Clint Barton isn’t a big damn hero, he’s just an average guy and so it seemed so fitting that the first issue of his new series would be similarly small and self-contained, but i don’t need to go into all of that again – ‘ didn’t we cover this last time?’ Fraction quips at the end of the recap – the pertinent question this time is “Was that just the case in the origin issue?” The answer is no, but with what will certainly become a caveat; this second issue again shows off the possible strength of a single issue story but begins to lay some breadcrumbs for a bigger arc to come. Normally I would be worried by the hint of such a shift, but if anyone has the dexterity to best that difficult balancing act it is Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.
What jumps out first from this issue is Fractions freaky and hilarious sense of humor and that’s because it is on show here like it hasn’t been since Casanova. The catch-up text on the title page features that irreverent line, the first page after the flash-forward cold-open – beginning the book when things look bad for Barton and then jumping back to show how he got there seems to be a set structure for the series now – shows a newspaper that reads ” Everything Awful: Oh God Somebody do Something!”, subtitles are replaced by phrases like “French Stuff!” or “Maybe some italian too.” and every conversation in English includes at least one comedic one-liner. This comic reads like it was written by one, it’s funny in a way that heroes are hardly aloud to be these days.
Now you may be wondering why on earth this book would feature subtitles, the answer to that is actually given on the inside of the front cover which features an ad for Cirque du Soleil. If you read enough books on a weekly basis you begin to learn which companies advertise in which products and why, you memories the single page spreads, and so an ad for something like Soleil sticks out. It confused me for a while but very quickly the comic clears up why it was chosen, it’s story is set inside one of their shows ( or to be accurate at one of Cirque du Nuit’s).
There is something fishy going on at the function and so Hawkeye and his sidekick – whose presence so early would have annoyed me if it weren’t for the fact that she gets so many of the great lines – Go to check it out; chaos ensues. The situation is compellingly set-up and teased out through the introduction while the inevitable fight scenes and crime busting that occur are fun, frenetic and of course cleverly composed by series artist David Aja but what really intrigued me were the more serious stories that spin off from this and how Fraction hints at them.
Hawkeye was apparently raised in a circus, I didn’t know that before and do now but it never feels like Fraction is forcing the knowledge onto me; it simply comes up in conversation. So to is the relationship between Clint and his companion handled; subtly. It’s never really explained who she is but we figure it out from how she acts between action beats. Casual exposition is a near impossible concept, so although Hawkeye always reads like it was written in a recliner i know a lot of work must have gone into making it seem so.
And of course all of that work wasn’t done by Fraction alone, far from it. I doubt that anyone was seriously wondering but just in case let me say it again, the art from David Aja is still stellar. His line work is gritty and technical like it was last month – perfect for a person whose power is based on being accurate and whose life is lived on street level – and while I would be more than willing to simply watch him depict in detail Barton’s firing of arrows – a particular split three-shot maneuver passed along from master to student subconsciously in one of the issues best moments – the Circus setting allows him to add some surreal and literally carnivalesque style to the comic ( think the opera scene in the otherwise gritty Quantum of Solace). Then there is the other Matt, Hollingsworth, who applies to the comic the Purplest colour scheme this side of Marie Schrader; another touch that I would usually scoff at if it weren’t done so damn well.
So all in all Hawkeye is again a hard title to beat for Most Fun read of the week – it’s hard to imagine even Mark Waid’s Daredevil competing with something of this calibre, class and comedic quality – something that i would happily read new issues of ad infinitum, but like Daredevil second did this issues ending hints at a larger story to come: hobo-code is hinting at an ominous future, a cabal of criminals forms against Clint and our hero has a plan not unlike Reed Richard’s recent piece of hubris, to solve everything, to be the one that does something a out everything terrible. While I am a little worried about this Clint seems to think that it will work out okay because he has friends to tackle it with him; I reckon that he can consider me one of them, I’ll be along for the ride wherever it goes and given the track record of this team that’s bound to be right into the bullseye.