20+ years in the game and Liefeld still insists on drawing people from the a head-on perspective. The frightened man in the coffee shop on the first page has cheeks that start BEHIND HIS EYES as Liefeld tried to switch it up and draw someone in profile. I’d like to think that Liefeld drew Larry David into that panel as well but I know better than that.

The drawing of the Washington Monument isn’t that bad, but I think the colorist really sells it by adding dimensionality to it. Perhaps Liefeld’s art is really inspired by ancient artworks of the Egyptians who didn’t utilize horizon lines, vanishing points, or depth in their images but instead made the most important figures the largest while minimizing the less prominent figures and positioning them on the same plane or below the important figures. Actually now a lot of Liefeld’s art becomes clear. I think I’ve cracked it!

Or as Alan Partridge once said, “Zombies, by their very nature, are inconsistent!”

def: The biggest problem I have with Liefeld’s anatomy is how inconsistent it is. Yes, Young (and others) exaggerate, but they’re far more consistent with their exaggeration. In Liefeld’s case, it just seems completely random.

Adam: That sounds about right for the New DCU!

I Grok Spock: That’s a neat theory. A couple of years ago, when I was doing first pages, I mentioned something like that with regard to Fletcher Hanks, because he also didn’t care too much about depth in his drawings. Maybe Liefeld is thinking that way too!

The colorist, Yackey, does some decent work here, as you noted. It’s not great, but he recognizes that Liefeld definitely doesn’t need as much rendering as modern colorists use on a lot of art. That’s crucial in and of itself.

The leaning monument of Washington.

Liefeld’s storytelling is always so bad that you can barely tell what is supposed to be going on. If he ever did a silent issue, the lack of words would guarantee that the story would be impossible to decipher.

Nice to see that after 20-plus years in the business Liefeld finally learned how to draw feet.

That wasn’t so hard, now was it, Rob?

I struggled with preordering H&D when the New52 came out. I was curious about what a current (at the time) Liefeld book would look like. On the other hand, I had no previous experience with the characters. In the end I decided to check it out instead of ordering, and one very brief flip through at the store made me glad I had not committed to it.
But I will agree, this is an improvement over what came before. And I will say something nice, even: regarding the background on page 5 with Dove “running” on the rooftop, at least the rooftop has a nice edge with dimension to it, and not a 100% flat picture. That is a vast improvement right there!
And I will stop with that, because I want to end on a nice note. :-)

Thanks for this trip down memory lane of the 90′s, Greg. I was perusing some comic covers and I realized that the 90′s also had godawful covers (at least, the Marvel comics did). ::shudder:: I don’t really miss that decade of comics.

Looking forward to the next pick for tomorrow! This is fun!

cool arrow: Yay, feet!

David: The rooftop has some depth! Who’da thunk it?!?!?

I’m glad you enjoyed ol’ Rob. I’m sure some others coming up will be equally fun. Tomorrow’s artist is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from Liefeld!

I really really hope it some one good tomorrow Greg. Neal Adams, maybe? Please? Dear God for the hope of my sanity after so much of the Feld….

I’ll bet it’ll be Bernie Kringsten’s “Master Race”.

“Liefeld draws her jumping off the building and landing on a completely random car, crushing it”

I don’t have the issue (and never will) but panel 1 shows a red car being chased by a police car. Panel 3 shows Dove crashing down on the hood of a red car. That would seem to hint of sequential storytelling to me.

But the anatomy? Dear God – the anatomy. I can’t get past the basic lack of artistic skill in a “superstar” professional artist. Just pathetic.

Jeff Nettleton

July 15, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Yeah, Rob was definitely looking better there. He’s still not gonna win awards; but it’s miles better than his Image stuff.

As you know I am always a bit of a Liefeld defender, to a certain extent, namely until the start of Image Comics. I would file, even Youngblood at the beginning, under youthful enthusiasm, not really caring for anatomy, storytelling etc. just for pure,, mindless entertainment. Regrettably Liefeld didn’t develop one bit in two decades, still using the same templates for his work, this is where I really draw the line and ignore his work.

What is more important is that by checking more of the archive I just came across the Ditko Creepy work and the Creepy Archives. Great stuff, great stuff, it is so much fun seeing all the great art and stories. Your daily feature really broadens my horizon and this after thirty years of avid comic reading. Just when you think you know it all something new creeps up. It is a blast, even the Liefeld days made me check Uncanny 245, what a great comic.

