Hawkeye 16

hawkeye 16Today, Spencer and Ethan are discussing Hawkeye 16, originally released January 22nd, 2014.

SpencerHawkeye writer Matt Fraction calls Wednesday “the worst day in comics.” Why? Because it’s the day all the writer’s mistakes “become fixed and permanent.” Yeah, it can be hard for any creative individual to put their work out there and be satisfied with it; personally, sometimes I even have a hard time not going back into these articles after they’ve published to fix them up. Hawkeye 16 provides an object lesson on why we should put our work out there anyway through the life stories of Will and Grey Bryson, brothers and musicians whose relationship has been ruined by the forty years they’ve spent composing their magnum opus.

Our hero, the intrepid Lady Hawkguy Kate Bishop, discovers a disoriented Will Bryson, one half of the legendary music duo the Bryson Brothers, wandering down a highway. Will believes that his producer brother, Grey, has been leaking “unfinished” pieces of his forty-years-in-the-making masterwork, “Wish”, in order to humiliate him; although Will appears to be suffering from mental and perhaps even drug problems, Kate takes the case, and after a series of slightly embarrassing scuffles, discovers that Will is absolutely, 100% correct.

and I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling Hawkguys!

Kate’s too depressed by the tragedy of the Bryson Brothers to even follow up on the case until Magic-Cat-Food-Guy turns her on to something amazing—after Grey’s death, Will has begun playing “Wish” in front of live audiences. For a second everything in Kate’s life is perfect…until Madame Masque finds her.

Any creative person can probably relate to Will’s struggle bringing “Wish” to life. As I mentioned, the urge to criticize and change finished works can be overwhelming, but it’s even easier to get caught up in perfecting something—be it a song or a story or a painting—that’s still unfinished. I know I’ve done it myself, obsessing for weeks or months over the beginning of a story, just going back and changing and changing and trying to make it “perfect” instead of ever finishing, until I get sick of it and bury it away somewhere. It’s not a way to move forward as an artist, and in this issue Fraction seems to specifically argue that it’s a crime to rob the world of those works. Will spends decades caught up in trying to bring his grandiose vision to life, and in doing so he misses his chance to become the “American Beatles”, he frustrates his brother, who spends his entire life caught up in Will’s endless project instead of pursuing his own dreams, and most important, he’s robbing himself of happiness.

no you're not done, haven't you read the end of the book?

The next page points out that even now, 46 years later, nobody has ever heard him play another note. This was the last time Will would ever feel happy…until he finally plays “Wish” live, and artist Annie Wu beautifully mirrors the above panel.

everything's changed, yet nothing's changed

Will and Grey obviously had problems beyond this album—be it mental illness, drugs, or their abusive childhood—but it’s hard not to wonder how much their life could have changed for the better had “Wish” come out decades ago, had Will never forgotten the joy performing his music brings him. It’s certainly something I’ll try to keep in mind.

Speaking of Wu, she’s absolutely on fire this issue. Her facial expressions and body language bring Kate and the rest of the cast to life as something beyond just drawings on a piece of paper; there’s a three-panel shot of Kate swinging her bow where we can see determination, then joy, then panic flash across her face that’s absolutely masterful. I also find myself impressed by the gags she squeezes into the background—I don’t know whether the ideas to have Will dive frantically beneath his piano bench when a fight breaks out or for Will to perform his concert while sitting in a kiddie pool come from Wu or Fraction, but they’re genius. Likewise, I don’t know who to credit the idea of depicting Will’s paranoia about his brother by showing Grey literally crawling all over Will originated to, but it’s inspired, and Wu nails the execution:

Hey there Gulliver

But I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Will Bryson and Matt Fraction and Annie Wu at this point; isn’t this book supposed to be about Kate Bishop? It certainly is, and it’s a joy to watch the story unfold with her in a starring role. It’s always a ton of fun to watch Hawkeye work, and Kate is very much a Hawkeye; even if she’s far more competent than Clint in many areas (she’s quite skilled with computers even if she hates them), she still snarks and flies by the seat-of-her-pants just as much as her counterpart ever did.

