Overview: Clint Barton (later known as Hawkeye) became the greatest sharpshooter known to man. Then he joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not doing that. Marvel Comics; 2012-2015; 22 issues.
Just a Day Job: With Marvel and DC Comics going through event after event every six months, we often forget what it’s like to see these heroes on their home turf. Rarely do we even get to see them just relax at home and try to piece their lives together after fighting AIM, or whatever cosmic deity decided to hate humans this week. Those can be fun, if a little tiresome, with a rinse, repeat appeal (though I hear Secret Wars is turning out wonderfully). When individual characters return to their own series, it’s interesting to see how the big two comic studios differ from one another. The main difference between Marvel and DC heroes comes in their ability to be relateable. The best Marvel comics are all about ordinary people trying to live up to their status as modern day gods and legends, and after 2012’s superhero powerhouse The Avengers was released in theaters, a large portion of moviegoing audience members were left shrugging their shoulders at the characterization of Hawkeye. While I believe the character was used minimally used in the film intentionally, I still yearned to see more of Clint Barton and what made him tick. Enter August 2012, and Marvel released a new Hawkeye series penned by Matt Fraction. In it, Clint Barton’s Hawkeye (Hawkguy) gets the short shaft when it comes to super-heroics. A small subset of fans know what makes the character so great, but there’s no giant red carpet for the character in Hollywood. But that’s okay, because Clint Barton is still a pretty cool superhero. He just can’t get a grasp on his personal life, and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye looks at the moments between the panels and fills us in on what it’s like to be the greatest sharp-shooter known to man.
A Harem of Co-Workers: For those who are unfamiliar, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run is framed as a dramedy, but it’s ultimately a minimalist look at the life of the least Avenger-y Avenger. The art by David Aja, Annie Wu, and Javier Pulido should not be underestimated. It’s thinly drawn, with thick, bold outlines that make the characters and world pop where they need to, but feels appropriately small for a series of this scale. With a few espionage escapades taking place outside the city of New York, the story is primarily located within and around an apartment complex Clint Barton purchases to take care of the people being threatened by tracksuit wearing, European bro-thugs. And Fraction’s run of Hawkeye stories don’t just show Clint Barton as a good hero, but as a good man, and he’s not the only Hawkeye in this story. A while back there was another Hawkeye to take up the mantle after Clint died (but not really, due to a convoluted sub-plot that would be too distracting to detail exactly here). Enter Kate Bishop, a wise-cracking legacy hero with her own baggage and aspirations. She’s got her stuff together when it comes to social anxieties and generally not fucking everything up, and she’s practically an Avenger, making her the closest thing Clint has to a best friend in the entire comic book run. Including Kate, there are four important women in the life of Clint Barton: Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), the work wife, Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird), the ex-wife, Jessica (Spider-Woman), the friend-girl, and Kate Bishop (Hawkeye, too), the real best sharp-shooter in the world. While Kate co-leads Matt Fraction’s series with Clint, the other women in Clint’s life are essential to his well-being as well (and quite honestly they’re probably the only reason why he’s still alive). There’s an interesting dynamic that Fraction takes with these characters, in that they’re not pigeon-holed into the cliched gender stereotypes of women scorned, lusted after, or to be put in harm’s way. It’s almost like they’re treated as, well, people, which is, quiet frankly, refreshing.
All in the Family: Following the various connections to other Marvel heroes is part of the fun, but we’ve seen that in other comics. Where this comic truly shines is in Hawkeye’s relationships with the average city folk in the apartment complex he owns. Hawkeye can’t stop looking out for people, and when the chips are down and his people are at the end of their ropes, they need someone they can count on, and Clint knows this, and there’s a surprising amount of experimental storytelling that goes on throughout to explore this theme. Case in point, in the aftermath of a fight with a recurring villain, Hawkeye goes deaf, and in issue #19, Matt Fraction uses dialogue minimally to tell the story, during a turning point in the series’ ongoing battle between the residents of Hawkeye’s apartments and the previously mentioned Euro-trash, bro-thugs. How the creators of this particular series, with Fraction at the helm, are able to transcribe through the power of the comic page on such a remarkable scale will always leave me with a sense of wonder. But that sense of wonder and amazement is exactly who Hawkeye is, and what makes him a wonderful character, Fractions’s comic one about the little people in a world of behemoth superheroes. The daily life of an Avenger who never quite gets the respect he deserves, and a story about an up and coming hero with dark family ties, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run might be the comic of the modern era.
Overall: There are loose ends in the finale, and nobody gets a clean getaway, but Clint and Kate get to head off to new adventures with this chapter of their lives closed (for now), so there’s no telling how big their next fight is going to be. But it won’t matter, as Fraction’s series represents just another day in the life of Hawkeye.
Featured Image: Marvel Comics