“The Stuff What Don’t Get Spoke”
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja
After a hiatus that felt like it lasted forever, we return to the adventures of the everyman-archer in Hawkeye 19. The Barton boys, Clint and Barney, have survived an assassination attempt, but did not make it out unscathed. Barney’s injuries see him confined to a wheel chair, and Clint is deaf, hopefully only temporarily. Not wanting to admit defeat, Clint becomes withdrawn. He doesn’t want to show weakness either, preferring to remain silent. A quick trip to the airport sees Ivan, the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia returning to town and being told to deal with his “rat problem”. Meanwhile, Clint and Barney fight. A series of flashbacks show the brothers in their youth, dealing with a similar experience. What starts as an argument turns to fisticuffs as Barney tries to bolster Clint’s courage and keep him from giving up. After a while, Clint comes around and picks himself up. He gathers the tenants of his building together on the roof. It is a call to arms. He promises to stop them. When asked how, he simply states, “We.” The final scenes of the book jump back and forth between Clint making a literal call for help, and he and Barney beginning to get their revenge.
This issue is about a lot of things. It’s about communication, both in a general sense and in a more literal way. It’s about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, not giving up when things look bad. It’s about repeating past mistakes. It’s also about sign language. Fraction jams a lot into this story but it never feels overwrought. Hawkeye 19 is the “sign language issue” and there is a fair amount of it in the book. At no point does it feel gimmicky though. It feels like a natural solution for a character that finds himself unable to hear for a second time in his life. Clint’s refusal to speak, and even sign, is believable given the ordeal he’s been through and his obvious feelings of failure.
One of the reasons the sign language really works in this book it is so unobtrusive. Aja numbers the panels and incorporates them into the flow of a given page. When a character spells something out with a hand, the letters are confined to smaller panels. Aja’s art is generally pretty detailed, and the hands are no exception. Another thing that impressed me in this book were the mirror pages and panels that were used to show the similarities between an episode that happened during Clint and Barney’s boyhood and the present. Some artists aren’t so great at making kids look like kids; they look more like small adults. Aja makes young Clint and Barney look like actual boys though. The choice to leave blank word balloons in the story is an interesting one. It’s a simple but very effective way to reinforce the idea that our main character can’t hear in a medium that doesn’t have sound to begin with.
Hawkeye 11, the Pizza Dog issue, just won an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue last week at San Diego Comic Con. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing Hawkeye 19 pop up in next year’s list of nominees for the same category. Original and refreshing, verging on experimental, and totally out of the norm for a super hero comic, this has been one of the best issues in a regularly great series. Marvel has a real gem here. Unfortunately, it only has a few more issues to go. I’m already starting to miss it.