Hawkeye 13

hawkeye 13Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Hawkeye 13, originally released October 16th, 2013.

Shelby: FINALLY! Six months ago, something terrible happened to our favorite hot mess Clint Barton. I won’t spoil it here before the jump, but if you’ve been reading this title you know what I’m talking about. Matt Fraction has taken us on a whirlwind tour of everyone’s involvement and reactions, and I mean everyone: the man responsible, Kate, Lucky the Dog, even Clint’s brother. The one voice who’s been silent is the one I’ve been most eager to hear. That is, of course, Clint, and finally today Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth tell us Clint’s side of the story. It’s exactly as heartbreaking and lonely as you would expect.

The issue opens shortly before Clint hears about Grills’ death. He’s recovering at Avengers’ Tower after getting the shit kicked out of him when he gets the call. The rest of the issue is stuff we’ve already seen, in one way or another: Clint’s call with his brother, the talk with the police, getting ready for the funeral, Kate leaving. What the book really does is reinforce the mess Clint has made out of his life. He’s not just on call with the Avengers, he’s working with Spider-Woman, whom he recently dumped, and it’s awkward and terrible. You think he’s having an impassioned talk with Kate about how he’s going to rally and take out the Tracksuit Mafia once and for all? Nope, he’s getting drunk and passing out in front of the TV.

music notesThe whole story feels like a series of vignettes of poor Clint trying to make his way through this. The 3×3 grid of panels (made famous by Watchmen, of course), emphasizes the idea of a short, small look into his life; there’s not a lot of real estate in each panel, so the focus is on stringing together a series of glimpses instead of stepping back and seeing the whole picture. Hollingsworth’s inks add to it, with distinct color washes for each scene. It helps to further separate these moments in Clint’s life, makes it all seem very fragmented.

I don’t know how many Hawkeye write-ups I’ve done where I’ve had to shake my head and say, “Clint, Clint, Clint.” This is going to have to be another one of them. We finally see what exactly was the straw that broke the camel’s back and drove Kate away, and It’s a doozy. In the hearse on the way to the funeral, she puts it all out there; she tells Clint she’s there for him, that he can do whatever he needs to get through this because she knows he’ll be there for her when things are hard. The most touching line:

Because you and me? Together? Together, Clint, I think you and me are the person we both wish we could be. And I know that person…I know that person is worth something. I know that person can…can pretty much do anything.

That’s incredible. That’s the kind of friend we all want to have. Someone who acknowledges our faults, and their own, and who knows that together you can both overcome them. She gets a pretty classic Clint response.

car rideIt’s funny and sad and kind of dickish all rolled up into one; hey, I called it a “classic Clint reaction” for a reason.

Fraction has given us possibly the most flawed character I’ve encountered yet in a comic book. Let me amend that to realistically flawed; he’s got these very basic, human insecurities and failures that I find are incredibly easy with which to identify. He doesn’t know how to talk about his feelings or ask for help, he’s moody, withdrawn, and self-pitying. This issue could have been Clint’s rallying point, the rock bottom he had to hit before he could pick himself up. Instead, it’s more of Clint being Clint, and suffering the consequences for it. The last page is a perfect example of an opportunity Fraction didn’t take to make things ok for Clint. Kate and Lucky have just left, and Clint invites Barney up to the roof, where Grills’ dad is hosting a cook-out for the building. This could be a touching moment of healing, the beginning of acceptance, Instead, Clint walks away from the crowd and just looks out.

lookoutThat could be a contented man gazing out over the little chunk of world he’s carved out for himself. Personally, I see it more as a very lonely man, facing the world with no one at his back. As the camera pans out, he just gets smaller and smaller; there’s no one else visable on the roof with him, no one in the apartment building. For me, there’s no healing here, no moving on. Just a man who thinks he has to take on the world alone. On that incredibly glum note, I’m going to turn things over to Patrick. Patrick, how do you feel about finally seeing Clint try to deal with Grills’ murder?
Patrick: Oh boy, this is a tough one to talk about. If I know anything about the internet — and by this point, I believe that I do — the other sites are going to be exclaiming about their FEELS. It’s a heartrending issue, and one that never plays to the cliches of a story about a man hitting bottom. You know what I mean? I think the temptation would be to make Clint’s escapism with alcohol into alcoholism, or to make him cruel rather than withdrawn. Hawkeye 13 takes none of those dramatic liberties, and let’s Clint’s understated, aimless sadness direct our entire experience.

