So it’s come to this: due to some scheduling conflicts, I’ve become the guy saddled with the herculean task of reviewing the damn-near-critic-proof Hawk & Dove #1, one of the many “how did this get greenlit?” comics that baffle fans who only want to read about Batman and Green Lantern. Personally, I don’t really know how much comics Hawk and Dove can really sustain. I like their “He’s violent! She’s peaceful! They fight crime!” shtick, but I need more going on to make me want to read them. Maybe some domesticity, some personal life stuff, even a romance? Imagine a Hawk and Dove comic where they’re the perfect couple, but as soon as they costumes come on, it’s all clashing ideology. I’d love to read that.
Either way, you’re not getting any of that in this comic, and I’m sure nobody reading a Rob Liefeld comic wants that.
“A Rob Liefeld comic.” Whenever he draws something, it doesn’t even matter who’s writing it. Maybe because it’s often Fabian Niecieza, but The Man, The Legend, Rob Liefeld is so prominent and divisive in comics culture that whoever else is on the creative team suddenly becomes invisible. So, instead of “a Sterling Gates comic,” we describe Hawk and Dove as “a Rob Liefeld comic.”
Which is a shame, because Sterling Gates is a fine writer and I know that Hawk and Dove would be an equally fine comic if he had a different artistic collaborator other than The Man, The Legend. Instead, he’s found himself working with The Man, The Legend himself, and thus writes to The Man, The Legend’s style — lots of action and punching and things blowing up and some quips to go along with said fisticuffs and explosions. I have a feeling that, since Hawk & Dove was one of The Man, The Legend’s earliest professional works, this was conceived as a project for him and Gates was brought on as the guy who could put the right quips in the right mouths as Hawk punches a zombie. It’s also why The Infinite is so readable — Kirkman knows who he’s working with.
At this point I guess it’s time to say that I have no interest in slagging off The Man, The Legend because he is who he is and that one douchebag in the yellow hat made it passé to make fun of his art. Comics culture snarkiness has grown tedious (LOL AQUAMAN) and it’s more fun to think about things than to mock them.
I wish Rob Liefeld had an inker. His basic style is his style, and his storytelling is passable — anatomy aside, it’s often pretty easy to tell what’s going on in his books — but he needs an extra pen to keep him in check. That’s why his original Hawk and Dove looks pretty okay — clearly Karl Kesel did a lot of work to make those pages manageable.
Look at this:
And even this:
See how okay that looks? It’s not just because it’s a younger man drawing those pages. There’s an extra hand guiding those lines, putting them in the right place while still retaining the Liefeldness of the images. Even Jack Kirby had inkers, and that guy’s style is unmistakeable.
Otherwise, when left to his own devices we get misaligned faces —
— not to mention weird perspective issues:
His face is pointing in one direction, but his mouth is directly at us as if in the midst of some Grant Morrison-esque existential realization. It’s as if Liefeld built these faces out of Legos.
More annoying is the lack of consistency. Sometimes Liefeld forgets to draw the zombie’s chest harness on one page, but remembers on the following page. That is bad. I can live with weirdly stylized characters (hello, Frank Quitely) but the lack of consistency is what kills these pages. Liefeld needs a little bit of quality assurance in the form of a solid inker who can make up for his major failings.
But maybe I’m just reading this book too slowly. In recent years I’ve found that some fare (Old Man Logan, most recently) is meant to be read as quickly as possible without a regard for how overwhelmingly stupid it is. That is, if you’re just looking to enjoy dumb comics. Hawk & Dove is clearly not meant to be anything but dumb fun, and I like reading The Man, The Legend comics for their, erm, lack of pretension.
Then again, considering we’re talking about The Man, The Legend you’ve probably already made your mind about Hawk & Dove #1. Why did I even write this review?
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics.