Story by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Chris Eliolpoulos
Cover by David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth
$2.99 / 32 pages / Color
Published by Marvel Comics
The reviewer is supposed to be fair and objective. The reviewer is supposed to take something in, without prejudice, and weigh the thing’s various merits and weaknesses, making an assessment that will be useful to other enthusiasts. The reviewer shouldn’t be overly harsh, and should certainly mete out praise with some perspective in mind. It is with all these things in mind that I approached this new version of Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja. Having been rebooted not too long ago by Jim McCann, we’re already re-rebooting, as will happen. And here’s with the difficulty lies with me, and I’m going to lay this on the table, so everyone knows where I’m coming from. Hawkeye, or Clint Barton, is one of my favorite long time characters in comics. Matt Fraction is not one of my favorite writers. I’ve enjoyed some of his work here and there, but largely, it does not scratch my itch. David Aja is an unqualified genius, and any comic he’s laid pencil to, is a better comic than one which he has not. I also think that Hawkeye is a character who, time and again, has proven that he cannot sustain a solo series, where he thrives in a group situation, or an ensemble book. But rules are made to be broken, and this is the very job of creative artists. So let’s move on.
I really liked this issue. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of take I always imaged I would use if I ever had the opportunity. The issue, a one shot introduction chapter, focuses much more on Clint Barton than it does the guy in purple. He’s living in Bed-Stuy (an area slowly undergoing unstoppable Brooklyn gentrification), and his fellow building tenants are being hassled by aggressive and opportunistic landlords, which Clint Barton, hero of the people, bespectacled Robin Hood, does not like, and tries to stop. This street level story takes place in specific contrast to his reputation as an Avenger, and plays into the overall theme they’re setting up, which is about Barton as the Avenger with no powers. He’s just a regular guy trying to make his way in a world that should be way over his head. He tries to buy off the landlord, gets into a big fight, and then saves a dog, because that’s what good guys do, especially when they have hearts that are bigger than their brains and don’t know how to back down. That’s who this Hawkeye is, and I think it’s the right kind of Hawkeye. It’s certainly not the movie version, which is a great kindness, regardless of his outfit.
From a visual standpoint, this book is gorgeous, and if I had to pick a reason to show up, it would be David Aja. For some reason, the man is a savant who can pack more panels on a page than anyone should be allowed, and yet it still doesn’t feel cluttered. I get the feeling that, like Iron Fist before, Aja brings out the best of Matt Fraction, because these two really seem to compliment each other. I don’t have a single complaint about the art, to be honest. Aja works with an amazing economy of line, but he manages to shape the characters in such a way that their expression and posture always gives you an incredible clear idea of what they’re feeling and who they are before they utter a word of dialog. There’s a silent record scratch moment where Clint enters an underground gambling casino, and everyone in the room is surprised. While there are words in the panel, there’s no need for them. Overall the beats of this issue are consistently strong because the artist and writer are working well together to make them happen, using visuals and text. Aja not only met, but exceeded my expectations, and the fact that he’s not considered a superstar of the industry is an ongoing tragedy.
I really only have one minor grouse with the issue as a whole. The “villains” are tracksuited, Russian thugs. That’s what they look like in real life, and I agree that they also say “bro” a lot. But in this issue, they say “bro” a lot. They say “bro” too much. It was overdone, and it had the effect relying on a thin one dimensional cultural stereotype in place of building a character in reality. It also annoyed me. He really said “bro” an awful lot.
Making this a one shot issue was exactly the right thing. I got halfway through, and thought, I don’t want this to continue. I want this to be one great issue, all on its own, and they actually listened to that instinct on their side as well. There was no cliffhanger at the end. The impetus for coming back to for the next issue is built on the fact that this one was good, rather than the idea that they’re going to force us to fill in a blank about who was on the last page. It was a great decision, and made for a stand alone issue. I hope this version of Hawkeye has a great and lengthy run, and continues to defy and exceed expectations. Hawkeye #1 strikes exactly the right tone, and is simply gorgeous to behold.
Story: 4 / Art: 5 / Overall: 4.5
(Out of 5 Stars)