While we’re on the subject of Clint, this issue has me wondering more about his and Kate’s relationship and the rift currently dividing them. Clint and Kate obviously aren’t related, but they’re still connected in an important way, and I can’t help comparing them to the Bryson Brothers. Kate talks about the tragedy of those two guys, locked in a house together slowly going mad; was it Will and Grey’s proximity and working together that drove them apart? If we apply that to Kate and Clint, would it mean that Kate made the right decision by leaving for the West Coast? Or are the Bryson Brothers omens of what might happen if Kate and Clint never make up and just let this rift between them get bigger and bigger? No matter what, I’m curious to see how the lessons Kate’s learning in L.A. come into play when/if she and Clint reconcile.

Kate also spends a lot of time in this issue criticizing the tabloid-crazed lifestyle in L.A., but I’m not quite as sure what conclusion Kate comes to about it—or what Fraction’s trying to say about it. Ethan, you’re from L.A.; do you have any insights into these matters? Are you enjoying Kate’s adventures in your home city?

Ethan: To be honest, I do enjoy the time we get to spend with Kate in LA. New York’s great, but one can only take so many scenes of superheroes and villains crashing around Mathattan and Times Square. And if they aren’t in NYC, they’re in a different dimension or planet – why range so far afield when you have more great locations right on the same continent? So yes, shout-out to LA: my favorite city / megasprawl concrete-and-steel monster. It’s always a nice little moment to see the things you recognize from your area. Even when it’s traffic on the freeway.


I did do a double-take, though, when I saw Kate trying to navigate the busiest stretch of road in the nation on a BIKE. What the hell? I know cycling is a much more valid form of transit in the Big Apple, but it takes a special lack of common sense to try to get around on one on the 405. Everyone’s driving 80+ mph, cutting each other off, and generally disregarding the brutal physics of speed that kill so many people each year. Or everyone’s, you know, sitting still in traffic. Either way, Kate’s little impromptu Ciclovia doesn’t help my impression of her intelligence. Damn cyclists are bad enough on surface streets – strap yourself onto a combustion engine and burn some fossil fuels like God intended.

Overall, though, I didn’t really get the sense that Fraction was trying to say anything about LA as much as he was reiterating Kate’s fish-out-of-water feeling as she struggles to survive and find a place to fit. Sure, she makes the off-the-cuff statement that “people can be so mean to each other,” but at the same time, she’s growing herself a little family out here: the couple who first sort of took her on as a P.I. to recover their stolen wedding orchids seem to already consider her some kind of little sister, or maybe some kind of baby bird they’re sheltering until she figures out LA for herself. Heck, I’m betting that even the grumpy Detective Caudle is going to end up tolerating her, though definitely more in a bratty-baby-sibling kind of way.

Moving on to the art, I want to heartily second Spencer’s praise for Annie Wu. She manages to fuse a bold, sexy, original style with the necessary task of pulling the user through the narrative in a clear, understandable path. I think most of us take the latter goal for granted when it’s occupying the same space as the flashy visuals of the former. It only struck me on the third reading through that we’re jumping around quite a bit in space and history, but it never seems unnatural. Because when Wu wants some flash, she doesn’t stop to worry about whether everything makes perfect sense, she just hauls back the hammer and pulls the trigger. The scene of the mini-Greys that you included, Spencer, was one example, and the very first panel of the issue is another one that I really enjoyed:


Now, I’ve never personally been into a professional recording studio, but I’ve seen pictures of them, and I can tell you that they do NOT have that many microphones. The wonderful thing is that it doesn’t matter, because it’s such a great way to craft the tone of the scene. A young musician hunched over a piano, lost in his opus of joy and its terrible cost, a spark of light being swallowed up by the dark forest of mics hanging down like withering, rotten fruit. All the while, his brother looks on, already ago consumed by despair and bile, the edges of his features barely visible in the dark, like a corpse floating in the night sea.

What I’m trying to say is, I love you Annie Wu, can we be best friends? Oh, and please keep doing the awesome art with that Fraction fellow, you guys are tearing it up.

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 Comixology and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?


11 comments on “Hawkeye 16

  1. I’m a big dumb Beach Boys fan, so I was really happy to get all the references here (even right down to Kate singing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” before getting shut down by the nurses, who she mistakes for ASCAP – hilarious). It’s an interesting effect – fictionalizing a version of Brian Wilson (even the name is so close!) because it cheats the time a little. Like, if this was about Brian Wilson finding the courage to release Smile (instead of Will Bryson finding the courage to release Wish), it would have been an early 2000s story, and Kate is definitely a girl of the 2010s.

