Review by Scott Bachmann
“Collar Stays. Great. Now I got another thing to worry about I never worried about before.”
If you haven’t been reading Hawkeye, don’t start here. This issue relies on former knowledge, and unlike most issues, is not stand alone. You need to have read all the issues up to now, and read the annual. This is NOT a bad thing. Hawkeye is the best indy comic around. Hilarious, smart, stylish, and fun. Wait. I said indy and this is Marvel. Nope, not a mistake. Hawkeye is experimental in style, offbeat in theme and everything wonderful about indy comics. But in order to understand this issue, you need some background.
In this series, Matt Fraction has crafted a brilliant deconstruction of the venerable Marvel hero Hawkeye. The book takes place between Avengers missions and depicts Clint Barton as a mostly average guy fumbling through life in a run down New York tenement. He has girl troubles (all of them), drinks too much, makes terrible coffee, and is forever bandaging up scrapes. It’s the unglamorous side of being a hero. The conceit is he pretends to not be an Avenger, and his neighbors roll their eyes and call him Hawkguy. Most issues, you don’t need to know anything going on in the Marvel universe, or his decades long backstory. That said, that back story does come into play in subtle entertaining ways that don’t require prior knowledge, like his string of failed girlfriends.
It also focuses on the other Hawkeyes. Kate Bishop is the teenaged Hawkeye from Young Avengers. All snark and fire and remains the only female in Clint’s life that he hasn’t slept with. The other Hawkeye is his brother Barney, the Dark Avenger Hawkeye. The loser brother who emulates his big sibling. The fourth Hawkeye should be Pizza Dog. He’s a dog Clint rescued early on in the comic, and has grown to be a main character. Pizza Dog even got a solo issue where he tried to solve the murder – and they incorporated smell – a murder which sets the tone for the issue as the aftermath is dealt with.
New York is a character in this book. From the way people talk and interact, to real life events like the aftermath of hurricane Sande. David Aja has done some brilliant and creative layouts and design with this book, but he and Matt Hollingsworth’s greatest achievement is making the setting feel real. Well, everything Aja has done in this series is a masterpiece, but this is the aspect I appreciate the most. This isn’t the bright skyline New York, this is the New York where the trash collectors are on strike.
Capes and supervillains almost never appear in this comic. Hawkeye’s trick arrows are the only super tech allowed and there’s a great issue where he’s trying to stop a car chase with random arrows pulled out of his quiver. In this issue, he gets a page from the Avengers. He has a pager. He doesn’t own a computer and can barely figure out his coffee maker. There’s almost no costumes, and the colors are heavily desaturated, allowing for clever use of purple and Hawkeye logos. Previously, the naked Hawkeye leaping out of bed and his junk hidden by an old Hawkeye mask is still the best gag I’ve seen in a comic.
The villains of the series are an Eastern European mafia who’s inept grasp of american culture has them saying Bro constantly while dressing like track suited rappers from the eighties. They are as dangerous as they are funny in a very Sopranos sort of way. They mean serious harm, they just aren’t up to handling an Avenger.
Which finally brings us to our story. The track suit mafia has hired a pro, a freaky weird assassin who would probably be out harassing Daredevil except this is the gig he was hired for. The freak has killed ‘grills’ – the guy who runs the BBQ grill for the neighborhood roof parties – and is plotting to ruin Clint’s life. We already know Clint doesn’t have a life to ruin, but that’s not the point. They aren’t trying to hurt the Avenger directly, they are ruining his little blue collar world that he dared to allow himself to have.
The only other thing you need to know is that Clint has been oblivious to a lot of what’s going on around him. This issue is him catching up. They also fail to mention that the Annual occurs between a couple pages of the book as first the dog is suddenly gone and mentioned to be with Kate, then a few pages later, Kate is consoling Clint. A few editorial comments would’ve helped. I read the series and still went “What the…”
So now you’re caught up, and you can appreciate what would be the best Marvel comic on the stands, if Mark Waid and Chris Sahmnee hadn’t revamped Daredevil. But you know what? Go back and read this brilliant series. Don’t start with this issue. Sure it’s good, but so is every issue. Get the trades, comiXology, back issues – something – just do yourself a favor and get this series. Best of all, you can hand it to non comic people, and they will ‘get it’ too. THEN read this issue and revel in all the subtly that Aja and Fraction weave into it’s clever panel beats. You’ll be glad you did.
Scott is a contributing writer for Drunk On Comics. You can follow him on Twitter at @ScottBachmann.