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Review: Hawkeye #1

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Thursday, August 02 2012 and posted in Reviews
Review: Hawkeye #1

A day in the life of Clint Barton, the superhero named Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth.

It makes sense to start up a new series starring Hawkeye, considering his raised profile due to his appearance in some movie that came out this summer.  It makes even more sense for the first issue of that series to look like this.

We probably know who Hawkeye is by now.  He's that bow and arrow guy on The Avengers, yeah.  But more than that, he's the sincerely well-intentioned guy who will act heroically, if a bit impulsively.  He also runs his mouth because no matter how much respect he gets from Captain America and Iron Man, he still feels really insecure about the fact that he uses an archaic weapon while serving as a member of a team of heroes that includes gods, mutants, and superhumans.  So here in the the first issue of his new ongoing series, we don't see much of Hawkeye in costume, but we do see him fight some crime and help some people out.  Writer Matt Fraction fashions the story in such a way that he's able to convey all the character tropes of Hawkeye while pulsing forward with the plot of this issue.  Clint Barton, after an extended hospital stay where he has to recover from a litany of injuries sustained during a costumed battle, heads home not to the swanky mansion in the middle of Manhattan, but to an apartment in not-quite-gentrified-yet Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.  Already, this is an insightful touch for this character.  It stands to reason that Clint would want to stay away from all the Avenger-y stuff on his days off and just chill out like the regular guy he is (and sees himself to be).  Still, he doesn't completely disengage from his life as Hawkeye.  While getting into trouble fighting street crime, he ends up trying to use some of his resources that being a part of the superteam affords him, and which he wouldn't have otherwise.  

We see everything we love and recognzie about Clint Barton in this issue.  He does act impulsively, he gets himself into trouble, and he's looking out for the less fortunate.  Marvel prides itself on how much its comics reflect the real world, but Hawkeye #1 is one of the better examples of that mission statement at play.  Clint doesn't have to save his neighborhood from intergalactic conquerors of creatures from underground, but from dickhead landlords and petty criminals.  The issue touches on a very current conversation in New York City about the effect gentrification has on old and lower-income residential neighborhoods.  With rents rising and the encroachment of higher-priced real estate concerns upon these neighborhoods, where do the lower and middle-income owners go?  It's easy to see which side of the debate Clint would fall on, and who he would try to help.  Of course, rising housing prices and the eroding feeling of community aren't exactly the types of problems one can fight with a bow and arrow or with superpowers.  Still, Clint does the best he can with the knowledge and experience he possesses, and that's where the charm of this issue lies.  Clint Barton is just a guy who tries hard to stand up for people who need someone to stand up for them.  That includes a dog who unfortunately gets caught in the crossfire between Clint and some thugs.  

A story like this could only benefit from a very dynamic artist team, and David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth show how adept they are at the standard motions and rhythms of life.  Aja utilizes a three-tiered, many-paneled approach to page design that is not only pleasing to look at, but conveys motion and action very effectively, as well as establish mood and environment.  It's a lot to accomplish on each page, but one of Aja's storytelling strengths is how much he can use the comic page to acheive a lot.  Frankly, comics could use more artists like him.  In any case, he matches up really well with his color artist Matt Hollingsworth.  The two of them come together to create an impressionistic but wholly tangible urban landscape that feels like a real, lived-in environment.  The scripts jumps around a little in time, and Hollingsworth switches his color palette and temperature with each location/time switch.  It's a tried and true method, but it usually works (and it is very effective here), so although it isn't the most innovative approach, it's hardly a simple cliché.  In fact, Hollingsworth's palette in Hawkeye #1 is a perfect match for what Fraction and Aja are doing here.  His flat colors and simplified approach recall the exceptional work Val Staples does on Criminal, in that both works bring out a truly textured and distinctive urban environment.

Fraction's script contains his trademark humor and character moments, but he's also put together a sensitive story about a guy who just wants to do the right thing.  It isn't always easy to tell what that is, but Clint Barton is a guy who commits to whatever he's doing 100%.  Sure he gets himself into trouble here and there, but that shaggy charm is why, at his best, he can be so lovable.  Hawkeye #1 isn't exactly a big, earth-shattering event with plot twists and high stakes for the planet Earth.  There is some action and some fight scenes, but ultimately, it's a quiet, but visually rich look at the life of a man who happens to be a superhero, whether he sees himself as one or not. 


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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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