Hot on the heels of #16 comes the issue that was meant to come before it! This numbering snafu doesn’t really matter too much to be honest, with the title’s current alternating between Kate and Clint issues, and really, it was just great to have this book back, and to have a plotline that has been spinning it’s wheels (albeit very entertainingly) for what seems like months, finally move forward again. This issue really brings back the Hawkeye/Tracksuit Draculas War to the fore, as well as continuing the relationship between Clint and his brother Barney, and it does so all with that usual Hawkeye style and charm.
The issue begins with Hawkeye once again looking like an idiot, as the Draculas have him surrounded, guns aimed at his head, and he has his trousers round his ankles, because he’s lost his belt and he can’t tie the string properly. I think at times Fraction pushes it a little bit with Clint’s stupidity, I mean, how can you be an Avenger if you can’t keep your trousers on? But since it all works out and it provides enough of a distraction to allow Barney to take them out, I suppose you can justify it. We also see Clint and Barney have to go inside the building to rescue Clint’s neighbours from more Draculas, so they have a way inside.
Intercut with Clint and Barney’s confrontations with these Draculas, we see the Barton brothers trying to investigate this enemy alongside Clint’s recurring ex-Girlfriends. First Mockingbird, then Black Widow, and finally Spider-Woman. It’s great seeing these characters appear and just condescend to Hawkeye. I’m not sure what the significance is of Barney playing the crossword in the background, or if it has any at all (with Fraction, it’s always hard to tell what’s meant to be taken seriously and what’s a joke). Clint slowly works his way through the Draculas, until he finds out about their hitman, the Clown, the man who killed poor, poor Grills.
At the same time, we find out more about what the Draculas’ plan is, and wow, it’s not what I expected. They have been buying up real estate in Clint’s area of New York, in order to knock it down and build a luxury shopping mall, and only Clint’s building is standing in their way. I actually really dig this, it’s not your typical supervillain plot, and it really puts Hawkeye’s hero on the street nature into focus. Unfortunately however, the Clown peruses the documents, and sees that Clint technically doesn’t really own this building, he didn’t buy it legally really, he just thought he could skate along on being an Avenger and being rich. But of course, he couldn’t. Without the law in his way, the Clown realises that he doesn’t need to hold back and can really attack Hawkeye head on, which, well, he does.
The issue culminates in a truly shocking scene, where, after ruminating on it with Barney and Spider-Woman (and once again being told what an idiot he is by an ex), Clint realises that the Draculas have a way into the building (the old lady from the Dog issue!) and might still be inside! He rushes out, but the Clown is lying in wait, with 2 of Clint’s own arrows in hand. It’s not clear what exactly he does to Hawkeye, but it looks like he stabs him right through the ear. Barney comes running, only to be shot right in the chest, leaving Spider-Woman alone with two possibly dead Bartons.
These final 2 pages were fantastic, with Aja telling it all himself with the art. It’s just great in general to have his art back again, and whilst this issue doesn’t contain as much experimentation as previous Hawkeyes have, every panel is perfect and stylish and the pacing of the action works brilliantly. Even though Marvel Now sparked an artistic renaissance at the company, this is still it’s best looking comic for me.
I was truly shocked by the ending of this issue, now obviously Hawkeye isn’t dead, but he certainly won’t be the same, and Barney probably is dead, so the fall-out from this should be amazing. It’s going to be quite a long wait for the follow-up though, which is the only real problem. I’m sure the Chris Eliopoulos drawn #17, and the next Kate issue will be great, but damn, that cliffghanger!