If you were a child reading comics in the late 80’s, your childhood is officially dead. And if you read Rob Liefeld as a child in the 80’s your childhood was stillborn. Let’s move on before you try to figure out what that last line meant.
I was a bit older than a child when I came across Hawk and Dove, the first comic Rob Liefeld ever drew. There was a crazy, undeniable energy to his work. For all of that, however, even with a good inker helping and likely saving his hide, Liefeld’s artwork as the 4 issue limited progressed looked uneven and…well, sloppy wasn’t in my vocabulary back then as a reader, but that’s what I could have said.
When his New Mutants came out, I don’t think I even made the connection between the art in that book and his art in Hawk and Dove at first. His pencil style had changed and not in a good way. I loved his early pinup art and got frustrated with the New Mutants and X-Force stories, which never matched even the remote promise his ad images conveyed. Through it all, I kept buying him. I kept thinking and hoping he would get better.
It took me until not even Youngblood #1 but one of theYoungblood specials that came out. Jesus. Mind you, this self abuse is not uncommon to fanboys. I think this same hopeless hope has been carrying Marvel readers from crossover to crossover ever since House of M. Still, i walked this long trail of hope and eventual disappointment with the works of Liefeld, Todd MaFarlane and Jim Lee (Marvel Zombies from the nineties were like other zombies except they ate their own brains).
Alan Moore said it best: “When you find out you’ve been standing in shit, you don’t jump up and down in the shit to punish it, you walk away.” Lesson eventually kind-of-learned, for nearly two decades, I bought next to nothing related to those Image artists and zilch from Liefeld (the Alan Moore Supreme run with Liefeld’s covers and one page contributions don’t count).
Why go back now you ask? Ah yes, the point: It struck me that this book could have been taken up by Liefeld as a fun, back to basics exercise. Hawk and Dove was not a great book, but it made for a fun read at the time. Could twenty years of bad decisions and dwindling outcomes change a man and make him want to go back to his roots? Was this introspection from a man seemingly incapable of it? Should I have read online previews and answered my questions before spending money?
Anyway, I wanted to know what Liefeld was going to do with this opportunity–one he clearly didn’t earn–placed on his lap.
Forget Liefeld’s drawing. Forget the no-feet/no-nose jokes. Forget that Liefeld can’t even make an unconscious, limp body look convincing in a double page spread. Forget that the one good point of Liefeld’s drawing in DC’s eyes was the fact that it probably distracted readers from wondering why Sterling Gates is writing a reboot book stuck in a Blackest Night/Brightest Day storyline. And the first issue’s last line of dialogue, “You smell like…Hawk and Dove,” is a line that some comic critic needs to use as a catchphrase for reviewing Liefeld’s future books. It just won’t be me.
Bottom line: Reading this was like going back home again only to run into that one guy from your neighborhood who never left, never grew up, never moved on, because they found a niche that made them feel like a king without having to work very hard or even very well. And then you leave feeling sadder and more empty then that person feels.
Hawk and Dove #1 foreshadowing what my next high school reunion will be like in a couple of months. It’s probably a sign I should avoid that too, but hey, history shows I’m a sucker for punishment.