Best Shots Advance Review: Fraction & Aja's HAWKEYE #1

 

 

Hawkeye #1

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth

Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

There’s something to be said for watching two talents stretch their legs.

That's the main draw for Hawkeye, which reunites Matt Fraction and David Aja after their seminal collaboration on The Immortal Iron Fist. Of course, back then Fraction and Aja were two up-and-coming talents, each hungry to prove themselves to Marvel and the comics market as a whole. Now that Fraction and Aja aren't just known quantities, but bankable quantities to boot, there isn't the same sort of holistic ambition in the adventures of Clint Barton, master marksman of the Avengers. Instead, Hawkeye is almost Fraction and Aja's take on the slow, sedate Adventure Comics — this is less of a rollicking, redefining superhero epic and more of a platform to develop character and create art.

That sort of leeway is almost exclusively on Aja's head, as he really gives a grounded, gorgeous view into Clint Barton's world. You can nearly smell the garbage on New York City streets thanks to Aja's rough inks, and the times that Clint springs into action are just off-the-wall, with panels popping in and out of your field of vision that make his uncanny accuracy almost too fast to follow. The gritty art reminds me, in many ways, of a more distant Michael Lark, owing in part to Aja's tighter panel composition. Aja's one weakness is even lampshaded by Fraction — Clint as a character doesn't have the strongest design in the world, looking more than a little than Aja's previous run on Iron Fist.

The story, meanwhile, will be an acquired taste for some. Those looking for a character-defining, status quo-altering take on Hawkeye will be pretty disappointed — Fraction really is painting us a day-in-the-life portrait of Clint Barton, from his injuries in the field to his clashes with his criminal landlord. There's really no central theme here, no great new insights to Clint as a character — those who loved the Avengers movie might like the slightly scrappy, slightly smartass attitude, but it's not redefining the wheel.

But that lo-fi approach to Clint isn't necessarily a bad thing. I like much of Fraction's smaller character moments, like Clint's sardonic sendoff to his one-time caretakers, or even his low-key monologue about what it's like to be the one Avenger without any powers. It's very Fraction, in that sort of purposefully quirky vibe that's come to define his trippy run on Defenders — although clearly not as deeply weird.

Combine that with a fantastic presentation — Matt Hollingsworth's colors add that real-world dinginess to every page, and letterer Chris Eliopoulos might have made the most gorgeous credits list I've ever seen — and you have a book that's actually the opposite of fan service. This is a book that's a jam session, a reunion tour for two talents that made their bones together and want to see what music they can make next. This first issue isn't explosive, it's more of a warm-up — but if this is the opening shot, Hawkeye will be scoring bullseyes soon enough.

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