Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye continues to be one of the most genius and consistently top quality comics Marvel is putting out. The last couple of issues have been resplendent – Hawkeye #11 aka the Pizza Dog issue, was easily one of the best comics of 2013, telling Pizza Dog’s story from his perspective. With minimal dialogue, the issue was done mostly in symbols that a dog would see the world through, designed to perfection by Eisner award winning artist David Aja.
Hawkeye #12 was another great issue as the comic took the perspective of Clint’s long lost brother, now a homeless man, and told the heartbreaking story of the tough childhood the two brothers shared and how Clint grew up with a chip on his shoulder. Hawkeye Annual #1 continues this trend of non-Hawkeye comics, or at least non-Clint Barton/Hawkeye-focused comics, as this issue is devoted to Kate Bishop/Hawkeye, Clint’s protege (I know, they’re both called Hawkeye, you’ll get used to it).
The extended issue takes in panels from #11 as we see what happens when Kate leaves Clint and heads west to California with Pizza Dog in tow. Fans of the series will be delighted to see artist Javier Pulido back to illustrate this issue – Pulido drew the superb two-part story “Tape” from issues #4 and #5. His gorgeous art blends wonderfully with Fraction as the pair tell yet another brilliant Hawkeye story.
Things go badly for Kate almost as soon as she sets foot in California as her rich father’s credit card is declined and she’s taken under the wing of a mysterious woman who seems oddly familiar… in fact the woman is connected to the last Hawkeye arc Pulido drew so if you’ve not read this series before, you might wonder at the woman’s motives – but if it encourages you to go back and read this series from the start, so much the better!
I love nearly everything about Pulido’s art but maybe the best thing he does in this issue is draw a mini-Kate head in each of her narrative boxes that alters depending on the script. So in one scene where she’s startled by what’s happening but can’t show it, the box-head will reflect that surprise, or when she’s thinking about making an Avengers app, the face looks questioning and somewhat bemused. These are small touches but make a big difference – it adds a tremendous amount of expression to the story that you don’t get to see as Pulido has chosen to draw a lot of this comic with the figures in silhouette.
Colourist Matt Hollingsworth continues to complement the artists on this title with his superb use of colour. The bright one-colour backgrounds and silhouettes, not to mention the clothes designs (Kate’s amazing hat!) and overall feel of the script, make this comic feel very retro, like a 60s movie. It’s really stylishly designed and doesn’t look like anything else Marvel is publishing at the moment – more than anything Hawkeye has felt less like a superhero book and more like something Fantagraphics or Top Shelf would put out, a decision that has to be applauded for Marvel for taking the chance of making one of their high profile titles look so different from their other big series.
There is some superhero action in this comic but the fact that Fraction has chosen to focus more on character development and story rather than forcing in arbitrary superhero brawls continues to work in favour of this book. It reads like a sophisticated yet playful comic and is accessible and can be enjoyed by readers from nearly all ages without talking down to older readers or alienating younger readers – an incredible feat to the full credit of the entire artistic team.
Fraction’s writing has never been better than on this title. His Kate Bishop is an immensely likeable character, independently minded but self aware enough to know her dad has been funding her lavish lifestyle, she is a complicated young woman who actually sounds like a real young woman. She’s young and makes bad decisions but she’s good-hearted and clever enough to get out of a jam herself rather than play the damsel in distress. Pizza Dog as her sidekick is just the icing on the cake. The pacing of the storytelling combined with the characterisation makes reading this comic a really enjoyable and exciting experience.
Hawkeye Annual #1 – hopefully the first of many – is the comic of the week, by far. Outstanding quality from a creative team that is at the top of their game, Hawkeye continues to be one of the gems of Marvel’s publishing lineup. If you’ve somehow not picked up any comics in this series, I highly recommend picking up the first two trade paperbacks out now and picking up issues #11, 12 and this annual – they are among the best superhero comics available right now and you will have an absolute blast reading them. Hawkeye Annual #1 is a fun, smart, and, yes, artistic superhero comic – simply, a triumph! I wish all superhero comics were this good.
Hawkeye Annual #1 by Matt Fraction and Javier Pulido is out now
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