    It’s just a quintessentially Los Angeles drama, and I hope Kate’s going to get to experience all of LA history as a modern day detective – THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN.

  2. Spencer – I didn’t know that Fraction called Wednesday that – too funny. My buddy Pete (who I used to make music with before I moved west) always used to say that there was no such thing as finished recordings, only abandoned recordings. We had to take that on as a mantra in order to get anything done. But I always thought we were having our most fun when we’d forcibly end our music making sessions before we could stress out about all the details. (such as this dumb song we recorded a few years ago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZUj49z2cGk).

    • Patrick, that’s a really fun little song!

      Yeah, I feel where Fraction and this issue are coming from a lot — I’ve got folders and folders full of half-finished projects buried away on my computer that I’ve really got to finish someday. When it comes to music, the dumb little garage band I’m in can manage to finish songs, but then the next week nobody likes them anymore and we move onto something different, so that’s a totally different kind of frustrating.

      Then there’s the music video we made a few years ago, which we were forced to crank out in a day because our singer was submitting it for a project at his school, so we HAD to finish it, and that’s probably the only reason we did, because actually recording it went crazy; our drummer started playing the song twice as fast as it was supposed to be and we couldn’t figure out how to slow it down and we almost had to rewrite half the song. Still had a blast making it though (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9xXUFNHSf0)

        • Pretty much everything in that room besides the bass I’m playing the the guitar my buddy’s playing (and the stack of comics I’m looking through because of course) belongs to a coworker of our drummer who has a recording studio in his basement. As you can see it’s a really cool place and he’s let us record there a few times. The owner is in a metal band and they produce all their own stuff.

          We’re hoping to put together an EP there at some point, but we’re kind of on indefinite hiatus at the moment because our drummer’s house burns down a few months ago and took all his gear with it 😦

        • Recording space is clutch when putting a band together. I don’t know how you bounce back from fire though. That sounds ROUGH. Just so long as he doesn’t end up wandering the 405 on foot, he should be good.

        • They’re pretty fortunate that not only did everybody get out alive and unharmed, but that they had tons of insurance on the place, so while they of course lost many irreplaceable items, they have the resources to find a place to stay and rebuild and replace what they can. It’s a terrible situation that shook us all up, but it could have been much worse.

          (and just to be clear, it was my drummer’s house that burnt down, not his coworker’s place with the recording studio)

  3. This issue also has an interesting relationship with Star Fucking. There are a lot of little jabs at LA for the tour-bus culture (and said tour guide telling a story about what happened in improv class – that hits close to home), but it also as a celebrity worthy of celebration at its center. Coming to terms with how to treat celebrity and celebrities is a VERY LA thing. It’s cool to see all of that junk explored through Kate’s eyes.

  4. I didn’t want to mention any of this in the article itself as it probably conjectures too closely into the lives of the artists behind this book (and now that Patrick has mentioned the Beach Boy parallels that went right over my head, I’m even less convinced of any legitimacy of any of it), but still, I find it interesting that THIS issue out of any possible Hawkeye issues ended up telling the story of two artists whose relationship deteriorated because they just couldn’t put any new work out. After all, this issue was released a month early because Fraction and Aja are still trying to perfect Issue 15, not to mention that this issue follows a year where only only nine issues of Hawkeye (counting the annual) were released due to a hiatus and stress on Fraction’s end from taking on too many projects (which also resulted in him leaving FF and Fantastic Four). I highly doubt Fraction is frustrated with Aja on a Grey Bryson level or anything, but I have to wonder if any of this story resulted from the frustrations Fraction has faced over the last year. It seems like too big of a coincidence for it not to have.

    • Intentional or not, that parallel is definitely there, and I think your read is totally valid. I haven’t detected any animosity between Fraction and Aja (and I assume the delays are more from Aja’s perfectionism than Fraction’s workload), but I know I’ve been frustrated by the delays.

      • It is so weird that the number stays intact. Like, it obviously doesn’t matter, but we’re just got 16 and 15 will come out later. And then 17… unless of course 17 isn’t ready and we need to do 18 first.

        Incidentally – I love that as a weird little puzzle people may have to parse out in the future. “Wait, did issue 16 of Hawkeye somehow come out before 15?” “What, no – that can’t be right.”

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