If Spider-Man is my teenage spirit animal, then Matt Fraction’s version of Hawkeye is my 30 year old screw up spirit animal. Peter Parker always seemed so vulnerable despite being so powerful. He was always struggling with things like paying the rent and making it to class. Think about how high the stakes need to be for standard superhero fare anymore.
“The whole city could be destroyed!”
“This is a threat to the entire planet.”
“THE VERY FABRIC OF REALITY IS AT RISK!”
And so on. You get it. What I always liked about Spider-Man is that the stakes didn’t need to be that high. There’s so many great Spidey stories about him needing to protect Aunt May or just keeping his personal life straight. For a story about a man who can stick to walls and can sense oncoming danger, it felt fairly grounded.
Hawkeye captures this well. In fact, it takes it further. Clint Barton has landlord problems. He’s battling for his way of life. Hawkeye is fighting for the right to drink a beer and barbecue with his neighbors. There’s a story where Hawkeye and Iron Man try to untangle DVR wires. There’s a brilliant issue told from a dog’s point of view. Kate Bishop saves the day by taking a picture of a guy who hit her with his car. There aren’t people being punched through buildings. There aren’t adventures in space. Hawkeye is a refreshingly quirky street level book.
Where Peter Parker’s problems always dealt with the frantic life of a guy in college or young adult, Hawkeye’s problems tend to deal with issues of maturity and coping with the fact that like it or not, you are a full fledged adult now with big boy problems. Clint Barton is a screwup. He says the wrong things (just a sex, sec). He sleeps with the wrong people. He gets the bejesus beaten out of him. One of the guys in his building knows who he is but keeps calling him “Hawkguy”. He’s the mortal, regular guy Avenger.
There have been a number of talented artists used on Hawkeye, but David Aja takes the primary piece of cake here. There’s a fantastic simplicity about his work that just clicks on these off the clock tales of the Avengers’ archer. It reminds me of David Mazzucchelli’s stellar work on Batman: Year One. There’s a lot of attention paid to expressions and displaying the feelings of these characters.
The action too, to put it quite simply, rules. Aja has an excellent sense of motion and has a clear idea of how these characters should move. Here’s a sample from issue # 2:
As good as issue 2 is, the action really shines in issue # 3. That features a seventies style car chase throughout the streets of New York, complete with various trick arrows and explosions. You can hear the funk in your head as Barton and Bishop drive a Challenger through the streets of New York, being pursued by thugs wearing tracksuits and driving Volkswagen Beetles.
Adding to it all is colorist Matt Hollingsworth, who puts more thought into into every panel of Clint Barton and Kate Bishop’s lives than you put into painting your home. Hollingsworth actually colored an entire issue based on what dogs see. That’s an insane amount of detail, that just goes to show you how damn good Hawkeye is.
The latest issue adds another interesting wrinkle. The series left Clint and his brother Barney bashed and broken, laying in pools of their own blood. Barney is stuck in a wheelchair for now, but Clint finds himself without his hearing. Blind superheroics are well covered over in Daredevil, but it’s not often that we see deaf characters in comic books. There are blank word bubbles. Fragments of words that Clint understands that slip out. Aja shows signing, but they don’t explain what is being signed. It’s disorienting and clever.
Yet again, the Hawkeye team has given me something that I haven’t seen before in a comic book. It’s a special book that deserves every bit of praise and award that comes its way.