Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing Hawkeye 11, originally released June 26th, 2013.
Ethan: Heroes often have a fundamentally different way of perceiving the world than the rest of us – a unique challenge for the artists who have to bring them to life in comics. We’ve seen Iron Man’s in-suit view, cluttered with dozens of HUD displays showing vectors, power levels, and incoming angry phone calls. Spider-Man suffers an attack of Wavy-Line-Halo when he’s in danger. Daredevil’s world of radar-sense is one of the most foreign: wireframe surfaces instead of color, ripples of information spreading from source to receiver. In Hawkeye #11, artists Matt Hollingsworth and David Aja gives us our first close look at one of this title’s new heroes, along with his fascinatingly alien way of experiencing his surroundings. Lucky, the Pizza Dog, is pretty out of this world.
Lucky witnesses the angry conversation between Kate and Clint we saw last issue and decides to take a stroll. He’s intercepted by a puppy who leads him up to the roof, the scene of Gils’s murder by Kazi. After investigating the roof, Lucky makes his way down to the alley to investigate some pizza in the garbage. This stage of the investigation is pretty thorough: the pizza is well studied, and Lucky decides to sleep on it to better analyze the data. Waking to the sounds of an altercation around the corner, Lucky intervenes as members of the tracksuit bro-mafia beat up a homeless guy. Lucky recognizes the assailants as his former abusive owners (Bro #1 and Bro #2), and flees. The next scene finds Lucky back in Clint’s apartment as he’s questioned by the police about the murder. Later, we see Kate and Clint heading out, dressed to the nines. Soon thereafter, Lucky meets up with the puppy from earlier and is napping when he overhears the Brothers Bro climbing the fire escape. Kazi is with them, looking over the crime scene on the roof. Lucky leaps into action, injuring two before knocking himself and Bro #2 over the edge. Dazed from the fall, Lucky comes to a bit later in his puppy-friend’s apartment where Kazi and Bro #1 are also recuperating. Lucky makes a dash out the door and runs right into Clint, returning from his night out. The issue ends with Kate bidding Clint farewell, taking her things and his dog out west to LA.
If that sounds a little choppy as a narrative, it’s partly because Lucky’s story is told without the usual elements of dialogue – discussion, decisions, resolutions – or logical progressions of rising tension and action. His story contains pieces of all of these, but without the human boxing-up and labeling of them you get with human protagonists. Without the dozens of layers of moral, social and personal filters pressuring him to think about the future, Lucky’s life appears to be more a series of highly compressed episodes of perception and reaction. See a bad guy? Bite him. See a pizza? Eat it. See another dog? Befriend it. While Matt Fraction doesn’t give us any of the wry, complex conversations we’re used to, the pacing of this issue is terrific for giving us a look at life as a dog while also feeding us bits of plot that we didn’t see through Clint’s or Kate’s eyes.
My favorite part of walking a few miles in Lucky’s shoes (paws, I guess) is his instantaneous, comprehensive breakdown of people and places from their scent and sound. The artists create webs of interconnected pictograms to translate this experience for the reader:
Lucky knows Clint and Kate pretty well, so let’s take these super-senes out of the apartment for a stroll down the hallway:
I love these snapshots, the way the art grabs each scene and parses it out into a cloud of small facts. I wish I could post them all, but it goes on for the entire issue. The artist boils everything down into these heiroglyphs: obvious things like coffee, perfume, music, incense, plus trickier concepts like mistaken identity and danger. This icon library of life in New York is a neat way of showing us Lucky’s perspective, superimposed over the standard representative shapes of people, dogs and buildings.
Lucky’s mode of experiencing the world is very different, but the more you look, he’s actually got a lot in common with Clint. They fight injustice without thinking about it first; they prioritize food over personal hygiene; their head turns at a pretty face; they’re both looking for approval and companionship. I’m not sure if this says more about Lucky or Clint, but I’m leaning towards the latter. Clint is mostly a guy who grew up in a few very bad, very weird places and is only gradually falling into adulthood. His heroic deeds have more to do with his exquisitely trained instincts and a basic position on what’s good and what isn’t. Compare that with someone like, oh, Reed Richards. Reed’s got problems, but he approaches his role as a superhero from a much more rationalized, deliberative process. Clint just doesn’t like bad things happening to good people, so when he recognizes that going on, he moves to stop it.
At the same time, as honed as his instincts are, he’s still just not that good at recognizing the shades of what it means to be bad. He kicked his wheelchair into traffic in issue #1 just because he was sick of being laid up. He hopped into bed with Darlene because, wow, she’s hot! without ever even so much as pausing to think about how his actions would strike Jessica Drew – you know, his girlfriend. If I could reduce this issue with the same level of compression as the art does, I think it might be something like this: Clint would probably be a better dog than he is a person. Even so, he’s on the right track, and I have faith that he’ll continue to grow into it.
How about it, Shelby? Are you seeing the puppy-dog-eyed, tousled-hair parallels? What did you think about the scenes near the end – with Kate leaving, how is Clint going to keep it together?
Shelby: I love this issue. I love the unique approach used to depict Lucky’s viewpoint. I love that when the people talk, he picks up a few words, but it’s mostly gibberish that I read as the adults talking in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I love the vast array of emotions shown in an issue without dialogue. It’s cleer, incredibly intelligent, and a fun and heart-breaking read. That being said, I was initially a little disappointed when I finished this issue. I’ve been waiting to see the fallout from Gil’s murder. I could see Clint either falling inward into himself, retreating into a sad cycle of self-loathing, or getting filled with coldly righteous anger, and recklessly striking out. As brilliant as this issue is, seeing Clint and Kate going to the funeral from the eyes of our beloved Pizza dog I felt I had missed some of that emotional reaction I was looking for.
But, after I read the book again, I realized those cues are there, you just have to know to look through them as Lucky tries to reason out what’s going on. The first conversation between Clint and Kate is the same one we saw last issue, when Kate told Clint she was trying to help, and that he did not get to yell at her. The second is when they’re getting ready for the funeral; mostly Kate is concerned about Clint’s collar staying put, but she also seems to be putting forth the idea that she is going to leave.
Finally, when she does leave, Clint asks either “Where will you go?’ or maybe “Do you have to go?” In either case, her answer is “I don’t know,” Clint replies with some sarcasm, and we are treated to yet another brilliantly composed panel.
There’s just so much between them in that empty space, made more empty by the simple outlines. So, what does this mean for Clint? I think he’s just about hit rock bottom. He’s lost Kate, the one person he truly had on his side, he was unable to protect his friend and may be unable to protect the rest of the building, he’s even lost his dog. After Clint talked with the police, he said something about his coffee not being strong enough, but the only words Lucky and the rest of us got were “not strong.” I don’t think Clint can handle this.
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