By Jay Krieger
Arguably the least interesting member of this year’s Avengers film gets his turn in the spotlight in the form of a standalone Hawkeye comic series, written by Matt Fraction with art by David Aja. Not only was he out of the limelight in the summer blockbuster, past attempts to write a Hawkeye-centric series have been largely unimpressive, despite the character ranking high on so many lists of “favorite Avengers” by fans and creators alike. From the first issue of this new series, it’s apparent that this take on Hawkeye, also known as Clint Barton, would be different. What this hero lacks in power, he more than makes up for with his wit, humor and his skill with a weapon from the Paleolithic era. Seriously, the Paleolithic era. Hawkeye told me so.
Hawkeye can’t fly, he can’t summon lighting, and he doesn’t have access to a multimillion dollar robotic suit. He’s not especially strong nor especially fast. He has no enhanced powers whatsoever. What he does have is a bow and arrow, unbelievable aim, and the distinction of being able to turn anything into a weapon (the first issue, in fact, finds him in multiple fights and never using his trademark bow and arrows for any of them). But his ability as an exceptional marksman isn’t what makes him compelling. In essence, he’s just like you and me: human. Barton is a completely likable character and this is entirely thanks to the writing of “Marvel architect” Matt Fraction. We’re only three issues into Hawkeye and Fraction has become one of my favorite writers in all of comics.
The amount of humor squeezed into each issue and the delivery of lines adds an unusual amount of laughs and you almost forget you’re reading a comic book. From the pop culture references to the Russian mobsters that say “bro” after every three words, Fraction makes the book easy to jump into and fun to follow. But if it’s not the dialogue that makes every page a joy to read, it’s most certainly Fraction’s ability to take a mundane situation, such as going to the store to buy tape, and write an entire, satisfying issue around it. Interwoven into that trip to purchase tape is a romance, a car chase, a lesson in trick arrows, a hostage standoff, and more romance. There have been three issues and the initial story arc hasn’t actually begun yet, though hints were dropped in issue two. That doesn’t matter. It proves that the strength of the book lies in its characters. Considering Hawkeye’s lack of appeal in previous standalone books, this is a huge deal. Finally we’re treated to a likable and compelling character who isn’t likable and compelling in relation to the team he’s on. Though we haven’t seen much overarching plot progression, readers will still have a reason to check in every month, which really speaks to the creative writing and the art. My god, the art.
Before you even open the first page, you’re treated to the gorgeous cover art. So far, every cover has had an overly simplistic, yet graceful, cover that gels nicely with the overall style of the book. Once you delve into the book, you’ll quickly notice no panel is put to waste; each one helps convey the story in a straight-forward way. Artist David Aja, who worked with Fraction previously on the Eisner winning Immortal Iron Fist series, has made me do something I usually don’t do with comics; once I’ve finished reading an issue, I’ll flip through it a second time, just to look at the art. I keep using the word “simplistic,” but the style choice really makes the book shine. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth accentuates the book by making background environments dull and grey, while using bright colors to convey importance and make the scene stand out.
The average comic book consists of about 20 pages. Sometimes after I read a comic, I don’t feel satisfied. Not that the book was bad, more so the fact that not a whole lot happened with the amount of given pages. This isn’t the case with Hawkeye, as each issue is able to tell a complete story with the amount of given space. This book, month after month, delivers a creative and hilarious story as well as gorgeous art. Any reader that isn’t already reading this fantastic book is doing themselves a massive disservice. The next arc, called “The Tape” will start with Hawkeye #4 on November 7th, with Javier Pulido filling in for David Aja.