This review was originally penned for the Forbidden Planet blog:
Matt Fraction and David Aja
“Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, became the greatest sharp-shooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger. That’s all you need to know.” From the introduction.
Oh, where to start with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s superb, rollicking ride of a superhero series? I’ve never been a huge Hawkeye fan, but FPI Glasgow’s Nicola raved about this so much on our blog that I picked up the first couple of issues. And I am glad I did, I liked it; in fact I liked it so much it made my annual Best of the Year list (and some of our other Best Of posters picked it too).I love when someone puts you on to something unexpectedly good, something you’d probably never have picked up otherwise – I mean that’s why we all love to talk about our favourite comics and books, after all, share the love of them, hopefully spread it around.
This is Clint Barton’s life when he’s not busy being an Avenger and saving the world as Hawkeye. This is Clint the guy who lives in an old apartment block, talks to his neighbours (and tries to help them out although he often messes up in the most endearing fashion), who know who he is (even if some keep calling him “that Hawkguy” by mistake). And even outside of his epic Avengers role Clint seems to continually walk into trouble, be it relationships (Kate Bishop is almost like an apprentice to him, except numerous times she proves to be as good as him and has to rescue Clint, while the will-they, won’t-they chemistry between them is superb leading to some cracking inter-personal scenes between the pair), the mystery women that breeze in and out of his life (and bed, always with some sort of I-knew-it-was-too-good-to-be-true consequences, of course), tracksuit wearing, Mini driving Russian mafia goons, secret video files and more.
And along the way there is the day to day stuff; Clint trying to be ‘normal’ (whatever that is), helping neighbours move stuff, attempting to sort out cable problems for another neighbour and her kids after buying the block (to fend off a greedy landlord who attempted to screw his neighbours over – not every victory is won by a battle, sometimes lots of cash works well too, fortunately Clint is very rich), trying to take care of a homeless dog, unpack his own belongings (including, in one great sequence, a bewildering array of ‘trick’ arrows that Aja & Fraction then gleefully give him an excuse to use) and organise his apartment to be like a regular place a regular person would live in. And throughout often sparking off Kate, who is more than a match for him, be it in the middle of action or on a high society bash stake out.
“Keep your eyes open. Keep it casual. Casual. Casual. Nice and…”
“Casual. Casual. Super casual.”
“You know there’s nothing casual about a guy muttering ‘casual’ to himself over and over again, right?“
And all his good intentions always end up in some sort of unintended action (including a brilliant car chase that partakes of both The Italian Job and Bullit). Or his mixing with the neighbours on the roof on a nice day, barbecue, some beers, relaxing, being a regular guy, not just an Avenger as he keeps telling is neighbours – right up until a huge shadow falls over them all and they look up to see a massive SHIELD vessel floating over the roof, ropes drop out, black-garbed action men rapel down, grab Clint without so much as a by your leave and pull him straight up into the air for an urgent mission, while the nonplussed neighbours look on with an “I told you he was a big Avenger guy” expression, a wonderfully deadpan comedy moment.
Yes, it is clever writing, with some smart takes on the superhero genre and what they do when they’re not saving the world and battling supervillains. It has sassy dialogue, superb characterisation, humour, romance, drama, sex, car chases, diving out of buildings, falling into pools, saving ‘orphaned’ dogs, pulling mad stunts, all of them depicted with great art that walks the fine line between realistic and cartoony (right down to an old style Hawkeye mask placed over Clint’s naughty bits when he has to dive naked from bed when hoods machine gun it! A lovely, cheeky nod and wink to the audience).
It has all of those elements, but what elevates it from good to brilliant is that in addition to those Hawkeye is purely and simply fun. Huge, enormous, your own floating bar in your very own pool staffed by monkey butlers fun. And dammit, we like the gritty stuff, the dark stuff, the autobio stuff and the serious, heavy, introspective stuff that the medium can deliver so well, but sometimes a comic read should just be darned good fun. And this is about the best fun you can have with your clothes on, one of the best reads in comics right now. If you’ve not been picking up the issues over the last few months then do yourself a favour and grab this first collection.