Matt Fraction teams up with his Iron Fist comrade David Aja to reinvigorate Hawkeye in a way that stylizes and humbles the character who has too often been a one-dimensional bore.
One of the biggest problems with Hawkeye in the past is that his lack of powers has always kept his character generic and easily defined. As if to compensate for his lack of powers, he had to be really, really badass. But inevitably, this “cool” always came off as frustratingly dull. Whether he was reconciling the fact that he used to be a criminal or mopping around after Scarlet Witch offed him, he never really offered anything more than a vicarious outlet for those who didn’t identify with Captain America or couldn’t keep up with Wolverine.
Like he did with Iron Man, Fraction utilizes Hawkeye’s mortality to weave a script that is personable through its humility. Within the first three pages we get an action sequence that reminds us of what we already know. Except here we also get the consequence of said action. Unlike other invulnerable, beefed up, or otherwise immune to bodily harm heroes that make up the Avengers, Hawkeye has to deal with the physical fallout from encounters with villains. This alone already separates him from the crowd, as even Tony Stark has buckets of money to spend on rehabilitation.
The story goes on to show us more of the “regular guy” life Clint Barton lives when he’s not leading secret ops missions or shooting arrows at deities. Instead of trying to make these ideas convincing Fraction capitalizes on the nature of a hero rather than the justification of a “Superhero” status. We get answers to the why instead of the how, which is too often brushed over in big budget books.
The dialogue throughout the book flows brilliantly to really pack a punch that fits not only Clint but also every other character in the book. His pretty mundane villains here are immediately undercut through Fraction’s witty characterization that takes away any great threat and instead become the mindless nuisance that street thugs are.
As great as the writing is in Hawkeye, the art is something of pure, stylized beauty. Aja packs pages with a variety of panels that jump between the action to precisely emphasize Clint’s pinpoint fighting style. Even without his weapon of choice Aja lays things out to make everything a target that our eyes immediately jump to. Hawkeyes abilities get transferred onto the page to give us a first person perspective of his skills. As a character with simple classifications, the gritty, shadowy artwork helps to humble the character in this story that is very far from the shiny gloss of most superheroes. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors here do a fantastic job of keeping the book grounded utilizing a basic pallet that consistently reminds us that we are on the streets of New York, not in a Helicarrier.
This is one of the best debut books I’ve read in a very long time. If the series maintains this approach with this creative team it will be at the top of my pile for a long time to come.