“I’ve never been a big fan of Clint Barton, but now…” is how most of the early reviews for Matt Fraction and David Aja’s resetting run on Hawkeye have begun. I was heartened when i read this, because I honestly wasn’t too sure just who in the hell that was and so I would have found being a fan rather problematic. The book itself then begins by saying that he is actually the protagonist of this book – A fact that makes those proclamations all the more potent, that he is a sharp-shooter – the Hawkeye of the title – and that this is all you need to know. There are a large percent of people who buy books for the name in their title – Batman, Green Lantern, etc. – because they are fans of those characters; I however buy because of the names in the credits, because I am a fan of those creators. Never has this been more true than it is here with Hawkeye and never have the latter so quickly whipped me into a frenzy over the former.
I’m not a fan of Hawkeye, not at all, but only because I’ve never been interested enough in the character to care about him at all, let alone buy his solo book, so all i have really seen of him is in the Marvel films. I spotted him in Thor, turned to the guy on my left with a wink in my eye and a nudge in my elbow and the response I got was “Oh, ok. Wait…who?”. Then came The Avengers, Jeremy Renner now a big name ( bigger than Clint Barton anywho) and it was Hawkeye’s time to shine, to stand next to the biggest names in Superherodom. Strangely though even Whedon seemed to have only the weakest of affection for him, allowing him to remain in the movie but mainly as a second tier villain; suggesting that Clint in fact cannot stand alongside those bigger names . An ignominious debut, to be sure.
Thankfully then Fraction and Aja came along when they did and did what they do best: resurrect the essentially dead. They took this literally downtrodden character and created a vehicle that fits him more perfectly than an eight panel grid on a page. Hawkeye is a lesser character in terms of both power and perspective, we think of him as second tier and his powers place him there as well; a fact that Fraction uses to his advantage. He doesn’t try to turn Hawkeye into some superman, doesn’t give him extra powers of any kind, instead he embraces the constricted scale of Clint Barton’s world and writes a comic that aptly represents it.
The real focus of the book is in establishing Barton’s psyche and connecting us to him, putting us in his version of NYC. All of the other Avengers fly above the streets he lives on, they may save the people he lives amongst but would never speak to them and it is this shift in perspective from great superhero to somewhat skilled guy that makes the book as good as it is. Yes there are some bad guys, comic Russian stereotypes, and yes Barton does battle with them, but not with a bow and not atop Stark tower; it’s just a simple series of fistfights gone awry, as all such things are want to do, and even then each is only given a page of space to fill.
Hawkeye #1 is probably then the least epic book that Marvel will put out this month and that is exactly why I liked it. The comic tells a street level crime story about a man and his dog; juxtaposing Clint and his new canine buddy as they both spend real time in hospitals recovering from real injuries, not magical maladies or malware in the armour, then flashing back to show how they both got themselves in such a state. It’s a simple story, one done inside the issue despite being done with daring depth, and in this way the book is akin to that other recent Marvel re-boot, Mark Waid’s Daredevil.
So in the space of mere minutes Matt Fraction and the amazingly talented David Aja – whose art here is outstanding; the scenery selling you on the ‘Streets of New York’ setting instantly and the people imbued with the kind of character requisite to that place. Plus I want his Hawkeye covers on a T-Shirt – move Clint Barton from being a name I’d either never heard of or bothered storing to one I can’t wait to talk about with others, one i care about and with him they have dragged Hawkeye out from obscurity and onto the top of my week’s pull list. It’s a horrible piece of wordplay but boy did they hit a bullseye with this one; I can’t wait to see if they spliIt the arrow with their second shot.