Retroview: Liefeld's New Mutants 94

I’m sneaking this last entry in under the aegis of “Rob Liefeld Week” because a) it technically didn’t start until last Tuesday and b) due to an office remodel I didn’t post anything on Friday or Saturday. So suck it, Trebeck!

In this installment of “Retroview” I take on “The New Mutants” number 94, truly a Rob Liefeld masterpiece and a classic of the late 80’s / early 90’s super-hero comics industry:

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If you want to learn why Wolverine and Sunspot look like they’re in the middle of an awesome handicapped-stall-handlebar-gripping face-crunching abdomen-flexing Power Dump, follow me after the jump … if you dare!

Just getting past the cover presents difficulties. Take another look at it, because it encapsulates a lot of what drives Liefeld critics crazy. I’ve already mentioned how two of the figures look like they’re trying to pass a kidney stone (or whatever … don’t think about it too much, trust me), but go a bit further and ask yourself just why those two are apparently so torqued up they’re literally shouting, every muscle tensed, while the ladies appear to be in synchronized comas. You also have the patented Rob Liefeld Random Anatomy Generator, where human figures get strange bulbous growths like in Wolverine’s right wrist. Seriously, how did someone’s ass accidentally get grafted onto his forearm?

Speaking of anatomy, I hesitate to even bring this up because, as I’ve mentioned before, I absolutely suck at drawing women. But Liefeld insists on making his females stand in a position only possible for those with severe spinal cord trauma. I mean, I know Boom-Boom is an incredibly lame character, but do you have to break her back?

Of course it wouldn’t be a Liefeld composition without the use of vague horizontal lines in lieu of a background, and the complete lack of feet. My guess is that Cable used that gigantic gun and the endless rounds of missile-sized ammo to blow off the offending limbs.

Finally, one minor gripe is that Cable’s outfit on the cover doesn’t match what he’s wearing in the issue. Inside, he’s wearing an enormous inflatable life preserver vest, his left hand doesn’t have a glove, the glove on his right hand is tucked into a big spiked armband, and he’s not wearing an undershirt. Not a huge deal, but it sums up the major fundamental problem with Liefeld — he’s sloppy. He doesn’t really pay attention to details, large or small, his compositions are all over the place, his continuity is nonexistent, and in general he just doesn’t seem interested in the finishing work that makes an ordinary project really sing.

All that and we haven’t even opened the cover yet! This is how you know you’re in for a thrill ride, kids. All righty, taking a deep breath, I now crack the lid on this beast, and am immediately presented with … a big splash page! What a shock.

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I get what he’s going for here, a very dramatic overhead perspective. But it doesn’t make sense. Either Wolverine is diving into the floor or Cable’s standing at a forty-five degree angle. The two figures don’t match, one or the other is drawn from a different perspective from the rest of the room. Plus, Wolverine’s claws are supposed to fit inside his forearms, right? No way that happens with these gigantic, constant-width cleavers. I do give Liefeld credit here for breaking the traditional “legal birdseed text at the bottom” pattern, and I like the way both figures break the planes of the panel.

Aside from the art, we’re told by writer Louise Simonson that the two are ” … now locked in a battle from which, the death of one or the other can be the only result.” First, this is obviously bullshit. No way they’re killing off either Wolverine or Cable. And they’re standing next to each other on the cover, all nice-nice, so clearly this is just nonsense. Still, heroes fighting heroes is a staple of the genre, so whatever.

The fight continues, with Cable kicking Wolverine over his head into some boxes. Sadly, Cable pays the ultimate price of having his head severed during the maneuver.

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Also his mechanical hand appears to have two thumbs, but no one seems to care so maybe that’s a design feature. “Mechan-O-Arm 2000 — if two opposable thumbs are good, four are better!” Cable then insults Wolverine:

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Presumably the insult has something to do with the large lumpy sacks of potatoes Wolverine had grafted on in place of his thighs, probably to complement the forearm-ass from the cover. Cable has no room to talk, of course, because while apparently his head wasn’t severed in that earlier panel, it was rearranged so it’s coming out of his left shoulder instead. Let he who is without a grotesque anatomical malformity cast the first nuke and all that.

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Seriously, someone needs to tell Cable that he’s a fatty. Look at the size of that butt! And those tiny tiny little hands and feet. I bet he wanted to be a ballerina in whatever alternate future history dimension Earth he hails from, but he was told he was just too much of a wide load. Pity. Also, note that here his pistol is on his left leg, and that he’s only got one gun belt, which is solely cinched around his thigh. I’ll bring this up again later.

