August 3, 2012

ON COMICS: Read this book now--HAWKEYE #1

HAWKEYE #1 was designed and executed by good people who love us and want us to be happy. 

Seemingly devised to appeal to the newly-minted, post-Avengers Hawkeye fanboys (and fangirls--Jeremy Renner, holla), this book is all Clint Barton all the time: scruffy, sassy, purple t-shirt-wearing, man-of-the-people Clint Barton. No supervillains, no Avengers, no tights and quivers; as Clint delineates his disadvantages: "I'm an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Paleolithic era." 

As a dude with no superpowers, it follows that the opening pages of HAWKEYE #1 feature Clint falling off a building, landing on top of a car and spending the next six weeks in traction. 

But this isn't one of those books all about de-mythologizing superheros; it's just what Hawkeye does when he's not being Hawkeye. Turns out Hawkeye lives in a shitty tenement house in Bedford-Stuyvesant run by some Russian tough guy named Ivan who decides to triple everyone's rent so he can flip the building for a tasty profit. So, Loki, he ain't. 

But it's the street-level charm of HAWKEYE #1 that makes the book such a unique pleasure. In a parallel story, Clint tries to rescue a cute, pizza-loving dog from being run over. His good-guy efforts naturally lead to fisticuffs in the veterinary clinic, and adopting the battered pup, named, coincidentally enough, Arrow. 

Everything about HAWKEYE #1 works, which should come as no surprise given it's written by Marvel/Avengers veteran/wunderkind Matt Fraction. I get the feeling Fraction could tell Clint Barton's story with his eyes closed and walking backwards, but the writing here is by no means lazy. It's a strong character piece with action and heart in all the right places. Complimenting the writing perfectly is David Aja's incredible artwork. Aja's beautiful split-panel construction creates variations on the traditional nine-panel format that always keeps the story flowing. Matt Hollingsworth's stellar colors help convey a steamy, stifling New York August and the cooler scenes at the vet, as a summer thunderstorm pounds the pavement outside.

This book is a pleasant surprise. I'll confess I've never read a Hawkeye title before, but like Marvel's current run of Daredevil (a character in which I'd never previously been particularly invested), Hawkeye has all the ingredients for a terrific introduction to the character. I'd say if you got to know Hawkeye in the Avengers movie, HAWKEYE #1 is a great book to pick up and enjoy Clint Barton in all his purple glory. 

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