Shelby, you mentioned the persistent nine-panel lay-out, and the episodic nature of this issue as lending to the feeling of fragmentation, but it also makes everything feel very samey – as through all these vignettes are the same emotional moment smeared over weeks and weeks. There’s no variety, no release, just the same hard reality over and over again: Clint is responsible for Grills’ death. Fraction and David Aja have composed some masterful pages, and the static nine-panel lay-outs manage incredible feats of focus. It’s not true for absolutely every page, but most of them put a crucial image in the center panel, around which the rest of the action on the page revolves. Shelby’s example of the last page is one of the most striking — with Clint in the middle of the page, all alone and shaded out. But that middle panel is also where Fraction and Aja will put Grills’ father listlessly protesting to reopen the Jersey Shore or Clint robotically repeating “collar stays,” or discovering Grill’s a Bro’s shoe on the street.

hawkeye 13 middle panels

There’s also the interesting little bit in that second example — those are probably words that Lucky can understand, but they don’t mean the same thing to him at all. It’s a nice little nod to the Pizza Dog issue.

The emotional triggers are right in the middle of the page. They’re obvious and they hit hard. At the risk of making myself feel again, this was the most effective use of this trick for me.

Elegy for GrillsIt’s made all the more powerful because the page is largely silent, the only dialogue seen as a rude interruption — one which is even shushed by the series’ villain.

But I also love that this series doesn’t have to stop being itself to engage in a formal experiment like this. Fraction continues to write Hawkeye with a jokey earnestness that makes it impossible not to love him, even as he’s pushing further away from his friends and family. I love his on-going technophobia — remember how he had to call Tony Stark over to install his entertainment center? Well, he’s made that particular ineptitude so much more personal in this issue: he calls Bobbi Morse to get the correct spelling of the word “incorrigible” because he doesn’t have access to a computer (or even a dictionary). And then, in a moment that summarizes Clint’s emotional response to this whole situation, he says to a ringing-phone, “I hate you.” Oh, buddy, I feel ya.

The ‘earnest’ end of that jokey-earnestness is also just killin’ it in this issue. I know people claim that our culture is in a bit of a post-ironic era, and Hawkeye is able to embody the zeitgeist by being sincere as fuck. This panel is an incredible example of that — between the simple drawing and the straightforward dialogue, you cant help but hear Clint give the perfect reading of this line:

Hawkeye loses his dogWow. Who even needed irony in the first place, right?

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?

15 comments on “Hawkeye 13

  1. Isn’t that the shoe of the tracksuit guy Lucky tackled off of the roof?

    We’ve seen some of these scenes so many times from so many different perspectives, it’s hard not to get a little confused. I think I might make a schematic.

  2. Patrick, how can you talk about Clint being a technophobe and NOT mention that he still has a pager!!! That was the Clintiest think about the issue!

  3. So I normally have a routine when I sit down to read my stack of comics for the week: I start off by reading any books I’m going to be reviewing, then I generally read my stack from the book I’m least excited about to the one I’m most excited about, saving the best for last. Generally, on a Hawkeye week, that’s almost always Hawkeye.

    This week, though, I just couldn’t help myself. Hawkeye was the first thing I read, and man, was it worth it. This wait between issues was rough. Loved this one, and it made the wait for justice on Grills’ killers easier to tolerate, because this little arc wasn’t about stopping Kazi and the Tracksuits (not yet), it was about watching how Clint’s world fell apart him all because of the death of one person. Well done.

    Also, I love, love, love the tenants of Clint’s building. They took in both Grills’ father and Barney immediately with such a sweet, welcoming spirit. What a great troupe Clint somehow stumbled upon. No wonder threatening it is such a big deal.

    • That’s an excellent point you make about the tenants that I never thought about. I hope we get to learn more about some of them – also hope that by learning about them it doesn’t mean that the will die ala Walking Dead (TV)

      • Yeah, Fraction clearly has back-stories for all of these folks (remember all of the smells Lucky picked up as he passed their doors in the Pizza Dog issue?), and I suspect that, in time, we’ll learn more about them. I mean, who knew that the Tracksuits’ interests in the building had something to do with someone (maybe their mother) living there? I’ve never seen dramatic irony delivered via dog before, but that little tidbit of information is a doozy.

  4. This issue for me was dreadfully hurt my the break between the last issue and this one. The first 1/4 of the comic was painfully dry to me as I had little Hawkeye momentum going.

    A good issue, but the nature of comics hurt a lot. I’ll re-read the last few and this one again and enjoy it more, but I thought the rest of the stuff really need to be fresh to make this hit home.

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