Hawkeye 1-3

Today, Patrick and Shelby are discussing Hawkeye 1-3, originally released August 1st, September 5th, and October 17th, 2012.

Patrick: My Improv 101 teacher, used to stop our scenes all the time to give the following note: “Today’s the day.” What he meant was that today was the day these characters confronted the thing that was already weird about their relationship: everything comes out into the open, and friendship may not survive the encounter. It’s fantastic advice for making a short narrative infinitely more compelling – we all have routines and we all inherently understand the drama that unfolds when one of our routines is broken. As superhero comics have grown in such cultural importance, the need to express the routine of a superhero has gone the way of Blockbuster Video. There’s so much implied crime fighting between the issues we actually read, that they tend to focus on gigantic, world-shifting EVENTS. And those events are grim. Somewhere between the Rotworlds and Deaths-of-Families, among the Third Armies and H’els on Earth, I forgot that comics can speak the language of fun. Hawkeye not only speaks that language, it’s a master dialectician, artfully deploying the most elegant fun you’re going to see printed on the page.

The tone of this series is set in the very first spread:

This is how you meet the character – falling out of a broken window, ready to fire an arrow back at whatever made him fall. Yearning for context, your eyes scan the opposite credit page, which only offers “This is what [Hawkeye] does when he’s not being an Avenger. That is all you need to know.” And that’s true – all you need to know is contained on these two pages. Expect a lot of non-linear storytelling, simple but dynamic coloring and a healthy dose of irreverence. This isn’t an epic about a superhero fighting super villains; it is a collection of stories about a man that so just happens to be a superhero helping out his neighbors.

And for that reason, it doesn’t feel right to summarize the three stories that played out in these issues. Even the individual plots of these issues aren’t really the point. What they amount to is a strongly stated character and buttloads of style. So, let’s talk about those things.

I didn’t know Clint Barton at all before Jeremy Renner’s cameo in Thor. You could argue that his appearance in The Avengers hasn’t done anything to effectively introduce the man to me. So it’s a relief to discover that Clint is a man of the people, who lives in a low-rent apartment building – not because he’s trying to clean up the streets from the inside (like Bruce does in Batman #0), but because that’s where he’s comfortable. He’s the kind of guy that decides he has to change the name of his adopted dog from “Arrow” to anything else, the kind of guy that can’t keep his special tools clearly organized or labeled, the kind of guy who drinks coffee right out of the pot.

These are all quirks that add up to a personality that can’t be nailed down to a simple adjective. I’m never totally sure how Clint’s going to react to a given situation, other than I can trust that he’s going to a) do the right thing b) do something awesome and c) have something funny to say about what’s going on. Matt Fraction’s writing carries this same attitude, and the way he manages to impose Clint’s personality on the rest of the narrative is impressive. Take, for example, the Daily Bugle headline: “Everything Awful: Oh God Somebody Do Something.” Or like when Clint attends a Cirque du Soleil-esque performance – one of the performer’s speech bubbles reads “(French stuff.) (Wait, maybe some Italian too?)” Clint doesn’t understand what the dude’s saying, so why should we?

It’s also telling that the only time we see the Hawkeye mask it is used to cheekily cover Clint’s genitals as he leaps naked across the room.

Artist David Aja is just as invested in expressing Clint’s attitude as Fraction, and this is the perfect intersection of style and personality.

You may have noticed from the images I posted here, but there’s a lot of purple in this series. Even when he’s not in costume (which is all the time), Clint seems to favor purple tees and he’s usually wearing a pair of purple sun-glasses. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth rightly recognizes that most other superheroes deal in reds, blues, blacks, greens – colors with harder edges, but Hawkeye almost uniquely wears this cool color that is more welcoming than moody. And the color bleeds into everything, until the whole world is a little bit Hawkeye.

I also like the inclusion of Katie Bishop — a previous Hawkeye — as Clint’s newly minted side-kick / manager. Their relationship is interesting, but I think I’d rather use this opportunity to pivot over to you, Shelby. Katie’s got agency enough to be her own superhero, but for reasons that don’t seem totally clear to either she or Clint, they decide to work together. It’s a great dynamic and they don’t have any higher authority to answer to – which means there’s basically nothing between them and adventure.

