Published by Marvel Comics
Clint Barton is Hawkeye, the greatest sharpshooter known to man and a long time Avenger. This comic covers his time when not hanging out with Thunder Gods and men in flying suits. It’s some ground level stuff as befits a dude who is in his own words, “an orphan, raised by carnies, fighting with a stick and string from the Paleolithic era.”
You can never discount superhero comics from the Big Two publishers, well you can but when you do is just when they start producing comics that will go down in history. This is a comic that has been drenched in hype since it launched, is produced by two of my favourite creators (who with the help of Brubaker and others produced the kung-fu excellence that was the Immortal Iron Fist). I had flicked through the pages as it came out monthly and was wowed by the art but knew it needed to be savoured.
No Hawkeye, that looks amazing. And people, that is how to start a new comic book; a shower of glass, a New York streetscape and a hero calmly falling to his doom (for an in-depth look at the panel check out the excellent Opening Contract over at The Weekly Crisis). The Avengers movie really gave Hawkeye a boost in popularity and I will admit to being new to the bandwagon as my favourite bow slinging superhero has always been Green Arrow but this is the best bow and arrow comic book ever written.
David Aja may be my favourite comic book artist working today, every time I see his art I enjoy it more. He has a gift for capturing a figure in motion that just feels right and it allows him to draw the best fight scenes in comics. And it’s not just people, there is a car chase issue that barrels along featuring mobsters driving Minis, a sweet muscle car and that staple of the superhero bow-slinger, the trick arrow. Putty Arrow Bro!!!
Hawkeye is a comic that enjoys being a comic, in fact it has a great fucking time being a comic. The great touches are many, from the subtitles that literally say “some spanish sounding stuff ” to the way Hawkeye’s full frontal nudity is dealt with, these dudes are having a great time. It rubs off on the reader, I was reading with a grin on my face. Shouldn’t more comics be this enjoyable?
And the graphic design, which I never notice on a book unless it is terrible. This is amazing. The covers stand alone on the racks, looking like nothing else around them and on the inside it feels like a 70’s action movie. The colouring is fantastic and even the constant use of purple fails to annoy.
Matt Fraction is the ringleader for this team of artistic assassins and I very much enjoyed what he is attempting to do with the book. It is more spy story or Bond movie than superhero tale and keeps true to what little I know of the history of Hawkeye while not being bogged down in the swamps of continuity. The crackling dialogue complements the art and the characters have real empathy for each other. Clint is often assisted by Kate Bishop, a teenager who became Hawkeye for a minute while he was off being a ninja. He also lives in an old apartment building in Bedford-Stuyvesant and looks out for his fellow tenants.
Speaking of art, Aja seems to be getting most of the credit for this comic but his tag-team partner is the magnificent Javier Pulido. Look at that brawl in the panel above, Hydra and AIM goons, ninjas, swords and kicks to the face. I love how Clint is in a tangle of bodies and the expression on the face of the goon with the knuckledusters in the back. Go comics.
Aja and Pulido’s similar styles ensure a smooth transition. Marvel seem to be handling the workloads of their artists on some books perfectly. Aja does three issues and works on his next arc while Pulido does issues 4-5, they both have time to hand in excellent polished work and the book comes out on time. I hope they are getting paid enough to allow it to continue.
Lastly, big thanks to Marvel for bucking their own trend and putting this out as a paperback immediately rather than a hardcover. I tend to save my hardcover purchases for larger ‘omnibus’ type editions and find the momentum of a comics trade release can be lost by releasing it in various ways over a stretch of time. Plus I think comics should be as cheaply priced as possible so as to get them in as many hands as we can. Lets save the deluxe editions for when the book has had a chance to breathe and gain its true level. Not every book needs the deluxe hardcover treatment, in fact I would argue that few do.
Should I buy it? If you haven’t already and you buy comics on the regular you have to get this book. You will feel like a kid again as you read. If you don’t buy comics but enjoyed the Avengers film, this is a hell of a comic to check out.
Next time: Marvel March Madness continues as I let you know about the greatness of Daredevil by Mark Waid, Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin.