Hawkeye #1 – Comic Review
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Title: Hawkeye v.4 #1
Writer: Matt Fraction (Casanova, The Immortal Iron Fist)
Artist: David Aja (Secret Avengers, The Immortal Iron Fist)
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth (Alias, The Punisher)
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos (Kick Ass 2, Avengers Vs X-men)
Number of Issues: 1 (on-going)
Page Count: 22
The Review Bit
Today sees the release of Marvel’s new Hawkeye series, likely put together to profit off the character’s appearance in the blockbuster explosion that was this summer’s Avengers film. But with a creative team that has already proven itself before, high expectations were placed on Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth returning to the quality that made their run on The Immortal Iron Fist so popular. Sadly, that was not what we received today, and the first sign of lower quality comes from the comic’s very cover itself. I’ve heard many fans and retailers complaining about the lower quality paper being used by Marvel to print their books recently, but this is the first time I’ve been able to, not just feel but, see proof. The simple cover designed by David Aja on the issue’s regular (non-variant) release holds a large area of white. Unfortunately this white area allowed for a large amount of visual bleed from the black Red Baron Pizza ad on the opposite side of the cover, making it so fans could read that they “don’t have time to be hungry” without even picking the book up off the comic rack.
The nice advantage to Hawkeye’s recent Avengers film appearance is that people don’t need much of a background on the character. The comic humorously takes note of this in the issues recap page, stating “Hawkeye became the greatest sharpshooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger. That’s all you need to know”. Sadly, what Clint Barton, Hawkeye, does when he’s not an avenger is rather mundane and clichéd. The comics opening issue starts with a rather impressive splash page, but then leads into the classic story of a hero trying to help his fellow man by preventing his apartment building from being sold and his neighbors from being evicted. Hawkeye is not truly fighting evil here, atleast not in the classic villain sense, and technically he is the one breaking the law throughout the issue. Of course, that does at least match up with Clint Barton’s M.O. Unfortunately, it makes for a rather underwhelming introduction to the series. When Fraction and Aja worked alongside Ed Brubaker on The Immortal Iron Fist, they brought the under loved superhero into the spotlight by placing him at the center of a much grander and epic tale than he’d ever been a part of before. The Immortal Iron Fist was even nominated for an Eisner as Best New Series. Hawkeye likely will not gain the same fame, as the creative team brings our hero down to a much smaller street level, trying to emphasize this is the Avenger with no superpowers.
The creative side of Hawkeye #1 seems to be a coin of two sides, with the creators doing both good and bad work in this issue. Fraction’s plot is somewhat dull and his dialogue at moments pains me to read. He tried to keep a sense of humor throughout the issue, with some jokes coming off simply hilarious, while other bits are slightly cheap and less enjoyable. In an attempt to emphasize accents, much of Fraction’s dialogue for the New York based characters is written out phonetically as he’d want you to hear it, similar to how Chris Claremont used to do Uncanny X-men. While that worked fine with characters like Rogue and Gambit in the 80’s, it just comes off as odd in this comic. However, in the same script Fraction has some amazing scene transitions between two separate time lines of the same day for Hawkeye. This use of comic panel mirroring for transition is the type of thing that would make fans of Watchmen #5 go crazy, as it is subtle yet brilliant. That said, some of this credit must go to David Aja as well.
David Aja is brilliant artist who has done amazing work in the past with his unique art style, often applying minimalism and thick inks. In Hawkeye #1, Aja might have went a bit too thick on the ink though, with some lines running thicker than the gutters between his panels and almost overemphasizing his minimalist comic art style, which is even more minimalist here than it had been the last time he worked with Fraction on Iron Fist. Still, much like Sean Phillips, his art works well with talking head stories and he does a great job expressing emotion on his characters faces that match up with the dialogue. Hollingsworth’s colors even sync with Aja’s art style, though are rather flat and unimpressive. Comparing the colors and overall art that Aja and Hollingsworth did on Iron Fist to that of Hawkeye #1, it almost feels like the creator’s hearts just weren’t in this new project.
Now in Matt Fraction’s short Marvel AR interview video (which can be seen using the AR app on the comic’s title page), he admits that he has a hard time writing #1 issues, and wrote several versions of this issue before being content with this one. This could mean the series will pick up later, but doesn’t really excuse the poor opening salvo. Sure, there are some gems like the introduction of pizza dog, which Fraction has spent all day tweeting about, the great fight scene Aja depicts in an underground casino, and the various jokes Fraction hits the mark on. Yet in the same, for the first issue of a comic featuring a character made popular by being on the Avengers, we see no avengers, Hawkeye is only in costume for 2-pages, and the story just won’t reach out and grab readers. Truly, the biggest moment in the entire issue comes over the fear of pizza dog dying, which admittedly would’ve been quite trivial. As none of the story even truly associates itself with Clint Barton being the character we’re familiar with, this could have just as easily been a #1 issue introducing an entirely new character unrelated to the Marvel universe.
The Rating Bit
Hawkeye #1 isn’t a bad comic, but it is also not a great comic by any means. It comes off more as a decent done-in-one story about a rich vigilante in New York that was phoned in by its creators. Especially when compared to other works by the same creative team, Hawkeye #1 almost misses its mark entirely, earning it a just acceptable 5 out of 10. Here’s hoping #2 looks a lot better, otherwise this will be yet another short lived on-going for the purple archer of Marvel, who has never had a series make it past 8-issues.
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