Shelby: The Katie/Clint relationship is definitely an interesting one. It seems to fall into your standard “clueless guy/super capable girl, maybe with a crush,” but I feel like we’ve got a few more layers to it. The dynamic between the two of them sometimes sits at the brother/sister level, sometimes at the friends since forever level, and always at the flawless hero teammate level. Even when things are going to hell around them these two are working together perfectly, knowing exactly what the other one needs, be it trick arrows or a smartass reply. The phone conversation when Clint asked Katie to be his partner in fighting crime is especially interesting.

One of his first arguments as to why she should work with him is “he doesn’t want to sleep with her.” Fraction could have left it at that, a quip of a reason with an equally sassy retort from Katie, but the inner admonition from Clint for saying it, paired with the pensive Katie instantly makes this a more complicated situation. Outstanding archery and super-heroing aside, what we’ve got is your standard, complicated relationship between a man and a woman. It’s awkward, it’s real, and I love that it was included here.

This is one of the best titles I’m reading right now. The writing is sharp, and Clint has so much god-damned heart I almost can’t stand it. He’s one of those characters I wish were real so it would make my crush a little less strange. I love the setup of just random episodes of Clint’s non-Avenger life. I hope Fraction can continue to write this as a series of incidents instead of incorporating a larger story arc; while I’m intrigued by whatever it is that has caused Clint to create his big to-do list, I would rather just read about him dealing with conflicts on an issue-by-issue basis. I would recommend this title to anyone, and am so happy it was recommended to me.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

36 comments on “Hawkeye 1-3

  1. I wonder how long a new-adventure-every-month format will appeal to me. I’ve gotten used to seeing long drawn-out sagas unfolding a chapter at a time – and while it seems like a breath of fresh air now, I can see this pace getting wearisome.

  2. My favorite things about this title are the design-heavy art — many pages look like slickly designed title sequences from the early sixties — and the whip-smart writing. The third issue is easily my favorite for both of these, as Fraction spins several gags simultaneously, turning the entire issue into an entertaining set-up for a few satisfying punch-lines. Long-form narratives are capable of some incredible things, but it’s fun to see some creators playing with the episodic possibilities to deliver something much more interesting than just a short version of a long-form story.

    • Yeah, the various punchlines regarding the poorly labeled trick arrows were all good. Like every single joke lands, which is an impressive track record for any kind of medium, let alone printed humor. Maybe I’m just a sucker for smart and funny, but I love this series.

  3. Oh and before anyone cries foul over this not being a DC title: whatever we add to our coverage, we will in no way reduce our commitment to following the DC titles, artists, writers and events that we love. We were never going to cover all 52 titles (Zero Month almost killed us), but with the aid of our fabulous new contributors, we are able to scratch some additional itches. Won’t y’all join us?

  4. This is such a special title. Matt Fraction is one of my favorite writers at Marvel and paired with David Aja’s artwork they form this unstoppable force or a creative team. I went back to find other runs they’ve done together (notably the Immortal Iron Fist run with plotting help from Ed Brubaker) and each time they are grouped together the book lights up the room.

    I read Hawkeye and am always reminded why I want to write comics.
    I read Hawkeye and see Aja’s layout dynamics and instantly work on my art.

    Month in and month out, Hawkeye remains that clever action title who wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve. .

  5. I was sold in issue 1, when Clint gets into a fight with the mobsters at the vet clinic and announces, “It’s okay, I’m an Avenger.”

    • I was forever linked to this title at “Casual, super casual” and then again with “Because, boomerangs.”

      Fraction’s having fun and it’s seeping into every aspect of this book in all the right ways. I almost could care less if Hawkeye got into action-packed trouble, I just find his daily life interesting in it’s own right.

  6. Look at that page of Clint and Kate on the phone. That’s 24 PANELS in a single page, which is rare to see outside of George Perez. I’m really loving the fact that this book isn’t decompressed and that it fits a full story into each issue, and one of the main reasons they can pull that off is because the art is so good that they can stuff that much story into one page without it feeling cluttered.

    This is my first monthly Marvel title and is so totally worth the money. I’m glad you guys are going along for the ride too.

    • Yeah, it’s a great ride. Between it and Daredevil, I fear we’ve set the Marvel-bar too high. Like this is one of those that doesn’t feel like a matter of taste: as though it’s just objectively good.

