Matt Fraction has evolved into something of a Marvel flagship player as of late. From humble beginnings writing sci-fi titles likeThe Five Fists of Science and Casanova to large-scale epics like The Invincible Iron Man, Uncanny X-Men and Thor, Fraction has produced compelling worlds and great characters.
This hasn’t changed with his Hawkeye outing, which has been heralded as a great new take on the character. In the book, Clint Barton is portrayed as what he is at his core: a regular guy among gods on the Avengers. His central, raw skill is archery, but his greatest power is being comparatively normal. This manifests itself in some great dialog, as Fraction seems to be content with just establishing who Barton is, rather than what he does.
Of course, we all know what he does; he shoots a bow and arrow really well. But that vulnerability and dependence on skill shapes how the character reacts. Like the opening issues state, he needs to be on point for every shot he takes, or else he shifts into the background, replaced by more “useful” members of the team.
For the first few issues, Fraction is joined by one of my all-time favourite artists in David Aja; they worked together previously on Immortal Iron Fist, and we see in Hawkeye why they clicked. Aja has a great way of portraying motion and animation in a static medium like a comic page, and that carries over here. Instead of kung-fu, however, we see Hawkeye’s brawling-with-archery style produce some visceral results.
It also doesn’t hurt that the overall theme and setting of this book is grit, and if there’s something that Aja does well, it’s rendering details with a certain noir-like quality. Faces and details have their roughness while outer lines remain clean, which keeps the reader from wondering where certain objects begin and others end. It’s almost as if Aja is highlighting how different Hawkeye is from other books by its art style: it’s not a clean-cut superhero title. Instead, it’s more of a character study on one guy, his life as someone who sees extremely weird things every day, and the people who stand by his side.
If you’re on the fence about reading this book, the supporting cast should tip you over. Young Avengers’ Kate Bishop gets some appropriate love as the Robin to Clint’s Batman, and as a result we’re given a foil that serves as someone who keeps him in check. Like how without Dick Grayson we’d have a completely insane Bruce Wayne, Bishop allows Clint to have his fun, but at certain moments she serves as a voice of reason and clarity.
It’s comforting to know that she seems to be just as capable of kicking butt as Hawkeye is, especially when left to her own devices. In this book she isn’t a “strong female character”, but almost a reimagining. She’s similar in sense of humor and ambition to Clint, solving a problem that many creators face when they attempt to reinvent a character: they are likely so old (by our standards) that they’re hard to modernize. At the end of the day, Hawkeye will always be the guy dressed in purple with a mask eerily similar to Wolverine, and thankfully through Kate we can remember that he is roughly in his mid-to-late thirties.
Their generations clash without it being an “eat it, grandpa” situation, which can come off as preachy. They act as colleagues, not on different echelons. They deal with the stereotypical “super hero stuff” while still maintaining real lives and real interactions with other people.
In short, this is the book for readers who want to experience a good mix of what they like in a solo superhero book, but with a lot more of why books go solo in the first place: character development that oozes out of every pore, a great interpretation of the hero and potential to grow into a new audience. Give Hawkeye a read: you won’t regret it.