Meanwhile, we cut to the New Mutants being held prisoner. In theory they are hanging suspended from chains around their wrists:

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We’re being asked to believe that Boom-Boom somehow is able to hold up her entire weight with her wrists. Don’t even ask how Sunfire is managing to simultaneously thrust his chest out in front while holding himself up via the forearms. Does Liefeld not care that this layout is impossible? Does he not understand how arms work? Do the laws of physics not apply in the confines of Rob Liefeld’s art studio?

To compound the insanity, a few pages later Boom-Boom somehow manages to turn in her chains, grab Cannonball by the head — despite the fact that they’re chained side to side! By the wrists!! — and kiss him. We also are told that while previously being kissed by Dragoness, Cannonball managed to snag the key to their chains from her headdress.

Whahunh?!

First, why the hell would a person keep a key in their headdress?! That’s just stupid. Second, if you’re supporting all your weight from your wrists over your head, how in the name of all that’s holy do you mange to reach down and find, much less snag, that key? And finally, good for you, you’ve managed to get a key, now how the hell are you supposed to unlock your chains while your hands are locked together over your head?!

Look, Louise Simonson is a good writer. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how this issue could be so stupid given that the plot must have been at least somewhat sensible when it left her office. I think the only reasonable answer is that the crappiness of Liefeld’s plotting and penciling are so bad they can overwhelm even good writing. What she put on paper got so badly mangled in the actual art layout that it’s unrecognizable and makes no sense.

In any event, they spare themselves having to solve the puzzle of unlocking chains when you can’t use your arms or hands by cutting back to the Wolverine/Cable slugfest. Which leads directly to the awesomeness that is … page 11.

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Note the absence of any background elements whatsoever. Classic. But I think each of the three panels on this page deserve their own treatment.

At the top, the first thing to notice is that Wolverine’s bottom jaw has come unhinged. The second thing to notice is that Cable’s face doesn’t look like his face in any other panel — the nose, jaw, chin, eyes, and forehead are all different. If it weren’t for that glowing thingie around his eye and the mohawk I wouldn’t recognize him.

In the second panel, Wolverine’s jaw is now even more unhinged, which is understandable since he just got pimp-slapped so hard he’s flying backwards. We avoid the problem of having to draw Cable’s face the same way twice on one page by putting it in shadow, which is clever, if cowardly. That bit of artistic derring-do unfortunately gets overshadowed by the fact that punching simply doesn’t work the way it’s depicted here. Cable is basically standing with his body facing forward, and yet he’s punched across his chest. To do that, you’d have only your arm strength going for you, with no impetus from your legs or torso at all. But hey, Wolverine looks cool!

Finally, at the bottom, we have another “Cable’s a big fat fatty” rear shot, where his leg covers the place where Wolverine’s thigh got cut off from the hip and was stuffed with balloons. Also, Cable’s gun has now magically moved over to his right leg. As Rob Liefeld likes to say, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little … hey, drawing Hobgoblin in a fight would be cool!”

Anyway, the fight draws to a close as — wait a minute, where the hell did those gun belts come from?!

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If you’ll recall, Cable’s gun was on his left leg. Well, I mean, before it moved somehow to his right leg in the previous panel. And now we see from the front that he actually has two holsters with guns, neither of which is attached via thigh belt! Instead each hangs from its own ammo-festooned strap. Also, everything in this panel points to Cable’s crotch. And again with the tiny, tiny hands and feet. You know what they say about the size of a man’s hands, which again raises the question — why is everything pointing to his crotch?

Regardless, we learn that the New Mutants watching the battle haven’t done anything yet because:

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Let’s recap. Half the team is being held in durance vile, so the other half has come to rescue them. The area is rife with super baddies, so they want to be quiet. So quiet that Cable and Wolverine get into a giant fight, smashing into boxes and shouting dialog at each other! So how does our intrepid group of wall flowers decide to end this buffoonery without alerting the sentries? Why, they use earthquake powers to shatter a big huge wooden water tower!

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This is why you often see ninjas, masters of stealth, dropping water towers on people. Very sneaky and quiet. And of course, no one who’s lived through it can forget the eerie silence of the earth shaking hard enough to explode stuff. No sir.

Idiots.

However, it does give us this panel, which may be the single worst drawing in the entire issue. Which is saying something, as you’ve seen.

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How freaking big is Wolverine’s head, anyway? And is he so hard up for a smoke that he’s willing to stuff a water-logged stogie into that broken-jawed pie hole of his? That’s just disgusting.

