Yes, the book deserves all the hype that it’s getting. Hawkeye, vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon is as pretty and action-packed as you’ve dreamed. There are a lot of great things to go over, so let’s dive right in.
First, you like Clint Barton. He’s a guy you could see being friends with. He’ll have dinner on the roof of his building, he’s a great prankster, and maybe you could pal around with him. Of course, sometimes he’s abducted off of the roof by a few S.H.E.I.L.D. agents onto the massive helicarrier. That could put a damper on your afternoon cookout.
It’s random escapades such as abduction, or extortion, or dog rescuing that this book promises. As the book so smarmily informs you at the start of every issue, these are the moments in between the Avenger’s world-saving epics. Before I go any farther, I would like to thank Matt Fraction for the success he’s had in delivering this type of story. Many comic fans are familiar with the joke of having [insert currently popular superhero] on every major team. The idea that any one person (super or otherwise) could have that much time is laughable. However, Hawkeye, vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon tells exactly those moments. Almost every issue is a standalone tale about what happens to Hawkeye over a short span of time. Maybe it’s 8 hours, 24 hours, 2 weeks, but it’s never long enough that I entertain the thought, “How is he doing all of this?!”. While that might not seem that commendable, it’s actually a fantastic storytelling challenge. You need to tell vignettes that are insightful about a character, but you have to strip away everything that most people think is cool about him. If Fraction isn’t allowed to invoke more than a cameo from an Avenger, and has to leave out just about every supervillian, he’s left with a man and his bow. So you begin to see how very impressive it is that Hawkeye unfailingly proves to entertain issue after issue.
Of course, what’s helping captivate the reader’s attention is some drool-worthy art. David Aja deserves every Eisner nomination that comes his way. He has such an amazing inking style. It’s realistic, but the line is weighty and borders on cartoony. No matter what he’s depicting, backgrounds, actions, or finely tuned expressions – you get enough of an outline to perceive the drawing then heavy blacks. There’s no gradient in between, so the presentation is clean and confident.
With an inking style that depends so heavily on contrast, a bad coloring job could ruin it. Luckily, Matt Hollingsworth knows exactly what to do with Aja’s work. The compilation of art and color really elevates the look of Hawkeye to higher strata than most comic art. Hollingsworth frequently relies on the complimentary color scheme between yellows and purples. No matter how normal the scene is, we always are reminded that we are in Hawkeye’s world. With all of the attention to detail that this team puts in, it doesn’t matter what antics Hawkeye is up to. It is instantly readable and stunning. While other artists cycle in and out, there’s an obvious care in selection and consistency. The writer, colorist, and letterer remain unchanging and fastidious. Even when Aja is not behind the brush, you don’t feel cheated.
There are a lot of small things in Hawkeye that make it a delight to read. There’s a female co-star who is just as snarky and competent as Hawkeye. Clint obeys most of the laws of physics, and the consequences of being a human in a super-powered world. When he breaks something, it means bed rest. New York looks like New York. Which means there’s different cultures all over, fantastic architecture, and occasionally the mention of cat urine. It seems simple, but when so many comics still stare at us from their whitewashed, cleft chin faces, it is so wonderful to be able to point to Hawkeye as a counter example. Here is a superhero comic that respects art and character and storytelling.
Marvel designates this title for T+. There’s definitely some blood, plenty of action, and if I counted right, exactly one Barton butt. So even if I wanted to argue for it, you can’t exactly pass this book out like candy. However, in every way this book can, it excels in the art of comic booking. So while you wait for kids to grow into teens, you can just keep rereading your copy, and it won’t be wasted time.