Wow. I don’t even know where to start. This run is incredible. Both Hawkeyes are great characters. Clint Barton is one of my favorites, but Kate Bishop is a tremendous character too. Both have a lot of snark, skill, and luck that makes their adventures so much fun. David Aja is my favorite artist. He is a minimalist magician. Fraction’s blend of smart and snappy writing is an absolutely perfect fit for Hawkeye. I can only hope this team keeps churning stuff out. I’ll read it all.
First, the series starts out with the soon to be classic line: “This looks bad.” Hawkeye’s first page shows him falling off a building and botching the landing. He spends a few weeks in a hospital because he doesn’t have super strength, fast healing, or any of the other particularly super superpowers. The premise from the outset, as the title page states, is to cover what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger. This gave the creators an out from participating in the never-ending string of tie-in events (see eventification of Marvel), and allowing Fraction and co. to develop some good, old fashioned solo material. Even in the first issue, there’s a lot going on, but there is no background really needed. Clint doesn’t have much money, so he grumbles about cab fare, lives in a crappy tenement apartment building, and doesn’t really dress all that well. His adventures involve some pretty small-time thugs and crooks who are trying to raise rent unfairly. The tone, including his rescue of an injured dog (later to be named “Lucky” or “Pizza Dog”), really makes Clint out to be the everyday Avenger. He really lives among the general population and isn’t a celebrity like many of his contemporaries.
Following the incredible start in issue #1, some of the other early issues that Aja did not draw were kind of odd. I didn’t really like “The Tape” as an arc, but after that, the run really found itself. I think that maybe the who concept for Clint and Kate’s partnership was still forming, so some of the earlier adventures weren’t quite as strong as the later ones. Once it found its stride around issue #7, the arc really took off. Aja’s art is just beautiful, and Fraction’s The alternating issues between Barton in NYC with Aja’s wonderful art, and Bishop in LA with Wu’s art showing another clever style really made this whole run seem like a beautifully crafted story experience.
The rest of the arc is honestly incredible. It is somehow the perfect blend of comedic shenanigans and genuine adventure for two lovable but down-on-their-luck superheroes. Both Clint and Kate are continually tested and seem out of their depth but their persistence and grit, not to mention teamwork get them through. Another reason to love this series is the number of truly innovative styles and concepts that are explored through creative storytelling. Oh, and did I mention that this arc won two different Eisner Awards in 2014? Best single issue and best covers. Both of them are definitely deserved. Just look at those covers! Though all of the issues are great, there are a few that stick out particularly as feats of creative genius:
Issue #11: This is one of the best single issues I’ve ever read. I know that I am not alone in this opinion since this issue, titled, “Pizza is my Business,” won a 2014 Eisner Award for best single issue/one-shot. The story is told entirely from Lucky (the Pizza Dog)’s perspective. Each character is shown with an accompanying series of smells and their dialogue shows only the few words that the dog understands. It is truly amazing how well Fraction and Aja capture the life and thoughts of a dog.
- Issue #17: This issue is actually just a silly dream sequence where Hawkeye falls asleep watching a children’s Holiday special. The artistic style and story end up being a fun blend of the children’s cartoon along with and the story blends the style of children’s cartoon with some of the recent events in Hawkeye’s life, making for a fun and inventive story.
- Issue #19: Most of this story is told in sign language. I don’t want to give much away, but this seems like a truly groundbreaking comic achievement. For those that don’t know American Sign Language, I recommend a translation for the issue. It’s very powerful and shows some impressive character development.
All the way through to the final issue (#22) this series kept its tone. This is one of the best comic runs out there. Easily enjoyable for die-hard Marvel fans or even newer readers. It’s largely free of the continuity eventapalooza that often limits story arcs, giving this wonderful creative team the leverage it needed to make something truly amazing. Please, just go read this comic. You won’t regret it.
Rating: 10 of 10