by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: A banged up Hawkeye tries to save his neighbours’ homes from their Russian mobster landlord.

The Review: Hawkeye #1 is one of those rare first issues where you know that you’re seeing the start of something very special.  Much like Daredevil #1, there’s a perfect unity between writer and artist and, more than that, a fresh, unique take on an old, well-worn character.  I will go even so far as saying that much like Fraction’s Iron Man, Hawkeye #1 feels like the start of what will be the definitive take on the character for years to come.

II’m one of those people who always kind of found old Clint Barton a little drab.  In one issue, however, Fraction breathes an incredible amount of life into the character.  Clint feels fully three-dimensional and, more than that, extremely human.  He has that natural, roguish bravado, a blend of mischieviousness and swagger that’s never over the top and makes Clint more likable than cardboard cut-out.  Better still, while Barton is clearly the daring rogue, he also shows a strongly empathetic side – from helping out his down and out fellow tenants, to going to great lengths to save a dog.  In one issue, Fraction has written a Clint that we like, sympathize with, and want to root for.

I also greatly enjoyed Fraction’s focus on Clint’s lack of any powers, despite the power level of the villains he goes up against alongside the Avengers.  Clint is shown to be self-conscious of how ludicrous the “archer” really is as a superhero and is pretty blunt about it.  I loved Fraction’s also letting us peak behind the glitz and glamour of superheroism – we see the injuries a guy without superpowers sustains, and nothing is held back.  There’s recovery, casts, and the works.

Then there’s David Aja, who is perhaps the greatest drawing point to the book thus far.  His work is a heady mix of Darwyn Cooke, Michael Lark, and Sean Phillips.  While his action scenes are fluid and fun, it’s in depicting the streets of New York City that Aja really shines.  His work is so vivid and evocative that you can practically feel the heat of the streets and smell the sweat, garbage, and cold night air.  Aja’s work is has a nostalgic, pulpy flair, but is also the most immersive book that you will have the pleasure of reading this week.

Between Aja and Fraction, what’s also emphasized is the street-level nature of this book.  There’s no Kang or Thanos in this one, but rather crooked landlords and an injured dog.  And the book is all the better for it.  The low level feel forces the book to go heavy on the character work, giving a layer of depth and a noir, indie feel that makes it completely and utterly unlike anything else Marvel is putting out right now.  Put simply, everything feels more real and more meaningful than your average “superhero” comic.  It’s a grounded book, but one with a Marvel flare.

This book isn’t perfect though – the mobsters have a running gag in which they repeatedly use the word “bro.”  It’s mildly humorous at first, but man does Fraction beat that one into the ground.  Also, the script’s jumping around in time resulted in a split second of confusion at a couple of points.  But you know what?  These are very minor faults in what is a truly brilliant, unique book.

Also, as an aside, if you have a soft spot for man’s best friend, you’re liable to tear up on this one.  The ending in particular is really touching, makes for a great man/dog friendship, and only makes you like Clint that little bit more.

Conclusion: At $2.99, you need to give this book a shot.  Marvel is really trying something different here, and it’s brilliant, with a creative team that is working at their absolute peak.  This doesn’t just meet expectations, it exceeds them.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans