I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.
I read 5 comics last week: Hawkeye #22, Superman/Wonder Woman #19, Justice League #42, Black Canary #2 and Robin: Son of Batman #2.
This is the final issue of an amazing run of a quirky, cool and engaging comic book. Published between 2012 – 2015 (and only reaching 22 issues – Marvel let the creative teams take their time with this one, and the product was all but perfection), Hawkeye told the story of Clint Barton and what he did on his off hours when he wasn’t being an Avenger. Written by Matt Fraction and illustrated, primarily, by David Aja (with great work by Annie Wu as well), this comic was so different from anything else being published at Marvel or DC, that it stood out starkly and was as compelling as it was crazy.
Crazy? How about an entire silent issue featuring Pizza Dog, Hawkeye’s adopted dog?
Matt Fraction is a terrific writer. I’ve loved his superhero stuff since his stint (a defining one) on Fantastic Four and FF. I venture to say if he was still writing Fantastic Four, Marvel would still be publishing it. As he reached the end of his runs on these books, it was clear he was chafing against the constraints of “typical” superhero stories and Marvel did something very, very smart: they allowed him to shatter every comic book convention in Hawkeye, and this was at the height of the character’s Jeremy Renner inspired fame.
Over the course of 22 almost-perfect issues, Fraction unfolded a story that embraced Hawkeye’s comic book roots while forcing the character to face the real-world issues of his broken marriage, his various romantic relationships, his personal poverty (and wealth and poverty), his mentoring of a younger Hawkeye, his reunion with his brother, his placing those around him in peril and on-and-on-and-on. Each issue was tight. Each issue was emotional. Each issue was brilliant.
And that’s just the writing.
The art by David Aja impeccably captured the flavor of Fraction’s writing. As you can see from the page above (pulled from the famous “Pizza Dog” issue), Aja switches with ease between “realistic” comic book renderings and more stylized, representative cartooning. Each choice he made as a penciller was spot on and each gag (such as the one below) he and Fraction devised worked.
Annie Wu’s Kate Bishop arcs in the series have to be mentioned as well. She really made Kate-Hawkeye her own and gave her life. Everything about Aja and Wu’s art felt original. They are the kind of artists I buy other series for even if I don’t like the characters in the books. They are that good.
Was Hawkeye #22 the best of the series? Every issue was so good, it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but this final one tied up the loose ends incredibly well and it did something to me that I don’t know that another comic has ever done. It made me not want to read this character as written and drawn by anyone else but Fraction and Aja. I loved their story that much. I don’t want to spoil it by reading another interpretation.
I will miss Fraction as a writer of main-stream comics. He challenged convention and raised the bar for the entire main-stream industry. It was a bar that I didn’t even know needed raising until reading Hawkeye #1 and I am sad to see him move on from improving this world.
Bravo, to the entire creative team. Bravo to Marvel for letting the book play out at its own speed to keep that team intact.
Hawkeye is brilliant stuff. This is a one-of-a-kind run that I cannot wait to pick up as an omnibus. I am sure I am not alone.