Looking forward for more, better you never stop;))

In that first panel with Washi Watanabe, I think that thing he’s “holding” is supposed to be his thumb. Matt Yackey just colored it wrong. With that said, I give props to Matt Yackey for being able to decipher Rob’s art (for the most part, anyway).

Ethan Shuster

July 16, 2014 at 5:49 am

Liefeld does deserve a lot of criticism for his art, but it doesn’t seem fair to complain Dove’s breasts are too big in conjunction with a tiny waist. Well, it’s fair, but no exactly exclusive to Liefeld…

I’ll have to give Rob credit here – he actually improved from his X-Force and Heroes Reborn CA days. Still needs more work, but at least he’s not burying everything in cross-hatchings and he’s drawing feet that don’t belong to pixies.

AngryAtheist and Anonymous: Yeah, that’s my bad about the car. It’s not the greatest transition, but I still should have caught it. Perhaps if Liefeld had pulled back a bit and shown shadows where the occupants of the car were, it would have been clearer, but I missed that. Good job, Rob!

Mr. Magnets: Not quite!

Mike: D’oh! You figured it out! Although just the artist – I’m not going to start with that story!

Dimo1: Thanks for the nice words! I always like finding out about new creators and work by creators I didn’t know about, so if I can help others, that’s awesome. I have to stop, though – if I tried to do this forever, I think I would go crazy! :)

Reno: I guess that’s possible. He is holding a notebook in the panel before this, so maybe Yackey thought he was still holding it but Liefeld forgot to draw it? It’s a weird hand, regardless!

Ethan: That’s certainly true, but I still feel the need to point it out!

In my opinion one of the all time worst examples of Rob Liefeld anatomy (and, yes, I know that there are sooooo many to choose from) is his drawning of Enchantress from Heroes Reborn Avengers #1…

http://s23.postimg.org/ep28nxtqz/Liefeld_Enchantress_A.jpg

I mean, seriously, what the hell was Liefeld thinking with this one?!? Even by his ridiculous standards it is just so insanely wrong and messed up.

At least the Liefeld Enchantress managed to find work later on as Lady Stilt-Man.

LouReedRichards

July 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

Wow! Not only is his drawing of the Enchantress horrible, he also got rid of her cool leggings!

Those leggings always make me think of Hostess Ding Dongs.

Mmmmmm, ding dongs :)

The Enchantress’ stockings always reminded me of that Rubik’s Magic puzzle…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubik's_Magic

Leave it to Liefeld to take one of the sexiest characters that Jack Kirby ever conceived and totally ruin her.

By the last five days, nearly every time I’ve posted a comment in response to Greg’s Year of the Artist entries, I keep accidentally typing “Liefled.” Or maybe it’s my subconscious at work :)

Okay, I know, we are not supposed to be mean and insult the creators. So I will close with this: I do think it is sad that almost a quarter century later Liefeld is still drawing EXACTLY the same, with all of the myriad accompanying flaws. In that time, he has seemly learned nothing from his past failures. Meanwhile, there are at least a few artists who got into the comic book biz after Liefeld who started out blatantly apeing his style, but over time they have actually developed & refined their work, to the point that they are now better than the guy who originally inspired them.

Tomorrow’s artist is almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from Liefeld!

Michelangelo?

Ben: I agree. It’s one of the reasons I kind of wish he hadn’t gotten so big so fast, because why should he ever change? I think his time has passed somewhat, and I hoped that maybe he would start to actually learn more, but who knows. If he’s been smart with his money over the years, maybe he STILL doesn’t have to change!

Hoosier X: Did he draw comics? :)

Rob really does everything free-hand? This explains a lot about why his work seems so haphazard in terms of faces and bodies being distorted and off kilter. It’s a doodler’s work rather than that of an experienced craftsman’s on display. Lot’s of great artists exaggerate form, but as you say Greg there is a consistency whereas Rob’s work seems more a case of not having mastery over what he wants to depict, which again explains why his work has always reminded me of notebook doodling. I love this series. As an artist myself I find these looks at the works of different artists to very instructive.

Jim: I’m just assuming that Liefeld does everything free hand, because I can’t imagine he doesn’t! I just wouldn’t know what to say if he was using photo reference and his stuff looked like this!

Thanks for the nice words. Even though I already own all these comics, I’m enjoying going back over them and examining them more closely!

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