Why Fractions Hawkeye is Freakin' Awesome

I'd make some kind of archery based pun for a tagline, but I'm afraid I'd miss the mark.

If you pay any kind of attention to critics lists within the comic world, then you'll already be aware of the New York Times best selling, Eisner Award winning “Hawkeye” run, written by Matt Fraction with art from David Aja, as well as a range of other artists from Steve Lieber to Alan Davis and more. There's good reason for the critical acclaim it received on its release, as it is one of the best comic runs, certainly in recent memory.

When I say everything is filtered through Clint Barton, I mean everything

Normally, comic book runs have a driving narrative arc centred around a villain(s) or some kind of extinction event, and the story facilitates any character development or interpersonal relationships necessary. Here, however, its like each of the villains are an after thought; a cameo appearance in a bare bones narrative structure that is purely there to give context to the characters. More than that, the activities are...mundane, in a way; I mean, sure, there's the mobsters and the super spies and the shady underground crime syndicate, but there are also barbecues with neighbours, relationship troubles, pet drama, injuries (LOTS of injuries) and the overall tone of wry humour gives it the feel of day to day activities. Fraction has achieved this unusual but absolutely brilliant piece of writing through a clever use of Hawkeye's viewpoint: everything is not only narrated by him, but is seen and heard and experienced through his viewpoint, and Fraction has absolutely nailed Clint Barton.

Even the humour has an ever day feel to it

I honestly cannot stress it any more: this is perhaps the greatest bit of character writing in comics. That might make some of you scream blasphemy, but hear me out: I'm not saying that this is the greatest written story, or that this is necessarily the most defining version of a character ever, but given that it so seamlessly immerses you into the world as Clint Barton sees it, that you can so clearly get inside his head and see through his eyes, and that it is such a perfect realisation of an everyman-style take on the character, I can't help but be impressed. It's wondrous mono- and dialogue as well, with simple, defining and oft repeated quips like “Okay-- This looks bad” to some very impressive and naturally written relationships – particularly between Clint and his “ward” and superhero namesake, Kate Bishop.

In terms of the narrative structure, even though it is, as I said, fairly bare-bones, it is sufficiently interesting and intriguing to warrant a read. It's real achievement is not being written as an action hero crisis story, and instead just being a naturally flowing, relate-able adventure with enough humility to take a back seat. Don't get me wrong, if the characters or the narrative and viewpoint of Clint were off, then the story would crash and burn, but the relationship between the two is actually such that exactly because the characters, etc are spot on, the story is absolutely perfect for it. 

One of the issues is a brilliant little side story seen through from the viewpoint of Pizza Dog

The art style – or rather, styles, as several artists guest star on the run – are equally brilliant in their complimentary nature, with pencils that are somehow both clean and rough at the same time, and a colour palette that is absolutely perfect. I don't know any other way I could explain just how gorgeous and endearing the art style is – but once again, this is not a claim to the greatest art ever seen in comics, merely an appreciation of its own unique symbiosis with the characters.

I'll leave this unashamed out-pouring of borderline nerdgasm by simply saying: This is one of my most cherished physical comics on a shelf that has a large number of some of my personal and the all round critical favourites, so when I say you should absolutely get this and read it if you have not already done so, you should listen.

Final Score: 10/10

This has been Blacksmith, writing for The Awesome Update.

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