That first issue of Hawkeye that got us all hooked, that was surely a fluke. Fraction and Aja had to have used up all their great ideas (small scale superhero) and better execution ( that art) on those first few pages in order to sell the series, it wasn’t something that they could keep up. Then came issue two that carried on those same themes and tropes to an even higher level, the series continuing to slope up. Landlord Bro, he was good a novelty gag, funny for one issue but not something that could possibly last: pizza dog, Hawkguy, etc. were the same. Then issue five came out and used all of those now old novelty tricks to tell the tale of Cherry and a perfect piece of comic art was created.
That had to be the peak though, an insurmountable height that the character could only fall from, Cherry a one use character who had run her course. Of course, that pessimism has once again proved false with Issue #8 marking the return of both her and the Bro’s on the first page; I finished absorbing its fifteen perfectly aligned panels and was feeling the Hawkeye high already, the book barely even begun. I brought eleven copies of the last issue (it was for a charitable cause) and with only the slightest of nudges would be willing to do the same month in and month out: the final product worth every penny. In short, pick it up if you haven’t. In long, read on.
My Bad Penny is, as Clint describes it, a “Heist-y, Caper-y” sort of story on the surface; the MU’s most adorable Avenger forced to steal a safe from the Bro’s – or Bonbahbi’s(?) as Fractions funny forced Russian(?) naming now informs us – to save Cherry’s life. Unlike her last appearance though the joy here doesn’t so much come from the more pulpy action material that Cherry introduces but the more intimate conflicts caused by her character. And yes, although it is her stunningly stylish dresses that first catch our eye – artist Dave Aja and colourist Matt Hollingsworth outdoing themselves with their pop-y print work – Cherry is given some strong character here thanks to an atypical structural choice.
Fraction and Aja have made a habit of keeping us guessing in regards to how the tale will be told each month – sure we know that it will start with the line : “Okay… this looks bad,” but where it goes form there is a mystery – and this month’s experiment is an intriguing one indeed. Interspersed throughout the story are full page splashes of fake old-school romance comic covers with titles like ‘Doomed Love’ and ‘A Girl Like You’ drawn and coloured awesomely by artist Annie Wu. These serve a sort of purpose in the story but their true purpose is to fill us in, using some shorthand, on a possible backstory for this peculiar woman. It’s weird but it works, they are perhaps not as informative as panelled pages depicting her past would be, but then that is the point, it keeps the mystery alive.
We still don’t know enough about this woman to say whether or not she needs her own title but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind seeing Cherry do as the title suggests and pop-back into the series on a semi-frequent basis because A) this team have shown that given time their tricks grow out rather than grow old and B) there is little better in the world to look at then her in and out of those outfits. I don’t mean this in a lecherous way – though I could. I really have no interest in soft-core cheesecake depictions of women in comics but Cherry is sexy with a capital Sex – but a loving one, and the love is directed once again at Aja and Hollingsworth.
As great as Fraction’s dialogue and freaky touches are – the card game going on unmentioned at the Avengers Mansion is comedy gold – it was the art here that wowed me, the lines and colours telling the story even stronger than the script. In one of the final scenes we see Cherry – trademark colour Red – standing in Matt’s apartment – trademark colour Purple – wearing a purple bullseye robe that clearly doesn’t belong to her and possibly even belongs to Matt’s ‘Friend.Girl.’ and sidekick. It mostly goes unsaid but there is definite meaning in that moment (conceived of by Matt) and it is conveyed purely through the pictures in each panel.
So sure it will one day end, this streak of brilliance, but it shows no signs of doing so anytime soon. In fact I would argue the opposite,that the series is only getting stronger as it spreads out its street-level take on the Marvel Universe. So I have no hesitation recommending this issue and the next one and the one after that, because as long as it keeps telling stories like My Bad Penny there is no way that I will ever stop coming back to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkguy ( See, still funny) and backing it with my own cash. Unlike Cherry, it is a constant; a constant marvel.