By: Matt Fraction (story), David Aja & Annie Wu (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors)
The Story: Clint finds an unlucky Penny.
The Review: On a team populated with mutants, super-soldiers, technological geniuses, and literal gods, a mortal archer (albeit a masterful one with plenty of other skills besides) may be the only character you can truly relate to. What’s really great about Hawkeye, which Fraction makes more and more apparent with every issue, is that he’s not just an entirely human hero; he’s a hero who’s entirely human as well.
Although every superhero writer would like to claim that they make their characters as true-to-life as possible, only a few succeed in making these costumed crime-fighters resemble actual people. Fraction does it by writing the most natural dialogue possible. And by this I don’t mean he renders strings of witty repartee as popularized by sitcoms, Aaron Sorkin, and all CW/WB shows in an attempt to mimic the rhythm of real-life conversation. What Fraction does is just as noticeable, but done with greater thought to how real people speak.
Clint doesn’t deliver fully-formed lines with perfect clarity and syntax. He hems and haws and hesitates: “Hey, Jess, you remember that car Id told you about? Uh… This, uh, this is the nice lady, umm…who sold it to me.”). He makes faux-pas: flustered by the appearance of three of his former and present lady-loves just as Penny plants a big wet one on him, he stammers, “Whoa, whoa, hold on a sex—sec—”). Most importantly, he just says it like it is: “I’m going in there and beating the hell out of everybody.” In short, he sounds like someone you can recognize.
It helps that unlike his colleagues, Clint usually deals with more grounded, less belief-defying problems. While it’s admittedly unbelievable that any group of mafia men can have such appalling taste in uniform, mafia men make for much more accessible antagonists than your Red Skulls, Carnages, and Apocalypses. Of course, mobsters have lost most of their threatening presence in recent years, especially against the aforementioned supervillains, but Fraction restores some of it by pulling together a host of Marvel’s most famous gang leaders,* all of whom have a grudge against Clint Barton.
Where Fraction sort of falters is in keeping his plot as tightly on course as he might. Fun as all the situational comedy bits are, they do interrupt the flow of a story that’s already pretty scattered to begin with. Clint’s tensions with the men who say “Bro” often feel tangential, to say the least, and this run-in with Penny ends as suddenly as it begins. While I’m sure Fraction has a master plan for all this, I’d appreciate just a touch more cohesion and direction, please.
Thanks to Aja’s ability to fill a whole page with a multitude of panels, and use each panel as a distinct, natural, and helpful step in the story, a single issue of Hawkeye has as much content as two or three of many other comics. The visual detail and emotional depth he can deliver with a minimum of lines is outstanding, surpassing the likes of even Cliff Chiang or Chris Samnee. But perhaps Aja’s real appeal lies in his sheer style, which clearly longs for a return to the hep and bold sixties. I mean, just look at the big hair he’s got on Natasha, Mockingbird, and Jess, and then look at the funky patterns on their dresses. You have expect them to go-go at any moment, especially with Hollingsworth’s Technicolor hues filling the scenes. Wu’s mock comic book covers are terrific send-ups of the soap opera comics you’d find in the Silver Age, but more than that, they reveal, between their melodramatic taglines (“My father, my fiend!”), details of Penny’s back-history that prove crucial to a full understanding of her character and her story.
Conclusion: Another engaging and well-crafted read from one of Marvel’s most deserving series. Here’s hoping to bigger plot developments soon.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Anyone care to name them all for my own edification? No prize in it, but you will impress me quite a lot.
– For anyone curious, “болваньl” translates roughly from Russian as “boobies,” which makes a lot of sense given the nature of the establishment Penny and Clint stick up.
– Here’s some more fun facts: each of the cards settled in Natasha, Mockingbird, and Jess’ hairdos have a symbolic meaning. Natasha’s ace of spades is obvious. Mockingbird’s two of cups stands for personal fulfillment, the sense of “having made it.” Jess’ three of diamonds signals domestic conflicts, ones that go from petty differences to a big feud lickety-split; seeing this card means one ought to find a workable peace to the situation, and soon. See here, here, and here if you want to learn more about the deeper aspects of playing cards.