by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story: Clint decides it’s time to label his arrows and goes out to buy some tape.  Not only is the store out of tape, but he meets a woman with an awesome car, buys said car, and ends up in a wild car chase through town as Eastern European “bros” with fully automatic weapons try their best to make him and his new friend dead.  Just another day in the life of Clint Barton.

The Review: Lots of new series put out a fantastic first issue and then gradually slide into routine, descending into a more mediocre level of quality.  Three issues in now and Hawkeye is as much of a revelation as the very first issue.  Much as was the case with the second issue, this issue is just as good as the first and may very well be better.  Regardless, it’s remarkable that Fraction and Aja have kept the level of quality so ridiculously high, particularly given that once again, this is a done-in-one story.  Put simply, this comic is pure craftsmanship by two masters of the medium.

With respect to Fraction’s script, the characterization absolutely sparkles.  Clint is the lovable rogue, flying by the seat of his pants, and it’s impossible not to love him.  He’s the classic character who can’t help but stumble into trouble no matter, even when going about the most mundane activities.  Fraction’s Barton is just so damned likable and, frankly, if Clint were always written like this, I don’t think you’d ever hear ANYONE talk about his being boring.  Moreover, Kate Bishop is a fantastic asset for this series.  Her back-and-forth dynamic with Clint is absolute gold and had me laughing and smiling throughout the issue.  The two have an incredible chemistry and their dialogue is one of dueling wits and light-hearted ribbing.  Their dynamic really sets the tone for this issue: fun.

On a more technical level, I also loved the care that Fraction took in structuring this issue.  Through being so meticulous, he gets so much done in one issue, telling a complete story, with a seeming passing remark about a boomerang arrow at the very start of the issue becoming crucial to its ending…coming back like, well, a boomerang.  Fraction also jumps back and forth in time in a manner that is effortless and, surprisingly, never jarring or confusing.  He mostly manages this through structuring the issue around Clint narrating a list of stupid things he’s done in one day.  It only emphasizes Clint’s bumbling rogue nature while also serving to keep this beast of an issue on the rails, keeping it a tight, narrative machine.

As for Aja’s art, what can be said?  It’s wonderfully evocative of the seventies action tone that Fraction wants.  Aja’s action scenes are incredible, his layouts, particularly his use of small panels to relay details of the overall action, is genius and, much like Fraction’s script, there’s a constant wink and nod sense of humour to his work.  Like Fraction’s script, Aja’s work is geared towards creating a fun comic that keeps you smiling throughout.  Also, the fact that he gets to draw an extended car chase is awesome: Aja’s action always rules and this car chase will have you on the edge of your seat throughout the issue.  Also: trick arrows.  Both Aja and Fraction manage to use a huge barrage of these to emphasize just how ludicrous an archer character can be…while also making it creative and badass.

If there’s one complaint about this issue, it’s that Fraction is guilty of ditching continuity to tell the story he wants to: he has Clint hopping into bed with a girl and acting like he isn’t currently in a relationship with Spider-Woman over in Avengers.  Of course, said relationship was pointless, generic, boring, and nonsensical anyway, so I can’t bring myself to care.

Conclusion: No joke, I was grinning from start to finish while reading this issue.  You need to be buying this comic.

Grade: A

-Alex Evans