Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hawkeye Review

A staple member of the Avengers franchise from almost the beginning, Hawkeye has never really gained traction with the fans in his own solo adventures. But times have changed; Avengers has done a billion dollars at the box office and one of the breakout stars of the film was Clint Barton himself. Quick to capitalise on the films massive success, Marvel have paired up former Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction, David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth, (minus Ed Brubaker) for the reinvention of the character. The aim is twofold; first to show why a character with a bow, arrow, and a great shot deserves to stand amongst Gods and secondly, and more importantly, elevate the characters profile enough for him to finally sustain his own series. The question is do they succeed? To find out click the button.

Hawkeye Issue One
Written By Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth

The idea of having a bow and arrow to shoot bad guys with is cool until you put it up against super soldiers, rich genius industrialists, and reality altering witches; and because of this Hawkeye as a solo hero has always been a tough sell. Yet, with the right team any character can yield at the very least, critical acclaim and enough sales to get a decent chunk of story. With Hawkeye, one of the breakout characters from this summer’s Avengers film, Marvel have enlisted one of their superstar writers in Matt Fraction and an artist who is arguably in the top five working for the big two today, David Aja, to try and buck the trend, pushing Hawkeye finally into the A-list. To do this, Fraction, Aja, and the Marvel editorial team take great pains to separate the character and  the comic itself from the Avengers entirely, stating as much on the credit page with a ‘this is what Hawkeye does when he is not being an Avenger.’ Within the confines of this issue we are introduced to Clint’s home, with it a group of potential supporting cast members that share the apartment block, and with that an outline of what this iteration of Hawkeye is all about. Borrowing a move out of Robin Hood, possibly the most famous archer of all’s playbook, Clint is a champion of the everyman, fighting the wealthy tyrants (in this case Russian gangsters,) to help the working class.  Make no mistake; whilst not a complete overhaul, what is on display here is an unseen before interpretation of Clint Barton. Choosing to concentrate on the man behind the mask, away from all Avengers based activities, and wisely choosing to give him real world issues to deal with makes a lot of sense, as does putting him in the middle of New York City. A character like Hawkeye sits perfectly within the same corner of the Marvel universe that Daredevil, Spider-Man, and other street level heroes inhabit. Fraction, Aja and Hollingsworth show as much in the first two pages when first we see Clint pulling the now almost clich├ęd ‘jumping off a roof whist shooting behind you’ move seen in the film only to then turn it on its head on the next page by showing the devastating consequences of performing such a reckless action when you are just a man. The thing is the only thing grounding Hawkeye does is prove why he is a character that deserves Avengers status. Even though Clint shows a near superhuman level of accuracy, he really has no powers to speak of yet dives into situations head first putting him at great risk in the process.

Despite the recent hiccup that was Fear Itself on his resume, Matt Fraction’s writing ability has never been in any doubt. One of Fraction’s biggest strengths within his superhero work is to define and subsequently explore aspects of characters that have never been seen before. He did so first by introducing the seven capital cities of heaven alongside Brubaker in Iron Fist, and then by seeding the character of Ezekiel Stane into the pages of Iron Man, and now by looking at what makes Clint worthy of his elevated status and humanising him outside of the costume. In Fraction’s hands, you learn more about what sort of person Clint is in twenty pages than you would in any year’s worth of Avengers issues with Fraction taking great pains to give Clint a likable personality. He has a slightly self-deprecating sense of humour and shows a definite willingness to help the underdog. As always with Matt Fraction comics, the script is full of moments that display sharpness and wit. Unfortunately, as always with Matt Fraction comics there are times when he tries too hard to bash you over the head with that sharpness. The Russian gangsters use of the word ‘bro’ is at the start funny but wears thin after it is used thirty three times (I counted.) Nevertheless, if you’ve experienced and enjoyed Fraction’s work before, there are a lot of his more positive flourishes to enjoy here.
David Aja. David. Aja. Regular readers of this reviewers work will know that, in terms of art, praise can sometimes be seen as borderline hyperbolic. In this case, all the hyperbole is warranted. David Aja is without a doubt a modern great and continues to show why he deserves so much praise with this issue. One of the great things that Aja does is quietly change his style for every comic he does, whilst still retaining the signature style that makes him so recognisable. The last two comics he handled the art chores on, Wolverine Debt of Death and Secret Avengers, were love letters to Frank Miller’s original Wolverine series and M.C Escher respectively. His approach to Hawkeye is one that is skewed through a lens of eighties crime films and comics, incredibly gritty in style rather than tone and packed to the rafters with panels per page. Another reviewer I respect took Aja’s style for this book to task for being too much like David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman Year One but let’s be honest about this; to claim that an artist’s style is similar to one of the greatest cartoonists of the last thirty years is not a slant on Aja’s work but a compliment to both Aja and Mazzucchelli. Helping Aja out is the ever dependable Matt Hollingsworth who changes his colouring style from what was seen on his work for Daredevil to a slightly more vibrant palette with almost flat colours. It works well with Aja’s art and gives another string to Hawkeye’s bow (sorry,) that makes it stand out from other comics out there. Not only that, Hollingsworth uses different colours to set each scene, something that has been done before yet in a comic that takes place in different days and even weeks jumping back and forth regularly, is invaluable.
Verdict – Buy it
A satisfying single issue tale that sets a mandate for what the title is destined to become; Hawkeye, alongside Daredevil and Uncanny X-Force, sits atop of the mountain of creativity over at the House of Ideas. Based on this issue, Fraction has evidently regained what fans loved him for in the first place and every panel that Aja and Hollingsworth deliver is a thing of beauty. Buy it, wait for the trade, whatever you do just make sure you experience it.

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Ryan said...

Great review! I enjoyed every aspect of the issue, even the word "bro". What impressed me the most about this first issue was that it was a done in one story and it made me wanting more, so I'll be back for issue #2.

CombatSpoon86 said...

Fraction needs to stay away from big time books, team books and event books. I love his low key books. This is what truly makes him great.

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