My first experience with the character Hawkeye was through the popular Avengers cartoon Earth’s Mightiest Heroes *yes I watch cartoons*. I found the show on Netflix during my pre-Avengers hype and quickly grew fond of the character. Despite my disappointment with Hawkeye’s role in the film, Marvel swiftly made it up to me by assigning Matt Fraction and David Aja (pronounced AHA!) to the new, ongoing Hawkeye comic.
For those of you who don’t know: Hawkeye is the Avengers’ resident crack-shot marksman who carries a bow, has a quiver full of super-secret-special arrows, dresses up in pink and purple, and usually looks like this:
The first thing I noticed about this new series was the cover. It introduced a simplistic approach that would be utilized throughout the series. The bold, black lines inked with hues from a limited color-palette provided an anything-but-Marvel style that made this title truly stand out among the rest. The first issue did what the newest Daredevil series managed to do: it took a worn-out character and redefined him with a bold, new, and amazingly clever script, story, and art-style.
Often, the typical Marvel book is smothered by overwhelming story arcs of villains gone mad in their attempts to take over the world, which inevitably requires a superhero with some unbelievable display of power to save the day. Hawkeye #1 relieves us of this willing suspension of disbelief by bringing us a character that is, well, believable. Fraction opens the first issue with Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, on the tail-end of one of his heroic-acts-gone-wrong as he tumbles from the side of a building only to have the roof of a car break his fall. Usually, it would be at this point that the hero would compose themselves before hurling the broken car at their foe. Hawkeye, however, spends the next 6 weeks in the hospital.
In the following panels we see Barton rolling out of the hospital in a wheelchair, sporting some bandages, a purple t-shirt, blue jeans, and matching purple Converse All-Stars. Fraction has created a Hawkeye that goes beyond the bland, cookie-cutter comic book character and provided someone amazingly human. Clint Barton has no superpowers, no power-armor, no Hulk-hands. He’s just human, pure and simple, and that’s the best part about this character.
Fraction manages to establish a character that you want to root for. In the early pages of issue #1, we see Clint fighting for the life of a dog that doesn’t even belong to him, standing up to his tracksuit-sportin’ Russian landlord for the sake of his fellow tenants, as well as socializing while flicking coins at empty beer bottles on the roof of his apartment building during a nightly potluck. As the series goes on, I tend to forget that I am reading about a member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but rather about an ordinary man with extraordinary abilities. The fame and glory that comes from being a superhero is thrown out the window for Clint Barton. One of my favorite things about this character is that he is fully aware of the absurdity of his abilities, the ridiculousness of his position among the Avengers, as well as the often outrageous predicaments he winds up in.
Hawkeye is honestly just a fun and entertaining series. Aja’s artwork is exceptional and truly makes Fraction’s scripts come to life. Aja’s depictions of New York City are tangible and crude yet romanticized and noir. Although his artwork is not overly abundant in detail, it provides just enough information as necessary to fully immerse the reader into the characters and the story. There is nothing stoic or stolid about his work; it has a natural flow which allows for some of the most exciting actions scenes you will have the pleasure of reading.
We’re allowed to see a Hawkeye that is at times broken and desperate, scared even. I often find myself empathizing with Barton and his swift, mischievous, and charmingly blunt sense of self-worth. I’m not used to seeing such a humane character in a comic book. Fraction has successfully created something that is both fun and significant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I had to pick just one comic to buy each month, I would choose Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, hands down.