Two to three years after the completion of one of the best comic runs ever created, I’m leaning back and staring at the blankness of the ceiling and wondering how I did not run across it before. Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja was a work of art that I could practically feel. I can only imagine these two creators sitting in the same room over storyboard, script and cups of coffee because I can’t fathom how else such a perfect work of art could be manifested with the level of intricacy and efficiency on those pages.
I’m a sucker for single character focus books. It’s probably the unconscious reason that I loved Spider-Man so much growing up, and why I enjoy (prior to the show) less known works of art like Brian Michael Bendis’ Alias, which focuses on Jessica Jones. Characterization is key to me, and as much as large books like The Avengers and Justice League are fun, they don’t have the time per issue to focus on the nuance of the characters while they are fighting off world ending threats. Often, these books focus on the non-superhero side of the hero. Who are these people when they aren’t out fighting alien invasions? What are they dealing with in their day to day lives?
Hawkeye is particularly interesting because unlike many heroes, he doesn’t have any powers at all. He doesn’t have super strength, he can’t fly, none of that. He’s just a guy who has a very particular knack of never missing. Fraction starts of almost every issue showing something insane or devastatingly impossible happening to Clint Barton and/or Kate Bishop (the other Hawkeye- yes, the book focuses heavily on her too, and she’s awesome). They end up in these situations because they care about helping people. That’s how we know these two are true heroes. If they were anything like a lot of the bystanders on earth-not-616 (i.e. this boring real world we live in), a lot more bad things would happen to innocent people in these stories. They make mistakes. These mistakes have repercussions that drive the story on. It’s fascinating to real people on the page. Because while extraordinary in their ability, they are real people.
I can’t begin to accurately express how I feel about the paneling, coloring and art. It’s friggin’ incredible. David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth produce this unrefined, solid color palette look that plays so well into the story telling and the kind of people that Clint and Kate are. It’s difficult to describe. You really need to see it for yourself. It meshes well with Fraction’s story telling. He like to set up these scenes and give them to you out of order like a Quentin Tarantino movie. It’s incredibly compelling and almost forces you to read some of the issues over again just to appreciate what you just read more.
It might seem like I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but this is one of the best runs I’ve ever read. This could be due the fact that I’m just now getting around to some things that my fellow comic book readers and store owners have been recommending me, but I mean it. I love going back and reading something that missed before and realizing that good comics have been coming out for a long time. I hear fans saying they left Marvel or DC for indie (or just quite comics all together), but it’s work like this that will keep me from ever falling in that boat. Much love to the creators for putting out this masterpiece and helping us to truly, better understand Hawkeye (both of them).