‘A Stick and a String from the Paleolithic Era’: Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye
26/08/2012 7 Comments
I’ve had a couple of people ask me lately what I thought about former Immortal Iron Fist collaborators Matt Fraction and David Aja’s new Hawkeye ongoing for Marvel. Short answer? I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be reading more of it. Long answer? Blog post!
Hawkeye’s first page removes us from the abstract spaces of superpowered heroes in dramatic fashion, our hero plumping to earth in a splash page recalling one of the character’s more iconic moments from Joss Whedon’s recent big-screen Avengers. However, unlike the Whedon/Renner Hawkeye, the Fraction/Aja incarnation isn’t quite so… well, ‘lucky’ isn’t the right word, because on one level being lucky is what this first story (titled ‘Lucky’) is all about. No, Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye isn’t so Hollywood. That said, neither is he as “comic-book” as previously depicted in Marvel titles. Gone are the goofy boots and the headgear of old; there’s no mention here of having once died and come back to life. Instead, this is the story of what Hawkeye ‘does when he’s not being an Avenger’, and, as the title page informs us, the result is more of a Clint Barton adventure than it is a Hawkeye one.
In fact, the biggest surprise of ‘Lucky’ is that it plays out on street level along with the rest of us. It’s the story of a regular guy who worries about his insurance, a guy who can lose his temper which faced with disappointment. In many ways it’s the most grounded thing Fraction has written in a while. His version of the character embodies something we can all relate to: being ordinary in an extraordinary world; being good, but not being as good as the best. Yes the ‘world’s greatest sharp-shooter’ aspires to heroics but he knows that the world is full of moving targets. Such messiness is definitely reflected in Aja’s gorgeous art, a ragged, atmospheric depiction of big-city living which makes – in a way that’s almost clichéd – New York as much a character as the protagonist himself is. Aja’s Brooklyn is a backdrop brimming over with human life, all rooftop barbecues, and garbage cans, and honking taxis. You can practically feel the heat of late summer off of Chris Hollingsworth’s bold, simple colors, though the distinct palette choices are more than simply aesthetic; they play a crucial role here in differentiating between the two timeframes of Fraction’s narrative.
And of course there’s the dog. Sure the loner-hero-bonds-with-dog routine is a bit stock by now but it’s one of those clichés which has, if you’ll pardon the pun, a very long pedigree. Personally it’s my favorite part of the book and I think I’d be hard-pressed to find another line from comics this year which landed for me with the same effect as Barton’s ‘Lady… Fix. This. Dog.’.
In all, Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye has all the makings of a rich, surprisingly realistic run rooted firmly in a simple question of character: Who is Clint Barton, really? Because he isn’t just the guy with a bow and arrow who pals around with the super-powered Avengers. Instead he is a hero which ordinary people can aspire to; a hero people can recognize from real life, a world-weary wise-cracker who spends most of issue #1 in a rumpled suit. He is, like the dog which motivates the second half of ‘Lucky’, something of a wounded animal: fierce when backed into a corner and yet tremendously loyal to those who show him any measure of affection (or, like the residents of Barton’s building, feed him).
While not necessarily the most “modern” of comic books (in many ways Hawkeye feels distinctly old-fashioned), Fraction and Aja’s new monthly is a solid, stylish, and very enjoyable take on a popular character. A done-in-one story (I’m a big fan of those), this debut issue establishes not only the tone of the series but also hints at future plotlines. A case in point would seem to be that circle-and-arrow graffiti which appears in the background of several panels; bullseyes, perhaps? Or am I reading too much into that…?
- ‘Travels in Saucer Country’: my review of Paul Cornell’s new Vertigo series.
- ‘Heroically celebrating the best the Human spirit has to offer’: my Irish Examiner review of Grant Morrison’s Supergods.