After the success of the Avengers movie (surely you’ve heard of it), some of Marvel’s characters are getting the attention they so rightly deserve. One of them, and one of my favorites for a long time now, is that of a certain purple-clothed archer named Clint Barton. I admit – I think Clint is one of my favorite characters due to his lack of powers, his personality, his beliefs, and the fact that he continually is written as if he has something to prove, even if only to himself. He is most definitely not a 2-dimensional character… and the new series definitely does not disappoint.
The story, written by Matt Fraction, gives you a feel for who Hawkeye is. I mean, he’s had a heck of a time since he first showed his head. From someone who was considered a villain to striving for redemption as an Avenger. To being involved with the Black Widow (back when she was still a spy and not a redhead) to marrying SHIELD agent Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse. To dealing with the fact that his wife let someone die (the first few years of the West Coast Avengers title) to watching HER die (Avengers West Coast #100) to dying himself (Avengers Disassembled) to coming back from the dead (somewhere in the first series of New Avengers) to Bobbi returning to life (during Secret Invasion)… The guy’s been through some serious stuff! And Fraction doesn’t let up. Knowing this character, I could see the past in him still driving him to help people and be there for the little guy. And that really is the persona of Hawkeye – the regular joe who just happens to have a particular skill in archery who stands up for those who can’t.
The artwork by David Aja is amazing. I’ll be honest, Iwas not too familiar with his artwork and was unsure if it would work for me here. Surprisingly, to me anyway, it did. In certain scenes, I got the feeling like it was a noir-style book – which is perfect for someone like Hawkeye. He isn’t a super hero – he’s simply a hero. And the artwork brings this out. Did he go up against a super villain here? No, he went up against some mobsters. He protected an animal. He protected his neighbors. And the humanity of the character is definitely not lost here with the artwork. But speaking of that, let’s not also forget the amazing colors of Matt Hollingsworth who continued to add more dimension to the story and works to enhance Aja’s pencils and inks. There were some subtly uses of Hawkeye’s “colors” throughout (such as the purple on his tie at the animal hospital) which let you know for sure who you were dealing with… The same person, in costume or out, and just making sure the reader knows that. And we cannot forget the lettering of Chris Eliopoulos without whom the words written by Fraction would not appear. From Clint’s thoughts to the character dialogue, he did a great job of getting the script in there without taking away from what the user sees in the artwork. All in all, this is a great team.
The book is a great encapsulated story, meaning it’s setting the tone for the series. It has that noir feel, like I mentioned, which is good for a non-powered hero. It’s sticking up for the regular joe, for the elderly woman in the neighborhood, who doesn’t have anyone to speak on their behalf. Fraction got that down perfectly. This is Joe Hero… with one caveat that I, as a long-time Hawkeye fan, am concerned about: he was a little more aggressive than I remember, to the point of not being the same Hawkeye from yesteryear.
Case in point: He pulls out a playing card and flicks it at a mobster’s neck, slicing it. Is that the Hawkeye I recall? No; the Hawkeye I remember was against killing in every way. He understood it was necessary at times, but as a last resort and only when every other option has been explored. This is more a move by Bullseye, who put on the Hawkeye mantle during the Dark Avengers run. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s literally been through hell in dying and returning, his wife dying (the Skrull version anyway) and coming back and some marital issues there (does he need to worry about divorce if she was legally dead?) that pushed him over, but he’s acting more like when he was Ronin than Hawkeye… although he does redeem himself with his “I’m an Avenger” comment near the end of the story. It sounds like he is justifying it to someone else, but I think he’s saying it to bring himself out of this dark place he has crawled into.
I am really hoping that this violence and these tendencies were also used to set the tone for the story and this be Clint’s road to redeeming himself in his own eyes. I know that the Kate Bishop Hawkeye from Young Avengers will be joining the cast here, and hopefully that’s used as a character for Clint to mentor and not only bring her into the full Avengers fold but to find that bit in himself where he can be comfortable again with who he is after the hellish experiences he has encountered.