David Aja’s art is always cinematic, his panels almost animated in the way that they portray action, but with this third issue of Hawkeye he is channeling a very particular piece of cinema: the euro-centric actioners and car chase movies of the mid-seventies. His style doesn’t change, the lines are still simple and the images fantastically flat, so this is still the Hawkeye style that we have come to know and love over the last two issues and yet within seconds of seeing his images here you can feel that influence under the surface. Sure the content is occasionally direct in its derivations but it’s the subtler things like the posing in his pictures ( which are still all shaded won’t at heavenly purple thanks to Matt Hollingsworth.) that portray that charisma and that charm of the coolest of all cinematic movements in an issue that is as cool as the comic medium gets.
Again the story starts specifically in media res, at Clint’s lowest possible point in the plot but again it is Matt Fraction’s irreverent notations in the single page before this that best set the issue up in its proper context. That opening page is split into a massive splash and a row of those mini-panels that Aja has now trademarked: the latter show guns spitting out bullets, Barton pulling back his bowstring, a redhead bound in a backseat and other such staccato snippets of an action scene in progress. The former? It’s The Italian Job on the streets of Marvel’s New York city; a squads of small mini’s shuttling ‘Tracksuit Dracula’s’ – or Bro’s to the rest of us – skittering after Clint Barton in his bright red American Muscle car, complete with a black stripe for extra speed.
So what bunch of words tops that as an intro? After the standard, simplified introduction to the character that I have detailed in the past Fraction wryly adds ” Why are you still reading this? It’s repetitive” but he couldn’t be more wrong. Somehow this comic has maintained the freshness and excitement of that first issue, something that many series fail to do for even two; it’s still as fun and as fantastic a discovery now as it was then. They say that you only get one cherry but as Cherry proves that’s clearly not the case here.
Interestingly though this is also the least original issue of the series so far. Not only does it owe a lot to those aforementioned cinematic influences but it also brings back both the Bro’s of the first issue and a whole heap of inventions that are presumably from stories past; non-pointy arrows. Fraction somehow manages to both have his cake and eat it too with his depiction of Clint’s crazy novelty arrows; he begins the issue by mocking them, banishing them as relics of the character’s less realistic past but by the end of it he has redeemed each and every one with an appropriately exciting usage. Aja’s intercutting of the action to label each one is one of the coolest tricks that he employs here and is again befitting of the genre.
On top of this series, which culminates in a classic foreshadowed quip, Fraction’s out of sequence script is also structured around a countdown, a numbering of numb-brained ideas; together these somehow manage to tell the story in a way that makes total sense, though i think that Aja’s art also has a lot to do with this. The very first line of the book is Clint describing his current predicament as the result of his “third most-terrible idea”, an obvious callback to the current issue number, but he, well he may just may be right, this could be the third most-terrible issue of the amazing series so far, ala the best.