If you’ve been following comics recently, chances are good that you’ve heard mentions of the elusive Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja. The series has gained a huge and dedicated following. Lately, however, much of the discussion has turned to grumbling about the frequent and lengthy delays plaguing the finale of the series. Thankfully the wait is nearly over, and if you haven’t taken advantage of the hiatus to get caught up on one of the best series to be put on paper, you’ve still got some time. Remember all of those awkward conversations you nodded through when Breaking Bad ended? Yeah. You don’t want to go through that again. Here’s a few reasons why it’s worth the effort.
Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first – the story. Clint Barton’s been written off by a lot of folks for being ‘that grumpy guy with the sticks and string’, but this book takes that assumption and adds layer upon layer of humanity and depth to the Avengers favorite punching bag. That’s the basic premise of the story. Clint more or less gets the hell beat out of him every issue but manages to drag himself back up to finish his job. Luckily he has Kate Bishop (also Hawkeye) to back him up and keep him in line. Seriously, she’s worth the price of admission alone. During his off-hours, Clint has an apartment in Brooklyn where he spends time with his neighbors and fights with his DVR. His nefarious tracksuit mafia landlord decides it’s time to drive out the tenants in order to sell the building by any means necessary. Clint responds with punching and arrows, as one does, and things never quite go in his favor. The ensuing rollercoaster of drama, feels, and action will have you grinning like an idiot on one page and then immediately wondering how your heart ended up on the floor with the next.
Next up, there’s the art. Most of the series is handled by David Aja, a design genius, and Matt Hollingsworth, a wizard of colors. These two have a minimalist approach that focuses heavily on up-close detail. The panel layouts are a bit unorthodox, but they create really fluid movement across the page as both arrows zip by and dialogue flows. Things like the progression of expressions throughout a conversation or the nocking of an arrow all look and feel smooth and subtle. The other issues that feature Kate Bishop are drawn by Annie Wu, and again colored by Hollingsworth, are a bit more animated and earnest. Kate’s more of a free spirit and Wu’s art reflects that with looser lines and more exaggerated expressions. The two styles compliment the two Hawkeyes perfectly. In short, lots of pretty pictures.
Every comic book has a story and art, so what sets this one apart from the rest? That would be all the heart Fraction has packed into this book. From all of the little in-jokes and quirks, to the gut punch twists, this story is dripping with charm. Beyond that though, Fraction and Co. have done a lot of good with this book. They derailed the release schedule and put issues out of order so that they could get an issue devoted entirely to Hurricane Sandy relief. Not only was that issue fantastic, but all royalties were donated to the Red Cross. The series definitely isn’t afraid of taking risks beyond messing up its own schedule. There’s an entire issue from the perspective of a pizza-loving dog (Pizza Dog!), another entirely in the style of a children’s cartoon, and more recently, one written completely in American Sign Language. There’s a reason why this series won so many awards, and its quirkiness is only part of it.
Hawkeye #22 hits stores July 15th, so track down your local comic shop and pay them a visit. If you’re stuck somewhere not cool enough to have one of those, get outta here and order them. Get to it!