Marvel has been trying to get Hawkeye a popular ongoing series for years. And every time, it just hasn’t come together.
It’s not hard to see why, on both counts. Hawkeye is a regular guy who likes beer, talking to women, and being bad-ass. He’s the guy most guys try to pretend they are on the weekends. Similarly, though, trying to develop that into a series has been difficult not least because usually somebody feels the need to try and make his life more dramatic. These attempts haven’t been bad, but they’ve also never really broken the character out of his mold.
Which is why, three issues in, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s take on Clint Barton is so welcome… and quite possibly the best comics you can get right now from the House of Ideas. Here’s why.
Fraction is always a tight, concise writer, and the comic has, right up front, a mission statement: “This is what Hawkeye is doing when he’s not an Avenger.” It’s a great concept because it gives Fraction and Aja flexibility to play with the character, while removing him from the Avengers and letting him breathe.
Issue #3 is possibly the funniest take on Hawkeye’s occasionally stupid trick arrows in a long, long time, especially since they’re introduced in the middle of a massive car chase straight out of The Italian Job with what seems to be a bunch of Russian fratboys compulsively calling everyone “bro”.
Aja’s art really shines in this respect: Fraction can put the funny dialogue on the page, but Aja is the one who sells it with his superb facial expressions and poses. Aja also has a lot of fun elsewhere, like when he’s asked to preserve Clint’s modesty. Let’s just say he has a unique choice of censorship symbol and leave it at that.
So far, Clint has dealt with some low-level Russian mobsters trying to muscle people on the rent, accidentally robbed the Kingpin, and bought a muscle car that leads to a car chase across the George Washington Bridge. Fraction’s willingness to mix it up gives the book a fresh feeling and also grounds it a bit: Clint doesn’t live in our reality, but he could fit in pretty well.
It’s Individual Stories, Not An Ongoing Arc
Part of this may be editorial mandate, as Hawkeye got his new ongoing right after The Avengers hit theaters. But it does make the book accessible in the best way possible. If you want to try the series, you can grab any of the three issues, and while there are plot threads that run throughout the book, they’re not front and center.
Aja’s Art Is Gorgeous
Not that this is news to anybody, but it’s worth pointing out that David Aja has a spectacular and distinctive art style. Even if you hate superhero books, this is worth picking up just because it’s just so pretty. Aja’s work reminds me a bit of Dave Mazzucchelli in Batman: Year One on this book; he’s looser with the faces and the backgrounds, giving the book a jazzy, clean feel. Also not a surprise but still worth mentioning: His depiction of action is impeccable. Whether Hawkeye’s firing arrows or beating ass with a lamp, it’s dynamic and clear.
In short, if you love Marvel, or just love comics, Hawkeye is a book that needs to be in your sub file.