Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Best Superhero Comic of 2012, Now In Trade Paperback - Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon Reviewed

Hawkeye Volume 1:
My Life As A Weapon
by Matt Fraction, David Aja & Javier Pulido
Marvel, 2013
Today sees the release of the first volume of Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja & Javier Pulido and I haven't been this excited about a trade paperback since the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples' Saga. Not a superhero book in any remotely traditional sense (more a book happening to take place in a superhero universe), Hawkeye plays with and expands the boundaries of the genre. You won't find Clint Barton in uniform or fighting supervillains here. This is a comic about a somewhat ordinary guy (he's kindof deaf, has really great aim, and can - and often does - take a beating) with an extraordinary job (he works with gods and superpeople and sometimes the government) just trying to do right by his friends and neighbors.

It's the relationship to his neighborhood in Brooklyn, and more specifically the people who live in his apartment building, that drives the book. This isn't Hawkeye doing Avengery stuff but Clint Barton on his day off trying to keep his life together while helping out the people he cares about. In the first arc, after finding out his apartment building has been targeted by shady gangsters, he outright buys the building, in part to keep together the vibrant community built there, in part to deny the gangsters what they want. And this really angers the gangsters, hilariously dubbed the Tracksuit Mafia (they are Russian, wear tracksuits, and love to say "Bro"), who target Clint for interfering with their plans. Throw in a mysterious femme on the run from the gangsters, and Kate Bishop (Marvel's other Hawkeye) and you get one hell of a grounded action adventure with Brooklyn as the playground. David Aja's art here is extraordinary. The story is Hawkeye on his day off, just a dude living his life, though with a unique set of problems. It's surprising how many artists can't do "regular," regular clothes, regular people. Aja does it with a unique, almost Mazzucchellian style that is engaging, fun, stylish and blissfully unlike anything else in its reserved elegance.

The volume's second arc features exemplary art by Javier Pulido, who had a career year last year (and between this and Shade he has cemented himself as one of the best artists working in the mainstream today). A cabal of villainy types has their hands on a tape that has on it something that could put Clint and the Avengers in the cross hairs. And they are auctioning the tape in Madripoor, the Marvel Universe Black Market City du jour. Clint's mission is to get the tape, but things go pear-shaped and it ends up in the hands of Marvel's best villainess, someone Fraction has proven quite good at writing, Madame Masque. Things aren't as they seem and Kate Bishop makes her star turn in Pulido's finest Marvel work to date.

Hawkeye is an artistic triumph in script and art, Marvel's more consistent answer to the high art we get at DC from J. H. Williams III and the perfect follow up to the heights achieved by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin & Paolo Rivera the year before in Daredevil. Uniquely flavored in an industry built on knock-offs, consistently exciting and fresh, this was the Best Superhero Comic of 2012, and (unusual for Marvel of late) packaged in a reasonably priced, gorgeously designed trade paperback.

No comments:

Post a Comment