This is not the book you think it is. When you see a new comic with the name "Hawkeye" in the title, you may recall the film Avengers, where Hawkeye is somehow on a team with a god, a hulking monster, and a super soldier when he possesses all the power of a bow and arrow. It's a bit ridiculous, even in a world where ridiculous things happen every day. But the new Hawkeye Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon embraces this ridiculousness before stripping it all away.
Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, became the greatest sharpshooter 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.
Ha! Writer Matt Fraction knows the character Hawkeye very well, and he knows that readers may not"”and such a blend of awareness and execution makes this book the perfect jumping-on point for new fans. Hawkeye's lack of powers and marquee villains means he has more time to do laundry, set up his stereo system, self-deprecate, and attend rooftop barbeques at his shoddy apartment complex. It's at one such barbeque where Hawkeye"”mistakenly referred to as "Hawkguy" by his neighbors"”learns that the rent will be unreasonably escalated, thanks to the shady dealings of the landlord. This sets in motion a loose thread that connects the five chapters in this first volume, where Hawkeye discovers a network of tracksuit-wearing Russian mobsters with a penchant for referring to themselves and pretty much everything else as "Bro" (as Hawkeye escapes, one of the Russians yells to another: "Bro, get that bro!").
Clint Barton's life is filled with the mundane as much as it is the fantastic, and readers see both here. He befriends a dog (naming it "Pizza Dog" for reasons that must be read), and shares quality time with Kate Bishop. It's this latter relationship that gives the book its heart, as Kate is a former Young Avenger, who, in Clint's absence, took the mantle of "Hawkeye" for a period of time. She's sees Clint as a mentor but mostly as a hunk, while Clint sees her as a talented hero who should not be interested in someone like him. "She is without a doubt the finest and most gifted bowman I've ever met but she's like nine years old and spoiled rotten. She's pretty great." It's a wonderful dynamic, and whenever Kate appears in the book it's a sign of great things to come.
What also sets Hawkeye apart from most superhero books is the artwork by David Aja and colorist Matt Hollingsworth. Aja takes a graphic design approach to the book, structuring pages with stacks of panels and clever uses of repeated images. Every page is meticulously planned, a return to form for superhero comics after so much focus has been placed on breaking walls and borders in favor of splashy fights and action. Aja's sense of timing translates Fraction's humor to decompressed cinematic moments"”in the third chapter, Clint and Kate review his selection of "trick" arrows over the course of nine panels:
"Boomerang Arrow, Kate"”it comes back to you in the end. Boomerang. Respect it."
"Why the hell do you need an arrow that comes back to you after you shoot it, Clint?"
This exchange would not work without Aja's expert use of body language and expressions"”in the beginning of the conversation, Clint has his chin raised, a proud mentor. By the end, his head drifts downward, his mouth a pinched line. Aja's character designs display a flair for fashion design as well"”a rarity in superhero books, where costumes are often gaudy and impractical. Here, the characters wear actual clothes"”jeans, sweaters, sneakers"”that look truly worn. Hollingsworth lends stark purples and grays to Aja's architecture, Hawkeye's signature colors.
Hawkeye Vol. 1 is a book that rewards repeat readers, opening up jokes and stories that continue in the second volume (collected in July). Whether or not you are familiar with the character, despise or love the character, Hawkguy is reborn in this first volume. All superhero comics should be written like this, and they should all look so good. Bro.