Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Hawkeye #1 review

What does an Avenger do when he's not saving the universe? If you're Hawkeye you try to help your neighbours escape the clutches of a Russian ruffian. And get a dog.

This is a simple tale, but one skilfully and stylishly told. While Clint Barton references his Avengers status, he's in civvies throughout, and there's not a super-villain in sight. Clint's narration, courtesy of writer Matt Fraction, is packed with personality; his Hawkeye is an adventurer rather than a thrillseeker, easygoing, yet focused, and if he had a super-power, it'd be his humanity - Clint isn't super-sweet, but he's a good friend to his neighbours and always ready to make new pals. He's no genius, but he's savvy, willing to meet people at their own level.

And he's in love with New York - the sights, the sounds ... the dodgy smells. Not for him the swank of Avengers Mansion or sterile floors of Stark Tower, not when there are grotty, vibrant apartment buildings to be had.

And as drawn by David Aja, the streets look magical. With just a few lines, some thick, some thin, he conjures up a cityscape, fire escape or cab-filled thoroughfare. Sometimes the effect is impressionistic, at others it's specific. And the unshaven, slightly bedraggled Clint fits right in (click on image to enlarge).
He does, mind, smarten up for part of the book, and looks great suited and booted - Aja puts many a comic artist to shame when it comes to drawing clothes that hang realistically. And while we don't see Clint in costume after the first couple of pages, Matt Hollingsworth's colours recall Hawkeye's outfits. They also do wonders when it comes to separating scenes, as we flash back and forth over several days. Chris Eliopoulos's letters, meanwhile, are as friendly as you'd wish, for this presentation of Hawkeye.

The only quibble I have is that Hawkeye acts like Daredevil villain Bullseye. Not in the sense of killing folk, but in his use of small everyday items as weapons and tools. After page 2, there's no bow and arrow, as Clint instead uses coins, cards and his own fighting skills.

I get that in a Seventies-style crime tale such as this, with Hawkeye out of costume, it's not easy to fit in a ruddy great bow and hi-tech quiver, but archery is Hawkeye's thing, his USP. There must be twanging.

The cover, by Aja and Hollingsworth, is wonderfully different - with luck, it's very difference will make it stand out, though I noticed the book only when I compared pull-list to purchases, and went looking for it. I'm reluctant to suggest eye-assaulting primaries, but there's a reason so many covers feature blasts of red.

Minor moans aside, I can't recommend this book enough for fans of Hawkeye, street-level fun or just well-crafted comics. It doesn't bother acknowledging the terribly convoluted continuity of Hawkeye over the past several years - Mockingbird doesn't merit a mention. Rather, it gives us a clean, tight, done-in-one that anyone with a fondness for Clint would have to work very, very hard to dislike.

19 comments:

  1. A very good surprise! Love hawkeye, but wan't too sure about fraction as he can write the best or the worst stories. This is definitly the best of his writing style.
    And as I was saying on Facebook, Aja is channeling Alex Toth/ David Mazzuchelli, and the book looks superb. Very highly recommended!

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    1. I nearly mentioned the Mazzuchelli, but I'm not familiar enough with Aja to know how much is his natural style. So thank you for putting it out there!

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  2. I may get this to replace jli, another compelling review mart

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    1. I just wonder if crossfire will appear in this series

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    2. If it runs long rough, he's bound to. Bound to, I say!

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    3. fraction did say he planned give clint a rogues gallery, so we may see so interesting new baddies

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  3. I've never really liked or disliked Hawkeye. He's just always been there like a fixture in the background. But I guess with his being one of the high profile characters in the Avengers movie, Marvel woulda been stupid not to try to make something of him.

    So I picked this book up with no real expectations - just to give it a go in the spirit of "what's the worst that could happen?"

    And I got a massive kick out of it! I don't usually enjoy this kind of scrappier art - I'm more of an old school George Perez/Ivan Reis kinda fan - but there was something so simple and understated about the art.

    With the non-superpowered, subtler nature of the storytelling, I think this has the potential to be a decent crossover hit. Perhaps to appeal to some of the kind of people who think they only enjoy graphic novels but wouldn't read comics - the kind of reader who likes darker, more adult, less superheroey fare.

    A pleasant surprise. Who knew that I'd actually like Clint Barton? (But then I'm a sucker that he saved a dog!)

