By: Matt Fraction (story), David Aja (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors)
The Story: Hawkeye learns that having too many irons in the fire is worse than not having any.
The Review: To continue off my observations about women’s fictional love lives in Fairest #14, I’ve noticed that usually, if they find love hard to come by, it’s because they have the bad luck to fall for the worst specimens of manhood possible. They can’t find Mr. Right because more often than not they’re getting involved with Mr. Broke, Mr. Cheater, Mr. Jag., or Mr. Already Married. In other words, market forces are against them.
In contrast, when it comes to the fictional love lives of men, it’s usually a problem with the man himself. Either he’s a commitment-phobe or his failings are too ingrained for any relationship to work. I don’t know what this says about our notions of gender in modern romance, but there you have it. At any rate, Fraction seems inclined to place Clint in that same mold, and who can blame him? You can’t exactly have a hero down on his luck to be simultaneously lucky in love.
Last issue, Penny’s tonsil-swabbing of Clint at the Avengers Mansion was witnessed by three of the major women in his life. It doesn’t stand to reason that any of these ladies would just let that scene go, right? Here, we get to see how each of them reacts to Clint’s indiscretion, which in turn gives you a good sense of their place in his life. What’s great is each has a more involved relationship with Clint that goes beyond “love interest,” which makes for a more complicated, enjoyable read overall.
Natalia gets the tagline of “Work Wife,” which is usually a euphemism for someone with whom you’ll probably have a whirlwind affair someday. In this case, however, she genuinely seems concerned about how his fling with Penny affects his reputation as an Avenger, and confronts the problem in her natural fashion: directly, sparing no punches. But you can’t say her interrogation of Penny (A.K.A. Darlene Penelope Wright) reveals much other than some ominous remarks about how much doodoo he’s in, as well as a few cracks as to his non-superpowered status.
As a non-regular Marvel reader, I think I was most interested to see Mockingbird’s interactions with Clint, as I know next to nothing about her (other than my gleanings from Wikipedia, of course). I must say, it’s a shame they’ve decided to officially split. She has the right attitude to handle his shortcomings, and it’s obvious there’s still an affection between them that’ll probably never go away, wherever their futures lead. But again, her giving him a hand with some “Bro” thugs doesn’t reveal anything more than we know already.
Even Jessica Drew’s big blowout with him doesn’t really go anywhere, tense as it is. Harsh as her words are, there’s a grain of truth to them, which even Kate has to admit even as she defends him (“Bad Boyfriend 101. No question. You blew it.”). Ultimately, this whole issue is about reinforcing Clint’s screwed-up life, which, entertaining as it can be, doesn’t make up for a lack of movement on the actual plot, which I’m way more interested in.
Incidentally, I’m not thrilled about the fact that Fraction writes this entire issue out of chronological order, but doesn’t tell you. It’s not until Kate’s sequence that you get the idea that it (and Jessica’s appearance) happen before Mockingbird arrives. This is annoying, but not a dealbreaker by any means—that is, until you get to the rather dramatic ending of the issue, where the timing of the scene suddenly becomes much more important.
Aja’s art is of course always a treat to look at. He draws as if there’s a premium on lines, and he has to make the most of every single one he puts on paper, which he does. He’s the only artist I’ve seen thus far who can use five minute, barely visible lines to convey a fully expressive face, loaded with a whole mixture of emotions. Hollingsworth’s use of hue is both smart and stylish, giving each scene its own tonal character. Beautiful stuff, indeed.
Conclusion: Fancy narrative techniques aside, the issue doesn’t advance the plot very much, which disappoints my simple request from last month.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - For those of you interested, I’m pretty sure “that great poet of the Bronx” Gil mentions—the one who once said, “Tell her about it”—is Billy Joel. Can’t argue with Gil’s description of the singer. “Vienna” is one of my all-time favorite songs, although “And So It Goes” is a close second. Any other Joel fans out there?
– And to continue our lesson on playing card symbolism, Clint’s four of clubs characterizes misfortune, warning of a major setback. I believe this counts. See here for more details.