Marvel publishes some weird comics featuring talking raccoons, Norse gods, and unfrozen WW2 vets blasting off into space but the way they number their comics is even weirder. If they're not 1.1 this, they're 1.50 that, and, in the case of Hawkeye, they're numbering backwards! Last month saw the release of Hawkeye #16 and this month it's Hawkeye #15. The reason was that artist David Aja hadn't finished work on this issue so Marvel skipped ahead and printed the Annie Wu-completed issue instead (Wu draws the Kate Bishop issues, Aja the Clint Barton ones). But the wait is definitely worth it. Regular readers will know David Aja who won 2 Eisners last year for his work on this series does nothing but fine work, and his art in this issue is of his usual ridiculously high quality standard. The issue opens with Clint Barton with his pants down around his ankles surrounded by men with guns trying to force him into a van and amazingly this isn't the only time in the comic where this happens! Clint's nemeses for the series, the Russian gangster bros, are trying to force him to give up ownership of his apartment building so they can knock down the block and build luxury apartments on the land to gentrify the area. And they'll do anything to get what they want, bro. Clint's joined by his wayward brother Barney, who's down on his luck and was living rough until he moved in with Clint. Matt Fraction writes their relationship perfectly as big brother Barney helps out inept little brother Clint when he gets into a jam with the bros. From fighting off the baddies with dustbin lids and bare fists, to doing crosswords, Barney is a brilliant character and a wonderful addition to the Hawkeye cast. The comic is a brilliant balance of comedy, action, mystery and pathos, with Fraction delivering on the jokes (the "magic trick" is fantastic) as much as the action scenes with Barney proving he's more than just a bum who does crosswords, and Clint reminding the reader why he's on the Avengers. The issue also pushes the story forward to direct confrontation between Clint and the villains who've been making his life (even more) difficult since the start. Aja's artwork is just amazing. The scene in the café where Clint and Barney meet Black Widow, "incognito", looks stunning and Natasha's outfit is wonderfully over-the-top Cold-War chic that stands out in the crowd of lower-middle class folk eating their lunch. Aja's Hawkeye is perfect in body language and expression so the close-up panels of his face are both subtle and incredibly captures Clint's mood. With just a few lines, Aja's able to communicate so much it's a comic that looks both real and cartoonish, which is the ideal presentation. The ending is a real gut punch as Grills' killer re-appears in all his ghastly grease-paint glory and leaves the reader wishing they had the next issue, right now, to find out what happens next. The problem with Hawkeye is that it's so damn good because the creators take their time to craft such wonderful art and that means we as readers have to wait at least a couple months between issues to get the next one (though we do get the wonderful Annie Wu-drawn Kate Bishop issues in between). Matt Fraction and David Aja are doing the best work of their careers on Hawkeye and Hawkeye #15 is no exception. This is simply a stunning comic and a must-read for all comics readers everywhere. Published by Marvel, Hawkeye #15 by Matt Fraction and David Aja is out now
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