Monday, June 10, 2013

This May Not be for Everyone...

ISBN-10: 0785165622
ISBN-13: 9780785165620
Published: Marvel, 03/19/2013
Pages: 136
Language: English
...but it should be. Dear reader, I try to write for a fairly broad audience, but I am, at heart, a nerd, and a superhero comic this good simply must be addressed. Penned by Matt Fraction-- a genius at reviving moribund superhero titles-- Hawkeye takes a back-to-basics approach to its titular character, aka Clint Barton, by showing us what he gets up to when he's not stopping alien invasions alongside the Avengers. Turns out that Barton is a bit of a lovable goof, and his story somehow manages to be both gritty and consistently hilarious. Fraction's dialogue, especially between Barton and his wise-cracking, hyper-confident Girl Friday/sidekick/fellow Hawkeye/it's complicated, okay?, Kate Bishop, is the dictionary definition of "punchy." 

Beyond simple entertainment, though, Fraction uses Hawkeye to reintroduce the concept of the working class hero. Heroes such as Batman and Iron Man, after all, are also billionaire business tycoons, members of the 1% who are as essentially unrelatable as Superman and Thor. Hawkeye/Barton's adventures include rescuing an injured dog, protecting his fellow poverty line-skirting apartment tenants from rent hikes and gentrification, and crashing a gala thrown by upper-crust criminals. On the latest of these adventures, Barton remarks: "Lots of guns, rich people, and scumbags in that room down there," to which Bishop responds: "You read those newspapers you cut up? There's kind of a global recession on right now. Only people that make money in a recession are scumbags" (the use of bold font to add emphasis to speech is standard procedure in comic books). This re-grounding of comics as populist entertainment is part of a larger movement spear-headed by writers such as Ed Brubaker, who embrace the medium's past as well as its potential for the future.

I couldn't possibly end this endorsement without giving a shout-out to David Aja's thoroughly excellent art, which uses potentially garish primary colors, particularly the oft-maligned purple, with a skill not seen since Dave Gibbons' work on Watchmen. He thankfully rejects the glossy photo-realism so common in the medium these days in favor of a riff on Silver Age exuberance with ambitious panel construction that somehow manages a degree of winking post-modernism without being obnoxious. I'm no artist, though, so really I might as well jettison the fancy terms and just say that Hawkeye is really, really pretty. Ultimately, this whole "review" was just an attempt to explain why something is so great, when it's greatness is already self-evident. Pick up a copy with an open mind-- I expect you'll agree.

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