“Really?” I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Your last piece of the year is going to be about the Avenger who fights evil with a bow and arrow?”
To answer your question, yes, I am. After a semester of epic tales, high-brow social commentary and an above average amount of Batman books, I figured we should end the year with something a bit more laid back. And so, I present one of the most effortlessly cool comics of all time: Issue one of “Hawkeye” (2012) by Matt Fraction with art by David Aja.
Collected in “Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon“(2012), the first issue of “Hawkeye” gets off to a roaring start as Clint Barton (our dashing protagonist) tries to emulate his grappling hook trick from the first “Avengers” film, and failing spectacularly. The comic literally opens with Hawkeye saying “Okay… this looks bad,” and falling several stories to crash into a car below him. This is a hint that the reader is not in for a superhero book.
In fact, I’d say that’s the greatest strength of “Hawkeye,” taking all the vim and vigor that one would think an Avenger would have and having him combat the more mundane crimes. Example: As Hawkeye leaves the hospital following his lost battle against gravity, he comes upon his tracksuit-wearing, mafia-connected landlord Ivan tripling the rent of his neighbor. No, Ivan doesn’t turn out to be working for Hydra, and no, he isn’t revealed to be a supervillain. He’s a cruddy landlord with the worst kind of connections who’s treating his tenants badly for profit.
Clint himself is lovable, but he’s sort of … well … an oaf. While totally proficient in combat, he does struggle with the same things as everyone else: He forgets words, tries to save money and even commits a fashion faux pas when he wears a suit and tie to a scummy underground casino. It strikes an odd equilibrium. The reader can totally believe that this guy is good enough at his day job to survive and thrive in the heat of a fight with the likes of Captain America, but he’s sort of lost when it comes to real life.
The book’s art style compliments the tone, with Aja’s pencil work being simultaneously understated and highly detailed. It makes sense; Clint’s world is objectively more simplistic than any of his fellow Avengers’ — no massive scale battles or laser blasts here. It’s a guy fighting for his neighbors and not much else.
The thesis of “Hawkeye,” in my eyes, is not to make a “superhero” comic and instead just make a “hero” comic. So much of the fantastical elements inherent in traditional comics are stripped away, leaving behind something more akin to straight black coffee, no frills but wholly satisfying. It’s not a full-on adrenaline rush, but “Hawkeye” issue one is a good bit of comic fun that will hopefully mellow things out during your stressful final weeks on campus. Thanks for a great semester. Here’s hoping for more coming soon.