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?