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    1. I'm chuffed you enjoyed it too, Rob - I've always been a big Clint fan, so whenever he's in a good story (or even not dead), I'm happy.

      I did like the way Matt Fraction had Clint go from 'he's not my dog' to 'my dog' within panels.

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  4. Loved this issue and Fraction hasn't strayed outside the box yet with his character so we'll see. I more or less liked his X-Men but his Defenders has strangers in familiar costumes (and a horrible, horrible storyline which may be why it's my LCS' lowest selling Marvel title) so this won't go on the pull for a while yet...

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    1. I was also disappointed by the Defenders, Steve - it's had pretty poor buzz, but is somehow hanging on in there. Hawkeye, though, seems to be an immediate hot.

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  5. Yes, there should be twanging!
    This is a quietly good and thorough comic; the character of Clint is measured rather well - my abiding memory of him is from the 70s when he briefly interceded between the Scarlet Witch and the Vision. I like his flinty, snarky personality which has the knack of usually getting to the point, and this is in evidence here. Clint always reminds me of what a grown-up. street-wise Johhny Storm would look like [giggle]; a hot rough hunk. And yes, he does 'hang' well in this issue [thats enough, Karl]! I do think this series has been written with Jeremy Renner in mind tho, as there seems a casual inference in Hawkeye's style from the Avengers movie.
    I could do without Kate Bishop as his protege/apprentice but if we have to have her, rather her than Mockingbird who for me always dragged him down somewhat.
    Fraction displays a finely-tuned writing style, best suited here I think to individual heroes rather than groups, where he often ascribed character input for action-based exposition. Everythings in nice balance here though, and the art is very pleasing on the eye; enough detail to give a sense of reality but not too much to clutter. Just right.

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    1. Hi Karl, I do like your observation about Clint as a grown-up Johnny Storm. Heck, they even share a history of being duped by women, being blinded by, let's say, romantic urges.

      I see you're in a mischievous mood - good job he's not wearing the old Barry Smith skirt!

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  6. I enjoyed it too..but why is Clint so wealthy? I don't recall him ever having any money, or a job for that matter (other than his ex-carny savings (maybe) and that stint at Roxxon @ 30 years ago). Do the Avengers still pay stipends? Even if he's been saving all these years, Clint was still (1) dead for quite awhile, and (2) a renegade Avenger after that. It just seems kind of weird that, while not Tony Stark rich, he and Ben Grimm are both incredibly wealthy. Who says heroing isn't lucrative in the Marvel Age of comics?

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    1. I think the Avengers stipend is still around. No debt Tony Stark just throws bags of money at members when they're alive and on the team.

      (Sorry - daft old Blogger for iPad got sticky again, that should be 'doubt', not 'debt'. )

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  7. There's a big Daredevil influence in Hawkeye (which thrills me a lot, since I’m a big fan of the man without fear). I instantly thought to Matt when I recognized Aja’s art: he drew some issues of Daredevil, and his style perfectly ties with the noir atmosphere of the series. Then I recognized some wonderful tributes: as you noticed, Hawkeye uses a card as weapon, exactly like Bullseye used to do, and he throws a wet dog on a counter, which really reminds of the panel in which Daredevil throws a wet Nuke on a table, in the last chapter of Daredevil: Reborn. Hawkeye has the kind of magic that makes you say “This is an instant classic”, exactly like I thought when I started to read Lemire’s Animal Man.

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  8. Oh, nice one on the Nuke reference, Wayne, that passed right by me!

    I loved Born Again; a part of me still wishes Matt Murdock had retired at the end and gone off into that sunset with Karen.

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  9. I am huge Hawkeye fan, so Fraction in my opinion hit the nail perfectly on the tone and overall atmosphere. I did read several other reviews of this issue, and one the writers brought up an interesting comparison to the "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" mash-ups of the seventies. In the first story arc the two emerald heroes squabble about morality, specifically concerning a slumlord and "his" tenants. This theme as well as the plot structure is fairly similar when considering "Hawkeye #1"--it makes me curious as to why writers haven't dived into Hawkeye before...afraid of melting those wax wings, perhaps?

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    1. I've not seen the GL/GA comparisons, but I can see where they're coming from. Just so long as no little guys turn up and give Clint lectures about what he's not doing for them ...

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