    • Hahaha, Kaif, that’s the most charming thing you’ve ever said on this site. Tell you what, if it’s ends up being a total bust for you, I’ll read any three issues you want me to (no matter how much I think the main character is a dork). Deal?

      • I’ll see if I can pick up at least issue 3 on Friday when I get my weekly comics. I actually like comics that are one and done stories (I think far too many are To. . . Be. . . Continued), and I want to like Fraction, so I will give it my honest to god best effort.

        Seriously, this book is getting reviewed all over the place like last year’s Daredevil run was at the time (which has been fantastic). I’d be silly not to at least check it out.

        • Issue 3 is my favorite of the run so far — it’s clever, goofy, and incredibly well-paced. You don’t need to have read the first two issues for it to make sense, but the villains appear in earlier issues, and having a little more context for Clint and Katie’s interactions definitely enhances the issue. You won’t regret picking it up.

        • I read issues two and three. They’re good. I’ll buy issue four. This is the comic that would have been made if Remington Steele were part of Oceans Eleven and they did a prequel comic. I just thought of that. I’m going to go back and read it with Pierce Brosnan doing Hawkeye’s voice.

  7. I would argue that this is one of the best comics on the stands right now, if not the best. It’s certainly the most fun — the last issue made me literally squeal with glee (not my usual m.o.). It seems like Marvel comics are more fun and lighthearted than DC these days. Can anyone name one purely fun/not dark DC comic worth reading right now?

    • Uh…hmm. Justice League Dark is pretty fun…Sword of Sorcery is pretty fun, too. Justice League proper isn’t super dark at the moment, but it’s also not super fun.

      This is actually a pretty tough question, most everything I’m reading is involved someway in Before Watchmen, Death of the Family, Third Army, or Rotworld. Spoiler alert: none of those things are light and fun.

      • Flash gets my vote for most-fun / least-dark series I’m reading.

        Also despite Shelby’s insistence that all that crossover stuff is Too Dark, I’ve found Green Lantern: New Guardians to be a lot of fun. There are body-snatching space-zombies in it right now, but it’s more of a fun trip through the emotional spectrum than anything else.

        • Come now, I’m the last one here to call something “too dark” as a negative. I love body-snatching space zombies as much as the next gal.

        • I’m just saying that the Third Army doesn’t bring much darkness to New Guardians – and in fact that series could probably be exploring its current ultra-compelling Kyle-transformation without participating in the crossover.

      • I’m already loving Lemire’s JLD, but I’ll give Sword of Sorcery another look as well. Thanks for the recommendations.

        • I also found Legends Of The Dark Knight #1 to be a light, un-dark read… it’s out of continuity, though. It’s funny how DC’s breezier stuff seems to have Dark in the title

        • I know it would never happen, but I would pay REAL AMERICAN MONEY to see a regularly produced Damon Lindelof / Jeff Lemire monthly telling stories of young Batman. I haven’t kept up with any of the other Legends of the Dark Knight issues, but that first one was cute and an absolute joy. Good call.

          Anyone read the first Lil’ Gotham yet?

        • I’ve actually only read the first Legends, too, and can’t read Lil Gotham yet either – this old dinosaur doesn’t own a tablet and actually waits for the print versions of the digital-first stuff

    • Dial H. It may be impossible to be more fun than Dial H. Also, Flash has gotten very fun after getting murky for a few months. Demon Knights is complete unadulterated silly fun. Justice League Dark has been fun in spite of the word ‘Dark’ in its title.

      But yes, there aren’t quite as many titles that fill me with glee as at Marvel right now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but noticeable when just looking at DC. However, Marvel doesn’t have much (that I buy) that’s very dark and brooding.

      • I thought about mentioning Dial H, but I held back because the art is frequently dark. And not like violent or anything like that, but physically dark: there is a lot of heavy inking that suggests a tone that’s more dire than the story itself projects.

        *Disclaimer – that might just be me. Shelby and I argued about this in the comments of our write-up of the first issue. The Boy Chimney design was scary enough that I wasn’t immediately convinced China Mievelle wanted to have fun with this character. It took until Captain Lachrymose’s appearance for me to get on board with the “we’re just being silly vibe.” My point is, the levity there is a but muddled, is all.

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