Advance Review: Hawkeye #1

By Steve Morris

Hawkeye’s appeal is, as Matt Fraction nails immediately in issue #1 of his new series starring the character, that he is the ‘normal’ Avenger. He doesn’t have any powers, only his skill with a bow and willingness to commit to a full gym schedule. However, for the past ten years his main characterisation has been ‘bit of a dick’, and that’s also something Fraction nails, for better or worse.

Hawkeye #1 is a strong issue both in terms of writing and (this will be a shock to no-one) David Aja’s art. Aja has long been one of the smartest and most creative artists in the industry, whose storytelling is without comparison. He excels here once more, with a series of scenes which could’ve looked utterly boring, but are instead visually intricate and fascinating. There are a lot of conversational scenes here, with Hawkeye barely in costume, and yet Aja manages to create diverse panels, laid out in a manner which enhances every scene.

The fight scenes are chaos when they need to be, and yet still filled with details – check the line he draws for Hawkeye’s deft flick of a playing card, which flies straight to the throat of a mafia goon from the fingers. It’s a tiny detail which builds on the rest of the panel, and yet draws all the attention. While Aja’s Clint Barton does look a little like Danny Rand with lighter-hair, his body-language and fighting style are noticeably different.

Also, he draws a lot of puppy-dogs. I know this will be a draw for many of you.

Fraction’s script reads like a Tarantino film, as it features a non-linear timeline and a small-scale look at crime in the Marvel Universe. This works for the most part, although some of the verbal tics – like a gangster who keeps punctuating his speech with ‘bro’ – are a little irritating. There’s also a lot of blanked-out swearing, which has always served to take me out of a story in the past. It just looks silly, and takes a lot of threat out of the villains who use it.

The rest of the dialogue is pretty decent, but the narration is the main driving force of the story, here. Cutting between scenes rapidly and with some great twists, Hawkeye’s narration punctuates the shifting time-line and strengthens the issue. We see Hawkeye act like a complete dick for almost the entire issue (in classic Hawkeye fashion) but his narration is blind to just how annoying he is. There’s a very interesting disconnect at play here – whether it will be explored in future issues is, however, up for debate.

Much like the previous Captain Marvel #1, this issue is very much a one-shot story which doesn’t give us much of an idea about the overall narrative Fraction wants to put in place, here. Marvel do seem to be concerned with establishing their characters by having them take part in a single, wrapped up story, which gives them some definition but doesn’t establish the ongoing threat. Here again we have Hawkeye dealing with some small-scale threats, but we see him more as Clint Barton than as an Avenger. Once the story wraps up, there’s no idea what we might have coming next, and readers looking for big superhero feats are going to be disappointed.

I don’t know if this structuring idea will pay off for Marvel – it feels like it may lead some people to drop the series, having enjoyed a concluded story with no cliff-hanger or ongoing mystery to bring them to issue 2 – but it does help build some structure back onto Clint Barton, as a personality.

As a character study for the guy who has spent the last ten years shouting randomly, swearing at people, and having sex with whichever female Avenger shows up next, it’s a much-needed story. As HAWKEYE 1, it’s perhaps a little lacking. But it’s a confident piece, which may well grow into something deeper as the series continues. Much like Captain Marvel #1, really. These are books which won’t be characterised until we’ve seen their first arcs conclude, and it’s hard to grasp them with just this one issue.

On the basis of this first issue, however, Fraction’s run looks like it’s going to be a fun, unpredictable ride, which handles the Marvel Universe from a perspective which we haven’t seen before.

Comments

  1. Pappy says:

    Aja’s art looks a little confused to me. The guy Hawkeye is elbowing is behind him in the one panel and then suddenly in front of him in the big splash. The guy hit in the throat with the card – is that him in the left box? Where is he in the group shot? Other than the card-throwing, which is nice, this feels less like sequential art and more like a bunch of random pictures

  2. The guy he elbows is not the guy you’re mistaking him for in the splash. The elbowed guy has a close-shaven head and a cross necklace. The guy in the splash has a bit longer hair and a medallion necklace.

  3. The guy who was elbowed is not the same guy as the one who’s in front. They have different chains (one has a cross, the other a round medallion) and different haircuts.

    Also, the guy hit with the card is also not the same as the one in the left box. They have different hair colors.

  4. Pappy says:

    So then what happens to those people when they get hit? Do they just disappear like video game characters?

  5. “I don’t know if this structuring idea will pay off for Marvel – it feels like it may lead some people to drop the series, having enjoyed a concluded story with no cliff-hanger or ongoing mystery to bring them to issue 2…”

    That may be the case, but I know hearing that has the opposite effect for me–knowing I’ll get a full story makes me want to buy a single issue, whereas seeing cliffhangers usually triggers my “wait for the trade” reflex.

  6. Charles Knight says:

    “Much like Captain Marvel #1, really. These are books which won’t be characterised until we’ve seen their first arcs conclude, and it’s hard to grasp them with just this one issue.”

    Is that the right approach in this market? I read Captain Marvel #1 and thought “is that it?” and had no inclination to pick up the second issue.

    Here’s a trivia question – where does the idea that Hawkeye is lethal with pretty much any weapon come from? Is it something that they have added on from the Ultimate version or is it present earlier than that?

