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April 23, 2015 / Jett

How Matt Fraction and David Aja Made Hawkeye Cool

Over the course of Hawkeye’s 50+ years of existence, he’s probably had some high points in terms of his popularity and importance to the comic book universe. With my limited comic knowledge, I can’t say for certain what those points were or if they ever really happened. To me, Hawkeye was the purple Robin Hood-like guy in the Spider-Man arcade game, and who would choose Hawkeye in a game where you could play as Spider-Man? Many years later, he was mostly just a guy in the background of the Avengers movie. Maybe I’ve been looking at him the wrong way, or others who haven’t framed him in the right context, but based on the first 11 issues of Hawkeye as depicted by Matt Fraction and David Aja, I think they’ve got it.

Clint Barton is a normal human being that just so happens to be incredibly talented with a bow. Unlike Batman, who has the benefits of being insanely smart, equipped with high-tech gadgetry and has trained himself to a peak level of physical prowess, Hawkeye’s limits are more in line with the average man. During times when the odds are against him, Hawkeye generally doesn’t have the means of making some sort of miraculous comeback. Fraction and Aja’s book goes out of its way to emphasize this. In the very first issue, he falls from a building onto a car, pretty much crippling him for an extended period of time. Furthermore, in battles where he’s outnumbered, he usually gets beaten to a pulp, as one would when put in that position.

Not to say that the entire series revolves around the sharpshooter getting wrecked. Hawkeye has no shortage of heroic moments throughout. My favourite involves an extended action scene that involves a car chase and a quiver full of gimmicky arrows. The action is a little more grounded, in the sense that the action is more comparable to something like Taken versus The Avengers. Further adding to my connection with Hawkeye is the way in which he narrates the events going on around him. When he starts freaking out about how crappy of a predicament he’s in, I totally relate. I wouldn’t want to be hit by a car, and knowing that Hawkeye is thinking the exact same thing just makes our bond stronger.

Beyond Clint, he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast. Kate Bishop, the other Hawkeye, is equally talented, way more confident and definitely more sassy. Together, they make a great team that feeds off of each other. Most of the time, they’re squaring off against a Russian mob that are equal parts threatening and hilarious. As a bit of a sidebar, there are a ton of genuinely funny moments that perfectly fit the flow of each issue. As icing on the cake, Lucky the Pizza Dog, who befriends Hawkeye in the first issue, steals the show in issue #11 with an award-winning tale that’s told from the dog’s perspective.

I’m much more of a writing guy, but special kudos to artist David Aja and colourist Matt Hollingsworth for doing such a phenomenal job on the visuals. Together, they’ve created a series that has a very deconstructed look with minimalist colour palettes. A smart use of icons and panels adds even more flavour to the mix. Not only does it provide a unique read, but also a unique look.

My journey into the series is only about half way done, though I know the series is set to wrap up this summer. There’s still about a dozen more issues to go, which I’m excited to get to eventually. Sadly, I hear that the series has been plagued with production problems and that loyal readers have waited months between issues. Things are so bad that the next era of the Avenging Archer has already begun with All-New Hawkeye before this one has had the opportunity to wrap up. I haven’t read any of the new stuff yet, but I really hope they find a way to keep element’s of Fraction and Aja’s interpretation of the character intact because they’ve demonstrated that Hawkeye can do so much by just being a dude with a bow.

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