Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by David Aja
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Cover by David Aja
Size: 32 pages
Hawkeye makes me happy.
SIX REASONS IT
MAKES ME HAPPY
Life is Hard… Might as Well Laugh
There are a lot of very serious comic books out there on the stands these days. Many of them are excellent. Some of them even came out this week. Hawkeye has become a nice counter point to those comics. I like super serious superhero adventures as much as the next jamoke, but it’s nice to have a little sugar with your salt. A little cleanser for your palette. Sometimes you need to laugh and have some fun and not take everything so life-and-death seriously.
Like a Former Conman/Carnie, it Breaks the Rules
There are a lot of “rules” to making comics. You can only use so many panels per page. You should write out all the dialogue. Your superhero protagonist should wear his costume. Those are just three of the comic book “rules” that Hawkeye blithely ignores. The first page of Hawkeye #6 has 21 panels. My non-scientific (read: I didn’t actually do the math) study of this issue says that it averages over 10 panels per page, many of the pages push 20. That’s not “how things are done” in comics. It’s supposed to make the book feel bloated and the reader claustrophobic. On the contrary, Hawkeye #6 feels breezy and light. Additionally, some might say that if you’re writing a comic book you should include the dialogue and not just leave it to the reader to infer what’s being said. That might be true of most books and most writers, but in Hawkeye do you really need to know what the little kid is actually saying? Do you really need selections from the crowd noise at a rooftop party? (In Brooklyn in December? Yikes.) Finally, in the traditional sense, superheroes wear costumes. Not so in this series. If you add up all the panels in the first six issues in which Hawkeye is wearing his
stupid movie costume the number would probably be less than 15, 10 of which are in this issue—and those are just on two pages. Why? Hawkeye seems to be all about showing that Clint Barton doesn’t need the suit to be Hawkeye. He just is Hawkeye, for better and for worse, all the time.
The Clint Barton currently found in the pages of Hawkeye is a Clint Barton that I could party with every month. He’s just a normal guy who is a little funny, a little rough around the edges, and a little prone to screwing up and making the wrong choices. Steve Rogers is an aspirational character because I am not as good of a man as he is but I strive to be. Clint Barton is a relatable character because his personal struggles have resonance with my own. He is a world-weary everyman who is constantly in over his head and who is constantly getting knocked down by life (and by gangs of thugs wielding Louisville Sluggers). But he always stands back up and he always tries to do the right thing because while Clint might not be invincible and he might not be infallible, he’s a hero through and through.
David Aja & Matt Hollingsworth & Chris Eliopoulos
The art team of Aja, Hollingsworth and Eliopoulos are putting on a goddamned superhero comic book clinic. It’s everything from the art style to the design aesthetic of the book that make Hawkeye a special book. There is a lot of great art in a lot of great comic books right now but no other book looks quite as good, top-to-bottom, as Hawkeye. The covers aren’t the only thing about this book that have a singular, design-intensive look to them. Everything from the way that the chapter and issue titles are written, to the way the panels are laid out on the page, to the purple color scheme, has a purpose and gives the book a look and feel that is unlike anything else on the shelves. All of that would be enough but then you add the fact that David Aja is one of the best and most dynamic artists working in comics today. He’s an artist whose characters emote convincingly and look and (more importantly) dress like they exist in our world, which is no small thing in comics. He has a sparse style but nevertheless packs his panels with loads of specific details that really help to set the mood and the surroundings and go a long way to building a convincing world for these characters to live in.
The Retro-Modern Vibe
Everything about Hawkeye feels like a throwback to another era. The tone is a combination of gritty and goofy that recalls the comic books of the 1960s and 70s without being overly precious and while remaining thoroughly modern. Clint’s primary adversaries—the tracksuit-wearing, “bro”-spouting Russian gangsters—drove original Mini Coopers straight out of the 1960s in earlier issues and here drive vans that would look at home being chased by Starsky & Hutch in the 1970s. Those touches that recall the 1960s and 70s have been pervasive in the series so far, and in this issue we had a dash of 1980s in the one “traditional” superhero scene in which Hawkeye fights A.I.M. alongside Wolverine and Spider-Man in a sequence drawn to recall a 1980s side-scroller video game. The most amazing thing about Hawkeye might be that none of these elements comes off as showy or gimmicky, instead they fit seamlessly into the framework of a book whose tone is wholly unique.
All of the above is surely attributable, in whole or in part, to the writer of the book, Matt Fraction. He’s someone who seems made to write this particular book starring these particular characters, most specifically Clint Barton, a character who is perfectly suited for Fraction’s voice. Traditionally, I have found Fraction to be an overly quippy and self-conscious writer and as a result I haven’t been the biggest fan of his work. And yet, all of the reasons why I didn’t respond to his work in the past are the pretty much all the reasons why I love it here. Go figure. Creative endeavors are weird like that.
There are more things I could mention about Hawkeye that make it such a great book–the way it pulls off the mostly one-and-done format, the sometimes awkwardly flirty mentor/mentee thing that Clint and Kate have going on–and there are more things from Hawkeye #6 in particular that I could rhapsodize about–”Hawkguy”, the black and white panels, Tony and Clint trying to set up Clint’s home theater system–but I’ll just close out this review, and a year of Picks of the Week, by saying that Hawkeye is one of the best comic books out there right now and there’s no good reason to not at least give it a shot.
AND it was a Christmas story!