Review: Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

My name is Doug Glassman, and I am no longer a wait-for-trader . . . at least, not in the traditional sense.

This is a review of the issues that will be collected in just a week or so in Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon, though I own the book in single issues. Hawkeye was the first comic to suck me back in to monthlies after fully dropping them for space and cost reasons; I’ll discuss my changing trades reality a little more over the next few reviews.

Along with Daredevil by Mark Waid, Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight, and Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself, the current volume of Hawkeye led the way to Marvel NOW! Part of what makes Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye so compelling is the tone. With the character gaining a surge in popularity thanks to the Avengers film, it would have been easy to just give Hawkeye a standard action-oriented title. Instead, Fraction took a unique approach to the character by removing conventional heroics from the book entirely. Clint Barton is rarely in his costume during My Life As A Weapon; instead, it follows his “regular” life, which is more chaotic than his Avengers duties. The man can’t help but get involved with troublesome situations, whether they involve world-spanning criminal families, mysterious redheads, or a maltreated pizza dog.

Anachronic storytelling is a recurring feature in Hawkeye, but Fraction does it differently each time. For instance, the third story revolves around the nine bad ideas Clint’s had over the course of a day. Every issue starts with the phrase “okay, this looks bad,” followed by a jump back in time to explain what’s gone wrong. It keeps the book feeling unique, since you don’t know how the next story is going to unfold.

Clint Barton has never been the most serious of characters, and this is borne out by his narration throughout the book. It’s heavily stream-of-consciousness and usually dripping with snark. Aiding Matt Fraction in conveying this is Chris Eliopoulos, the letterer, and together, they steadfastly refuse to use conventional sound effects. In one instance, when a gun is cocked, the sounds it makes are spelled out like script directions. Characters speaking in foreign languages don’t get their dialogue translated; it’s instead replaced by Clint’s best guess at what language they’re speaking.

Despite the book’s occasionally irreverent tone, it’s still strongly connected to the main Marvel continuity, albeit in interesting ways. In the second issue, at a performance of the Circus of Crime, there are brief panels of the Kingpin and his wife, Hammerhead, Madame Masque, the Owl, and Tombstone. None of them are identified or given any dialogue, but their silent presence adds to the set-up of the issue. Madame Masque becomes a key foe in the two-parter in issues #4 and #5, but Clint’s main foes are the “Tracksuit Draculas,” lower-tier Eastern European gangsters whose main strengths are their numbers and brutality. Be prepared to hear “bro” used many, many times in many, many contexts, as it’s one of the few English words that the Tracksuit Draculas know. I personally maintain that this trade should’ve been named Hawkeye: Aww, This Looks Bad, Bro after the three most-repeated phrases, but then that’s why I’m not in charge of Marvel’s collections department.

Clint isn’t the only Hawkeye starring in the book. His sidekick/partner/barely plausible love interest is Kate Bishop, a member of the Young Avengers who finds herself helping Hawkeye as he digs himself into difficult situations. Kate is actually a better archer than Clint, and their mentor/student banter cements a strong theme of responsibility which runs through the book. The trade collects the Hawkeye spotlight issue of Young Avengers Presents, issue #6, which not only serves as a dry run for Fraction’s interactions with the Hawkeyes, but it also demonstrates how much difference artwork can make. Alan Davis (who is one of my favorite artists) has a far different style from the main book.

Much like Daredevil by Mark Waid, the art in Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon is in a cartoony style. However, the work of David Aja and Javier Pulido is rougher than Daredevil's Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera, and this "roughness" works with Clint’s personality. Both artists like to work with tiny panels, making the pages resemble film storyboards or comic strips rather than a conventional superhero comic book. Matt Hollingsworth, the book’s colorist, adds the final layer of the book’s style with a very specific color palette. There’s a specific shade of “Hawkeye Purple” which tends to get put in the backgrounds and other shaded areas.

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye has taken both the Internet and the comic book world by storm. In my opinion, it feels like an independent comic book that just happens to be set in the Marvel canon. The strong characterization, unique storytelling, and captivating art have attracted both longtime fans and newbies, and Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon could certainly serve as a gateway for those uninitiated in Marvel.

Coming up, I’ll return to IDW’s two Transformers ongoing series. One is a trade I own a physical copy of, while the other is a digital version. I’ll also explain why Comixology could make “waiting for the trade” a thing of the past for me.
Collected Editions 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide
Get the Collected Editions scoop before anyone else -- on Facebook!

1 comment:

  1. Great review Doug.

    I just picked this trade up yesterday and loved every moment of it. If a book was to break my own trade waiting stance this would be it.

    Interested to read your upcoming thoughts on Comixology.

    Cheers

    ReplyDelete