Okay… This looks bad. But it doesn’t actually. In fact, Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon is simply one of the best series Marvel Comics has ever published.
After their career-making run on Immortal Iron Fist ended, it was inevitable that Matt Fraction and David Aja would re-team. In 2013, Hawkeye debuted, and the combination of Fraction, Aja, color artist Matt Hollingsworth, letterer Chris Eliopoulis, and guest penciller Javier Pulido was instant magic. Upfront, this is a story that any fan of the medium should revisit on the regular, regardless of an (extremely loose) adaptation of it on streaming or not.
Clint Barton is a man among gods. Standing next to some of the most powerful beings on Earth, he’s just a former carnie who shoots arrows real good. He’s also a truly good human being, and is just doing his damnedest. Side by side with Kate Bishop, he’s going to try to save his little corner of the world and do the most good he can while doing it…
I love Hawkeye, the character. Clint Barton has been one of my favorite characters since the late nineties, and probably the first non-mutant or spider from the Marvel Universe that I called a favorite. So this was a series I predestined to love. But that’s not why I love it- it’s one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and just damn gorgeous comics ever printed.
Too often heroes get plot armor, even the human ones who really should be retired by age 30. Fraction acknowledges that trope immediately (while Aja and Hollingsworth homages the most iconic shot of the Avengers film), and puts Clint in traction. Now, this isn’t a story about how Clint Barton got his groove back, so it skips his recovery and physical therapy. What it does do is continue to subvert expectations, from the first issue’s extremely non-linear story, to the twist at the end of Pulido’s guest arc.
It’s also a great action-adventure superhero book. This is immersed in the Marvel Universe, but it’s a side of the Marvel Universe that doesn’t get explored much. The villains seen are important to the landscape of the universe but they don’t get much play until a spy story needs them. That means that Aja and Pulido both can play with their designs a bit to make them feel distinct to the series.
One of the best parts of the series is the interplay between Clint and Kate. Fraction makes them feel like family, but not parental- more like big brother, little sister. They’re competitive and poke fun at one another, but they have an affection for each other that can be sometimes hard for comics writers to pull off. It’s platonic, but loving.
While I’ve been dancing around the visuals a bit, it’s underselling the story to say this is one of the most visually interesting and distinct stories in comics history. Aja plays with layouts, character placement, and action to make this stunning book. One of the coolest little sequences is of Clint firing an arrow, and Aja frames the panel with Kate speaking a syllable at a time to show how archers black out most of the world as they arm and fire. That’s just one of many tricks he uses to create a stunning page.
This is just a fantastic book that pretty much any fan of the medium should check out. I’m going to continue the series tonight.
Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon is available in multiple collections and formats now from Marvel Comics.