Since the title was launched, Hawkeye has been a critical and fan favourite, and was one of the few Marvel Comics titles to be nominated for numerous Eisner Awards for the past year. From those nominations, Hawkeye picked up two wins, both for artist David Aja, one for his work as interior penciller, and the other for his work as a cover artist.
Reading through this volume, you can see just why this book is such a critical darling, and also see why Aja won in those categories for his work on this book. This new trade paperback collection covers Hawkeye #6-#11, and makes it quite easy for readers to jump onboard the single issues, as this trade comes out only a month after issue #11 hit the stands.
Although a very enjoyable read, this volume isn’t quite as brilliant as the first five issues were (collected earlier in the year in their own trade paperback collection). To start off, the first issue in the volume is issue #7, which threw me when I was reading, because I wondered just where issue #6 was. As it turns out, it follows issue #7 in this printing. Issue #7 was an issue that Fraction wrote after Hurricane Sandy, inspired by it, but technically speaking based on the dating of the issue, it would have to occur prior to issue #6, which occurs in December. It’s not a big deal, it just hit me as curious when I first realized that the issues were out of order. Issue #7 is a great issue, although Aja only handles the artwork for the first half of the issue, telling Clint’s adventure in the storm. Steve Lieber & Jesse Hamm handle the artwork for the Kate Bishop portion of the issue, and although the script was strong, I wasn’t a fan of the artwork, and it felt quite jarring after the first half of the issue was illustrated by the fantastic Aja.
Issue #6 is an extremely confusing yet somehow still quite enjoyable and engaging issue, as Fraction shows the reader six days in the life of Hawkeye. Those six days aren’t in any particular order, which can at times make following the adventure more than a little confusing. Thankfully, the individual stories that are told within the framework are quite delightful, whether it be Grills insisting that Clint is Hawkguy, not Hawkeye, Tony Stark trying to help Clint set-up his television, or Clint taking a stand with his bow out in the street. They’re great little vignettes, although David Aja’s artwork is the reason why they are more than just fun little stories. His artwork elevates it to a whole new level, particularly with the snow falling in the outdoor scenes, and the stripped-down simplicity of the whole venture. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Aja is really evoking David Mazzuchelli with his artwork on Hawkeye, from the panel layouts to the way in which the action is crafted and brought to the page, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Issues #8 and #9 bring back Penny, a character from the first collection of Hawkeye, as she finds herself mixed up in some bad business involving the Tracksuit Mafia. She gets Hawkeye involved, and soon he ends up arrested. Issue #9 is one of the better issues in the volume, as it takes place in and around the goings on of issue #8, and follows the various women in Clint’s wife, including Kate Bishop, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) and Natasha Romanova (Black Widow). It also leads to a surprise shocking death, which is still quite surprising (and relatively unsolved, in terms of the murderer being brought to justice).
Despite issue #7 feeling a bit like a misstep, thanks to the guest art which never quite delivers the goods in the second half of the issue, the true misstep of this volume is issue #10. Francesco Francavilla handles the artwork, as the issue is a complete change of pace for the series, and not one I liked all that much. The murderer behind the shocking death in issue #9 is the focus of the issue, but the jarring change in focus, writing and artwork made this issue standout as not being anywhere near the caliber of the other issues. Issue #11 is perhaps the finest issue of the book to date, but once again it’s more because of the artwork than the writing (such as it is for this particular issue). It’s a real shame that the title page/recap page isn’t included for this issue, as it sets up the issue perfectly, as Lucky the Pizza Dog takes center stage for the issue. I wish that all the recap pages for this book would be reprinted, as they’re often quite fun, similar to the recap pages that start off each issue of the Peter David-written X-Factor series.
The decision to make Lucky the Pizza Dog the focus is an inspired one, as the artwork is breathtaking. The issue is a marvel of storytelling prowess as only Aja could have managed to put it together. I won’t spoil the issue, but it’s enormously entertaining, although not a very accessible issue for readers who aren’t familiar with the rest of the issues in the series. But for fans of the book who’ve read all the issues, it’s a great companion piece, and immensely entertaining.
Hawkeye continues to be one of the best books that Marvel Comics is currently publishing, due in no small part to the breathtaking artistic stylings of David Aja, who every month experiments with the form and function of his artwork in new and exciting ways. There were a couple missteps in this volume, coincidentally occurring when David Aja wasn’t pencilling the book, but they only detract slightly from the overall enjoyment of reading this collection. Recommended!