I love Matt Fraction, like maybe almost as much as Kelly Sue DeConnick does, but issue six of his Hawkguy run has confirmed one of my long time suspicions about the series: it isn’t really his. No, I’m not accusing the man of plagiarism or suggesting that someone else is writing the series under a pseudonym. What I actually mean is that of all the names on the comic’s minimalist cover it isn’t Matt’s that most excites me, that honour is Dave Aja’s alone. This is perhaps not too surprising a sentiment to many fans of this visual format but for a man like myself who fawns over the sentences and structure it is a massive deal to be as utterly enamored with an artist as I am Aja. He’s the real Hawkguy.
They say nothing makes the heart grow fonder than absence and though that may be a bromide it was proven here to be the truth. To give Aja a bit of a break the past two issues of the series were drawn by another artist, Javier Pulido, whose work was by all objective standards wonderful in its own way but lacked a little something special in comparison despite having the same man behind the script. That something was back in Aja’s issue six. Another bromide tells us that the most reliable spawn can never compete with the return of the prodigal son, especially one as beloved as Aja is by myself and so while it comes as no surprise that this issue was spectacular it still managed to exceed my expectations and become something quite special indeed.
A Christmas issue of sorts Hawkguy #6 starts Aja’s second arc on the book by both bringing together the many minute elements of this micro-section of the Marvelverse and commenting on them all in that infamous meta style of Matt Fraction’s. After winning me over with the short previously-on synopsis at the start of each issue, one stoppered by a slyly smug comment, Matt subverts the trope by simply saying “(Insert Smug Comment Here)”. He also opens the book by yet again having Hawkguy whimper “This looks bad” but instead of incredibly high action stakes he is this time talking about tangled TV cords that he and tech genius Tony Stark simply cannot decipher.
That though isn’t the story of the issue itself, it’s simply a single page of it. Just as the standalone tales told in the first few issues begin to build into something serialized here this issue tells six-ish short stories that en and extwine magically and messily like the very same cords that it starts with. Like those two brilliant bachelors I honestly couldn’t straighten this thing out perfectly, I too would have to do some snipping to get it there, but thankfully the book is still brilliant with this nonsensicality in a way that an unplugged TV simply isn’t. Inside these snippets of story we get to see everything that one would want from the series: Bro’s, new memic nomenclature, Holiday cheer, character development, action and yes, oh yes, some Aja art.
Not to be outdone by Matt’s manic writing Aja also amps up his style in this issue, mockingly and yet majestically. The border of the page featuring the fight between the Avengers and their Av is a large, technical drawing of Clint’s current Audio-Visual set-up, denoting where, in an ideal world, all of the cords should really go. Of course the awesomeness of Aja’s art is only exacerbated by the book’s other Matt, colorist Matt Hollingsworth. The persistent purple tone’s of the early issues can still be found within a few fitting scenes – mainly when the Hawk gang unite – and there is a nice soothing, wintery blue tone to the book befitting of its date but the colors as a whole are as spastic as the story, Hollingsworth sampling several different schemes and styles along the way, nailing all of them. Like the cord’s this comic’s art veers from extreme chaos to crisp, clean draftsmanship within the same page, but why am i still harping about those cords, that is only one of the extraordinary pages that are to be found within the issue.
Flip over the paper and you’ll find an action page presented in a way that is clearly designed to resemble the old-school arcade beat-em up’s of old, complete with character selection squares but not a single extraneous element that stresses the style over the storytelling. Flip another and you’ll find a page with a four panel paragraph showing how Clint cuts open a box; normally this would be a waste of space but when pages have as many panels as Hawkguy‘s do this seems perfectly proportioned. Next to it is an out of context clock, telling you the time (as clock’s are want to do); a visual motif that is carried through the issue. Above it the date, another such suggestion of sequential order. Anywhere else, by any other hand these pages simply wouldn’t work but here they are among the best that I have ever seen.
Hawkguy was already a series that I enjoyed supremely each month but it was, intentionally so, a rather light affair; with issue six though this is not the case at all. This single issue delivers an entire arcs worth of material within the standard number of pages; it delivers enough on its own to make up for the months long break it has been on. A break taken in spirit if not reality; taken because Aja was away. If the only thing I get this Christmas is Hawkguy #6 then I will spend my holidays a happy man; it’s better even than the finale of Dog Cops.