I really enjoyed the last Hawkeye series with Mockingbird. I’m not a huge fan of the character and so I don’t mind seeing different takes on him from different writers. I’m certainly not going to pitch a bitch about the way Marvel used him in The Avengers on YouTube the way some people did. I will admit that the current re-design of his costume strips him of some of what makes him visually unique, but his costume is systemic of the current trend in comics where a stripped down sense of utilitarian design work is en vogue. However, a costume does not make the character. So is the book focused on a character worth reading about?
Matt Fraction and David Aja reteam and bring back some of the magic they worked with Immortal Iron Fist on a character who needs a steady hand more than just about any solo character in Marvel’s stable. With his profile raised considerably because of his appearance in The Avengers Hawkeye needs to validate his own existence somewhat. He isn’t a particularly interesting character most of the time. He’s a side dish to the main entree in team books. He’s someone who is born to share the spotlight. Fraction luckily is one of those writers who really knows how to dig deep and find the things that work about a character and this is one of his strongest debut works since Iron Fist or Invincible Iron Man. I personally have been enjoying the majority of his work but will admit that he can fall into a little bit of a lull sometimes. His Uncanny X-Men run was about 50/50 and Fear Itself had none of his usual flair.
With Hawkeye, Fraction seems to get back to the nitty gritty. We get maybe a page and a half of Barton in costume and the rest of the issue follows his exploits while he’s not on duty. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a hero story. It isn’t about him going to pick up milk or wash his car. Instead we get a closer look at how Barton views himself; in the context of his role as an Avenger, in the shadow of Captain America, and as a simple man without powers standing next to men who can shatter planets. Fraction utilizes the first issue to tell a stand-alone story that explains why Barton does the things he does and where his moral code comes from. And Fraction tells us more about Barton through the way he treats a simple dog than most writers do with an entire series worth of heroic exploits. I know some might say its a cheap trick to play the wounded animal card, but Fraction nails it and nobody can really deny how effective the issue is.
I was planning on giving the series a pass entirely but the first issue was good enough that I can see myself following it through. I know for a fact that there are less deserving books that I’ve stuck with for the duration. I figure this one isn’t going to disappoint me anytime soon.