By Matt Fraction and David Aja
It’s one of those books that’s been rather overpraised to be honest. It’s good, it’s very good, but it’s not genius, and in it’s own way that says a lot more about us critics than it does the book itself. It seems there’s an awful lot of people out there brought up on classic superhero comics and we’re desperate for anything that feels even remotely like the comics we rememeber from the first time we got into Marvel or DC.
Which is why these sorts of relatively self-contained, well written, well drawn comics are jumped on by people like me and praised, praised, praised. It was like that for Iron Fist, for Daredevil, for Journey Into Mystery…..
And now it’s like it for Hawkeye.
Except this isn’t Hawkeye, not really, and as it specifically states on the credits page, these are the adventures of Hawkeye when he’s not being an Avenger. So what we have is very few costume shots, the bow is only seen on that very first (beautifully iconic) scene, the hero in trouble straight away. This is Clint Barton’s book.
If you’re like me, the first thing that hits you is the Miller/ Mazzucchelli Batman Year One or Daredevil Born Again feel. The voiceover in flashback seals it from the writing side of things, but Aja takes up the mantle and goes all Mazzecchhelli on the book. This really is Hawkeye Year One, in theme, in tone, in voice, in art… and it does absolutely work beautifully. Fraction takes a step back in the storytelling and lets Aja (and colourist Matt Holligsworth) take on the lion’s share – beautifully done.
But after that, there’s a lot of very familiar, very fun TV show references. I mean, take your pick here, lone hero, underdog, struggling to overcome the bad guys, often coming out worse for wear in the process. Immediately I get Jim Rockford and Thomas Magnum springing to mind. There are injuries, lots of them. And they hurt. And we see them hurt.
Best bit of that section? “Six weeks later“. Definitely not a superhero. Falling off a building hurts if you’re Hawkeye. Fraction and Aja want to show us that.
And hell, it’s so much fun for that. 22 pages of Clint Barton trying to get the better of a bunch of low level lowlifes ruining his neighbourhood. No superpowers, no cosmic stuff, no spandex, no capes. Just Clint Barton trying to do the right thing. And a dog, you can’t go wrong with a dog.
So what we get is Matt Fraction writing a standard, old fashioned sort of comic story, laced through with moments of self-knowing cool, that seems quite brilliant because it’s the sort of simple, self-contained story we just don’t find all that often anymore. And we get David Aja delivering a really gorgeous looking comic that pretty much completely blows the story into the realms of the very good.
But in the end, it’s merely a very good, stand-alone story of a relatively straightforward superhero having an off-duty adventure. It may get better, it may get worse, I imagine it will stay at this very good level for quite a while until Fraction or Aja get bored, or are signed up for a multi-part cross company intergalactic epic crossover or something equally shite.
It’s not the greatest comic in the world ever, absolutely not. But it is a lovely return to a simpler time, when a kid who likes the look of that one with the bow and arrows can pick up a comic and immediately get into it. That’s the brilliant bit, and sadly that’s something that just doesn’t get done enough any more.