What does an Avenger do when he’s not saving the universe? If you’re Hawkeye you try to help your neighbours escape the clutches of a Russian ruffian. And get a dog.
This is a simple tale, but one skilfully and stylishly told. While Clint Barton references his Avengers status, he’s in civvies throughout, and there’s not a super-villain in sight. Clint’s narration, courtesy of writer Matt Fraction, is packed with personality; his Hawkeye is an adventurer rather than a thrillseeker, easygoing, yet focused, and if he had a super-power, it’d be his humanity – Clint isn’t super-sweet, but he’s a good friend to his neighbours and always ready to make new pals. He’s no genius, but he’s savvy, willing to meet people at their own level.
And he’s in love with New York – the sights, the sounds … the dodgy smells. Not for him the swank of Avengers Mansion or sterile floors of Stark Tower, not when there are grotty, vibrant apartment buildings to be had.
And as drawn by David Aja, the streets look magical. With just a few lines, some thick, some thin, he conjures up a cityscape, fire escape or cab-filled thoroughfare. Sometimes the effect is impressionistic, at others it’s specific. And the unshaven, slightly bedraggled Clint fits right in (click on image to enlarge).
He does, mind, smarten up for part of the book, and looks great suited and booted – Aja puts many a comic artist to shame when it comes to drawing clothes that hang realistically. And while we don’t see Clint in costume after the first couple of pages, Matt Hollingsworth’s colours recall Hawkeye’s outfits. They also do wonders when it comes to separating scenes, as we flash back and forth over several days. Chris Eliopoulos’s letters, meanwhile, are as friendly as you’d wish, for this presentation of Hawkeye.
The only quibble I have is that Hawkeye acts like Daredevil villain Bullseye. Not in the sense of killing folk, but in his use of small everyday items as weapons and tools. After page 2, there’s no bow and arrow, as Clint instead uses coins, cards and his own fighting skills.
I get that in a Seventies-style crime tale such as this, with Hawkeye out of costume, it’s not easy to fit in a ruddy great bow and hi-tech quiver, but archery is Hawkeye’s thing, his USP. There must be twanging.
The cover, by Aja and Hollingsworth, is wonderfully different – with luck, it’s very difference will make it stand out, though I noticed the book only when I compared pull-list to purchases, and went looking for it. I’m reluctant to suggest eye-assaulting primaries, but there’s a reason so many covers feature blasts of red.
Minor moans aside, I can’t recommend this book enough for fans of Hawkeye, street-level fun or just well-crafted comics. It doesn’t bother acknowledging the terribly convoluted continuity of Hawkeye over the past several years – Mockingbird doesn’t merit a mention. Rather, it gives us a clean, tight, done-in-one that anyone with a fondness for Clint would have to work very, very hard to dislike.