Archer Clint Barton is better known to the world by his titles than his name: “Hawkeye,” “World’s Greatest Marksman,” and “Avenger”.  Barton is unenhanced, unpowered, and merely human, yet he holds his own in the superhero big leagues, despite being “an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Paleolithic era.”  But even superheroes can only save the world part-time.

There’s plenty of bow and arrow action in Matt Fraction’s new Hawkeye run, but the primary focus isn’t Hawkeye, the Avenger, but Clint Barton, the man who holds his own in the super-league, despite his lack of extraordinary gifts or powers. More than an action-adventure superhero saga, Fraction offers a character exploration of the man behind the bow, a contemplation of the reasons why Hawkeye fights rather than the way he does it. When he isn’t saving the world, he’s often trying to save himself.

Instead of the Avengers’ Mansion, Clint Barton makes his home in a run-down apartment building in Brooklyn, filled with normal people and owned by a bad man associated with plenty of other bad men. Protecting his home and his neighbors brings Barton into conflict with the city’s underworld and frequently puts him in danger at the hands of track-suited minions. Other Avengers make occasional appearances, but the focus remains on Barton as he lives outside that world. Equally human Young Avenger Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, appears regularly, and together the Hawkeyes will take on the mob, Christmas, international super villains, trick arrows, mysterious damsels in distress, and Superstorm Sandy.

Fraction’s fast-paced stories are original, clever, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Barton never stops trying to be the hero, even when—as he often repeats—things “look bad” for him. Hawkeye is more than his bow and his aim; indeed, Fraction’s Barton is at times painfully human in his vulnerabilities and determination to fight on in spite of them, as his compassion for others leads him constantly into harm’s way. Barton’s sidekick and protégé (and maybe something more), Kate Bishop, is well-crafted as a tough chick who takes no prisoners and kicks ass despite her socialite upbringing, even while wearing a designer gown.

As Fraction experiments with different storytelling styles, Hawkeye is not a straight narrative, but instead a series of connected events and experiences. David Aja and numerous other artists compliment each issue with fabulous artwork, and while purple dominates many issues, the art is as unpredictable as Fraction’s stories. Each issue offers something new for the reader to appreciate.

The paperback editions collect Hawkeye, vol. 1-6 and Young Avengers Presents, vol. 6 (vol. 1) and Hawkeye, vol. 6-11 (vol. 2). This includes “Pizza Is My Business,” the 2014 Eisner Award winner for best single issue. Marvel rates Hawkeye as Teen+, but more conservative communities might find that it fits better into adult than teen collections. In addition to the expected comic book violence—at times graphic when a man is shot in the eyes with arrows or a dog is beaten badly—Hawkeye includes strong language, implied sexual situations, and nudity. Regardless of whether the series’ audience is adults or teens, Fraction’s Hawkeye run should be considered a must-have for contemporary graphic novel collections.

My Life as a Weapon, vol. 1
ISBN: 9780785165620
Little Hits, vol. 2
ISBN: 9780785165637
by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja, Javier Pulido, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Francesco Francavilla
Marvel, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+

  • Beth Rogers

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Beth Rogers is Coordinator of Reference, Instruction, and Outreach at the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where she has worked to introduce and develop the library’s graphic novel collection. Also a part-time lecturer in English, Beth has taught courses on graphic novels for college students, lead book discussions on graphic novels including Watchmen and American-Born Chinese, and guest lectured on superheroes in American culture. She also maintains a book review blog, Do I Wanna Read THAT?!?!? When she’s not working, Beth enjoys action movies, knitting wee Avengers, and spoiling her dog.

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