Whatever, per usual the battling heroes discover that — surprise! — they’re both there for the same purpose and join up, which is convenient because master villain Stryfe has discovered that his erstwhile prisoners have escaped, and he sends in the heavy artillery. Literally heavy.

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I want you to take a long hard look at that drawing. I find it incredibly disturbing on a whole series of levels, but foremost among them is this. Rob Liefeld, as the artist, has the choice of what angle use when drawing a scene. And he chose to give us a giant diaper-clad crotch flying directly into our faces! Maybe he was hoping that the prospect of this ginormous — and come on folks, that’s a truly epic spread of butt cheekery and packageosity there — would distract us from the other massive anatomical problems going on here, like the fact that one foot is coming out of his butt and the other appears to be ripped from Scrooge McDuck. Or that he has no chest, shoulders merging directly into sternum. Or that the forearm doesn’t have muscles there.

No matter what he planned, I am going to have nightmares about this panel for a long time, and I’m sending the therapy bills to Liefeld.

On page 27, see Classic Liefeld Costume Designery in action, with the tall pointy bits both above and below the helmet, the lip-eating mask, the giant spiky metal bits sproinging out all over, gigantic shoulder pads, and impossibly-folded cape.

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On the next page, of course, the cape is nowhere to be seen. Maybe they joined Cable’s two gun belts in whatever otherverse houses Rob Liefeld’s appearing-disappearing fashion items.

Mercifully the issue ends soon after, with a big explosion that somehow still manages to avoid any background details. Hopefully the force of the shock wave blows everyone’s feet back on the right way and rescues Cable’s guns. The last image with which I would like to leave you is this one, of Sunfire flying:

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Because admit it — if you ever got the power to fly, you’d be just as tempted as Sunfire to cop a squat mid-air on top of your mortal enemy. Just once.

Which I think is a fitting metaphor for what Liefeld did not only to this entire issue, but the super-hero comics industry as a whole.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shower to get the stink of this issue off of me.

(All images and characters from “The New Mutants”, Vol. 1, No. 94, ©1990 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. Louise Simonson, writer. Rob Liefeld, penciller. Hilary Barta, inker (I pity you, Hilary, really I do). Joe Rosen, letterer. Brad Cancata, colorist.)

10 Responses to Retroview: Liefeld's New Mutants 94

  1. Ha! Ha-hah! Yeah! Take that, Rob Left-field! That jerk… I can only give him credit for coming up with the character, “Deadpool”. I like how Deadpool turned out because that whole idea makes me laugh. Say, howzabout ya comment on Liefeld’s “swiping” superpowers. Whoops – nevermind… Wikipedia got ‘im. (Hardy-har.)

  2. that appendage attached to the end of the fat diaper-wearer…is that a left foot? a right foot? or a waffle iron?

  3. …sorry…that should say “attached to the end of the fat diaper-wearer’s left leg…”

  4. One of the “ladies” in synchronized comas on the cover is actually Richter. You can tell by the color scheme of the costume. Why Liefeld felt the need to give him a sex change, I don’t know.

    I’ve always wondered how Liefeld got a job as a professional comics guy when I’ve known guys who did better doodles in the margins of their textbooks. I mean, really, who hired him? Never mind the question of how he became one of the most popular artists (using the word loosely) of the ’90s.

  5. Thanks for the correction, xStacy. The really astounding thing is not that Liefeld consistently got work, but that he made millions. MILLIONS! He was the hottest, highest-paid artists in the business. It boggles the mind.

  6. Because he was full of surprises! You never knew what to expect. Would this person have two left feet? Would this person have a gun where a gun wasnt before? It was a surprise on every panel!

  7. Oh and I forgot to mention. The drinking games that go along with his comics. You take a drink every time you see a well drawn foot…no one ever got tipsy..

  8. First, to be fair to Louise Simonson, she probably wrote that the Cannonball and um, whatsername just had their hands chained above them, while Liefield decided he could do better than that.

    What really gets me, is that the cover is a nearly complete ripoff of a G. I. Joe cover. That’s Roadblock’s .50 cal there. Didn’t you ever wonder why this is the one time he actually drew a real world gun for Cable?

  9. Good catch, thanks Bael.

    That’s what I was trying to get at with the comments about Simonson — you can turn in a script that makes perfect sense on the page as written, but then a bad artist can mangle it through bad layout/staging/art to render it completely incomprehensible.

  10. DeAndre Way

    Damn that Rob Liefeld, putting out a crappy comic 20 years ago! I loved this stuff as a kid. If Greg Land had put out comics at the same time I wouldve loved them too. Anyway I do find the crazy over analysis of Robs art hilarious.