Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel
Five years ago, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, and David Aja teamed up to produce a revival of The Immortal Iron Fist. The series didn’t last too long, but it was a lot of fun, and it introduced Fraction and Aja to Marvel’s readers and well as them to each other. Now, Fraction and Aja have reunited for a new ongoing series starring Hawkeye of Avengers fame. And two issues into Hawkeye? All I can think is how much better Fraction and Aja have gotten since Iron Fist, and they were already good back then.
The first issue of Hawkeye was grounded firmly in the real world; aside from references to the Avengers, it was a story that could have taken place in a non-superhero universe and merely starred a vigilante/crime-fighter. With Hawkeye #2, Fraction enlarges the scope of the worldview a bit—the Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) from Young Avengers guest-stars and some villains from the Marvel Universe make an appearance too—but the comic never loses sight of its overall feel established in the previous issue. Superpowers are limited to hypnotism (which while more effective than in the real world, isn’t unbelievable), and it’s still about fighting the good fight. This is, at its core, street-level heroics.
Lots of Fraction’s little writing tics from the previous issue surface once more in Hawkeye #2, which is ultimately pleasing. The marked off by parentheses effect for people talking in languages that Hawkeye doesn’t understand is amusing, and the ever-shifting unknown language takes that previous joke and pushes it up a notch. More importantly, Hawkeye’s narration continues to guide the book. Little moments like, "See? She’s perfect," give the book a relaxed, conversational feel that is what helps define the comic. Played simply as an action story, Hawkeye #2 would be good. Told in this manner, though, it turns into your new best friend and his casual explanation of events.
After last month’s debut, I thought we’d built up the new supporting cast, but it’s nice to see that’s not the case. Kate Bishop (who with the end of Young Avengers and Avengers: Children’s Crusade has been without a comic to appear in) is a strong addition to the title, one who will hopefully appear again. She’s not so much a foil (which would have been an obvious role) but a mixture of protégé and confidant. It’s a good role for her to play, and it’s fun to see her having to save Hawkeye rather than the more predictable reversal. Ultimately, any character who can burst into a circus dressing room and say, "Hey, jerk du soleil," gets my vote for a return.
Just as important as Fraction’s writing, though, is Aja’s art. I’d always liked Aja’s art before, but it seems that when I wasn’t looking he stepped up his game big time. It’s now much more David Mazzucchelli influenced, harkening to his work on books like Batman: Year One. Very crisp and well defined figures make up a lot of that, certainly, but it’s more than just that now. Aja’s creating some amazing page layouts; often with dozens of panels (everything from talking heads to a time lapse where fourteen panels break down Kate saying, "That’s cool"), and occasionally using panel insets within a larger illustration to help delineate motion across a lobby. He’s still great at action sequences, too. Launching arrows isn’t the most dynamic of events, but watching Kate shoot as Hawkeye bounds up and down is far more exciting than one would think, and that’s just one moment where you can all but see the characters moving across the page. It’s a great looking comic, to put it mildly, and for whomever has to inevitably provide fill-in art for Aja, I pity them.
Some of the artistic credit also needs to go to colorist Matt Hollingsworth. He’s wisely staying away from computer coloring effects and sticking with flat, simple (but attractive) colors. He’s also sticking to a limited palette here; mostly purple and black (the colors of Hawkeye’s superhero outfit), with some blues and the occasional complementary color when need be. He’s not afraid to use a red or a yellow, but he’ll pick ones that don’t clash with those already chosen, core colors. It’s a delicate and careful decision, and the end result is staggeringly beautiful.
With more and more comics being written with an eye firmly focused on the collected edition, it’s a pleasure to see a book that’s so much fun to read issue-by-issue. Both issues of Hawkeye have stood on their own as single, focused stories that can be read in a vacuum and loved. At the same time, it feels like Fraction and Aja are building towards a larger picture that promises to engross the reader even more. I, for one, am not complaining. I never thought I’d be reading a Hawkeye series. Then again, I’d felt the same way about Iron Fist. If you aren’t already, check Hawkeye out. Highly recommended.