One of the things I decided when I started this blog was that I wasn’t going to review superhero comics. Why? Well, let’s just say I’m not a fan and like the old film says (you know the one with the baby deer and the rabbit?) “if you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nuthin at all”.
So what am I doing adding a review to Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon by Matt Fraction to my list of recommended reads?
It’s actually pretty darn good.
Imagine my surprise when I left my local comic shop this morning holding something published by Marvel and actually quite looking forward to reading it. If, like me, comics featuring bulging biceps and outlandish costumes leave you cold then read on for a refreshing take on the old genre. It’s nice to see Matt Fraction, fresh from a stint writing Tony Stark as a bit of a douche on Invincible Iron Man, doing something really rather good with the original source material.
You can come to this material cold, without knowing anything of the characters and the back-story as I did and still enjoy it. I mean I’m pretty sure I saw The Avengers film in 2012 but believe me it doesn’t stick in my mind. But it’s nice to have a flavour of what you are going to encounter before you buy this as the story jumps around a little and you can be a little like, “how come this guy’s in the Avengers when he’s not got any superpowers?”
A little bit of back-story goes a long way
So there are two characters using the name Hawkeye at the moment in the Marvel Universe; Clint Barton and Katherine Bishop. These guys are the focus of our story. Clint Barton it seems packed his quiver and ran away to the circus at a young age and was trained in archery and sword skills by two bad-asses called Trickshot and Swordsman (I know *sigh* super hero comics right!). He then opted for a career in crime before switching sides to become a Hero, a member and leader of the Avengers and then getting whacked by someone called the Scarlet Witch.
So much for him.
Then along comes a young upstart called Katherine or Kate Bishop. A typical super-rich-talented-ninja-style-crack-shot and takes up his mantle in the Young Avengers. Kate Bishop has some additional back-story but to be honest I wouldn’t bother with it unless you are a Marvel fan.
But then Barton isn’t dead.
And we’re up and running with this story-line. So this uppity chick is Ying to Barton’s Yang. She’s sassy and can give the Emperor Domitian a run for his money when it comes to making a trick shot; he’s shambling and socially awkward but mentors his impetuous protégé in the ways of fighting for good and whopping some bad-guy ass. So you know, like a dream team or something.
Art work that makes you go ‘aaah’
But, and this is the beauty of this comic and the reason I’m reviewing it. When you open this up and start reading it just doesn’t feel like your typical Marvel super-hero fare at all. For one the art-work is simple, stylish and simplistic. It more than carries the action without losing any of the emotion in the few poignant moments of the story. In fact it reminds me a little of Batman: Year One inked by David Mazzuchelli, all smudgy shadows and impressionistic blocky outlines.
Fraction manages to create some nice character tension between Barton and Bishop that is interesting enough to give them some depth.
The action is pretty pacey and there’s a gorgeous cut-shot scene when they are being chased in a 1970 Dodge Challenger by a bunch of bad guys in Italian Job old-school minis. The layouts, artwork and scripting are pretty much as fine as you’ll see in any comic currently on the stand.
Plus I’m pretty sure we’re going to be seeing that mysterious red-head with the urgent need to catch a plane again. And she provides the one laugh out loud moment of the comic when Barton’s privates get ‘bleeped’ by the image of his own masked identity – class!
If you love Marvel comics and the Avengers you’ll love this fresh take on your old favourites. If you’re not such a fan you’ll love this because of the beautiful art work, the amazing layouts and the refreshing lack of coloured spandex tights.
A word of warning though the collected edition also includes Young Avengers Presents #6 which I won’t comment on because of you know, the bunny and the baby deer.
Collecting Hawkeye #1-5 and Young Avengers Presents #6, Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido and Alan Davis, is available to buy at your local comic shop or online from Comixology and Marvel Unlimited. And if you loved this then volume 2 is also out now.