I have what I’d like to consider an advantage in reading and reviewing this comic, and that is that I have no clear idea in my head of what a Hawkeye comic book looks, feels or reads like. I know who Hawkeye is, of course (and yes, I knew who he was before the damn movie, so lay off), but he’s never been one of those characters who grabbed me. I used to feel the same way about Iron Man, though, and Matt Fraction is one of the writers (along with Warren Ellis) who turned that around for me. So, putting my faith in Fraction and dynamite artist David Aja, I snagged this debut issue and found myself swept into a gritty little world with a compelling, funny and completely freestanding Clint Barton at the center.
Basically, Fraction sets the story up as what Clint Barton does when he’s not hanging out with The Avengers. After a nasty fall leaves him hospitalized, we see Barton (almost never, by the way, in Hawkeye costume) becoming a kind of people’s hero as he tries to defend his neighbors in his apartment building from a corrupt landlord named Ivan (Who, by the way, contacted me on Twitter today to make sure I mentioned him in my review. This comic already has homage accounts to its name.). This, intercut with Clint’s quest to rescue a gravely injured dog, casts him as a hero in the trenches fighting for everyday justice. The only tie to his Avengers theatrics is a purple necktie, and yet you see the kind of hero he is right from the start.
Not since his work on The Immortal Iron Fist (which you should read) has Fraction presented such an immediately clear and vivid picture of a hero. There’s a kind of bleak practicality to the way in which Barton goes about solving the dilemmas of his life outside of superheroism, and through that we get to know him quickly and fully. He’s direct, he’s tough, he’s strong, but somehow that never feels bland. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a superhero comic that didn’t rely on a gimmicky theatrical vibe or a “moral code” backbone to let us know what kind of character we’re dealing with. Fraction doesn’t compromise, doesn’t give in to formulas, and the result is a hero I can’t wait to see more of.
And then there’s David Aja. For my money, he’s one of the best artists in comics, and he doesn’t disappoint here. He’s not as slick as many of his contemporaries, and that makes him perfect for this book. He nails the roughness of it, the unkempt chaos of what Barton’s going through in this issue, and the double punch of script and art becomes something more than just a good pairing. Here, it’s magic.
Just a few days before reading Hawkeye #1 I read and loved Captain Marvel #1, written by Fraction’s wife Kelly Sue DeConnick. It’s unlikely that the same household could produce two such insightful, unique and powerful takes on superheroes who (as it turns out) are extremely underrated. Nevertheless, it somehow happened, and if you’re a Marvel fan and you’re not buying both of these books, you’re crazy.