  7. Jesse says:

    Let’s just be thankful Bendis didn’t give him superpowers from having sex with Scarlet Witch. What Bendis did to Mockingbird was incompetent apparently the infinity formula let’s you jump fifty feet in air and rip 25 giant anime robots apart, who knew?
    At any rate this is a better scope for Fraction if it works like his IronFist stuff it’s should be fun. Aja is good, surprised to see him getting flack over a guy in a wife-beater, I am pretty sure DD beat up multiple repeated wife-beater emblazoned thugs in Mazzuchelli stuff.

  8. “Here’s a trivia question – where does the idea that Hawkeye is lethal with pretty much any weapon come from? Is it something that they have added on from the Ultimate version or is it present earlier than that?”

    I don’t know, but DC did the same thing with Roy Harper. After decades of being boy archer Speedy, he suddenly became Arsenal, master of all weapons. I don’t know, maybe archery is all-purpose weapons-training.

  9. Blade X says:

    Here’s a trivia question – where does the idea that Hawkeye is lethal with pretty much any weapon come from? Is it something that they have added on from the Ultimate version or is it present earlier than that?

    ______________________

    It’s from THE ULTIMATES, and yes it is a stupid idea.

    OMT, this book will be canceled by issue 12.

  10. Travis M. says:

    “What Bendis did to Mockingbird was incompetent apparently the infinity formula let’s you jump fifty feet in air and rip 25 giant anime robots apart, who knew?”

    Well, that was the Infinity formula mixed with the Super Soldier serum, actually. Still weird (2+2 = 8?) but fair is fair.

  11. Yeah, Ultimates basically turned Hawkeye into a good guy version of Bullsyeye. SNORE.

  12. @travis fair point but you have to admitt that Bendis was handing out superpowers in the marvel universe like the church hands out Jesus chips and wine. Norman Osborne was like superman by the end, superadaptoid my ass. Giving everyone powers should not replace writing,

  13. i’m already annoyed that the powers that be have changed hawkeye’s regular MU proper dud’s to the movie/ultimate style dud’s. ugh! but not to have him show up in any kind of costume for the first issue of his new book? again, ugh! some years ago marvel had some kind of directive going about keeping as many characters as possible out of costumes in a story for as long as possible. a hawkeye series from some years back followed this premise and bombed out pretty quickly. it was a crappy idea then and it’s a crappy idea now. if i wanna read about a guy in a suit busting up bad guy’s heads, i’ll read the spirit (and even he wears a mask). i’ll probably take a peek at the second issue of this series, but if it’s just more of the same as issue one, i’ll skip the whole thing all together.

  14. ABC is right, they tried the “Hawkeye without costume” idea years ago and it only lasted 8 issues.

  15. Nice review, but why wouldn’t a quality stand-alone story bring people to the next issue? The Goon and Jonah Hex are two good examples of how to sustain a dynamic series with self-contained stories. We need more of this. To me, the three most depressing words in comics are “To be continued.”

  16. Apollo9000 says:

    Many of the reviews for this book seem to hit identical notes. Clint out of costume for most of the issue, a focus on Clint Barton- man of the people, the Russian thug saying “Bro” a lot.

    Overall, I’ll pick this up. The clincher- well told done in one story, something I feel is lacking in mainstream comics.

  17. Synsidar says:

    Is it something that they have added on from the Ultimate version or is it present earlier than that?

    After Bendis took over the Avengers titles, he had Hawkeye stop shooting gadget arrows; instead, he had him shoot ordinary arrows. He also had him secretly idolize Captain America, and concocted flashback scenes to justify that. Having him become a master of all sorts of weaponry might not fit the character, but it fits Bendis’s dislike of superpowers.

    SRS

  18. Pretty art; I just wish he was in costume.

    His real costume, I mean. Yes, it would look ridiculous onscreen, but this isn’t onscreen. It’s a comic book, and that costume looks awesome in comic books.

  19. @adam – man, you are so right!

  20. Whenever I buy the first issue of a comic book, it ends with “to be continued” just as something interesting threatens to happen. Let me tell YOU something, starting off a comic book with a self contained story (or better yet, with a SERIES of self-contained stories) is THE formula, blueprint, tried-and-true method for developing loyalty.

    I’m late for something but I think I have time to lean in…

    Look, as a writer of fiction, you need to trust your audience. Especially since you don’t have convenient hooks like “important factual information” like writers of reportage.

    You know why TV shows are popular (besides that they are free, easily accessed, etc)?

    It’s because: look at the first episode of Mad Men. Don’s advertising firm got a client. Then they figured out the ad campaign. And that’s that. The subplot is where the continuing throughline is. You think people would keep coming back week after week to see whether or not Don and his bros figure out the cigarette campaign? NO!

    That’s what I keep screaming about on my own blog all the dang time. These comic book writers have talent but they’re using it wrong. They don’t trust their audiences and worse, they don’t want to write multiple stories. Like Bendis: i love the guy, I really do–but Avengers running stories in six issue arcs? That’s two stories per year! Get outta town, I’m not into that. Compare with a confident writing policy which gives twelve full stories, twelve ideas per year–you see the difference?

    If the fans ultimately reject Hawkeye, it doesn’t really matter. Fuck ‘em. Fuck ‘em all. This is the actual truth right here: This damn magazine is written better than its competators simply for the fact that it has enough courage to lay its cards on the table in one issue and TRUST that the audience will enjoy it enough to come back later.

    Believe you me: the minute that Fraction starts getting swoll-headed and starts looking to crank out multiple-part “epics,” I will be looking at the door. But until then–while he’s still writing with his feet planted and his backbone in place, I’ll take that over the mealy-mouthed story-watering stuff that comes out of either of the houses these days.

    THE END.

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