From its “bad romance”-themed Issue #8 in February through an issue featuring the other Hawkeye Kate Bishop in Los Angeles in its most recent Issue #14, Marvel Comics’ monthly Hawkeye series has kept up its unique brand of high-quality storytelling all year. With its visuals led by David Aja for most of the year, other artists have stepped in to backstop Aja, including none other than another Eisner winner artist, Francisco Francavilla. But the continuity and consistency of Avenger Clint Barton and his friends is thanks to the writing of Matt Fraction, who, like J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman and their Batwoman series, took a lower tier superhero and produced the best monthly series in its publisher’s line-up.
Each issue managed to maintain a slow, downward spiral of its hero as a self-deprecating lost soul who is only understood by a dog who is then taken across the country by his friend Kate. In one issue (Issue #12) his brother Barney “Trickshot” Barton takes over the entire story and we barely see Waverly, Iowa born Clint Barton. Rarely do we see typical superhero action, like Hawkeye donning his supersuit or showing his skill with bow and arrow. When we do see it, its via West Coast Avenger Kate Bishop. Clint is virtually absent from Issue #14, as Kate, with Lucky in tow, matches wits with a strange but beautiful masked villain.
One issue (Issue #13) focused on the somber events surrounding the funeral of neighbor “Grills,” the guy who grilled on the roof for tenants of his building and referred to Clint as Hawkguy. In that issue girlfriend Jessica Drew, the Spider-woman, tries to mend fences with Clint in the car procession, only to see afterward that he had fallen asleep during her entire compelling monologue. It’s a scene that defined this year for Hawkeye–everything that could go wrong, did, and every time he was close to getting a break he missed it. Yet readers are sucked in, and stick around to cheer on this everyman and his daily efforts to get back on track in a world where he isn’t the main superhero around.
Matt Hollingsworth’s color work rounds out the series. With Fraction’s unique approach to comic storytelling and Aja’s panels, Hollingsworth brings a certain richness to each page.
But Hawkeye Issue #11 set a new standard for writer/artist partnerships, as Fraction and Aja created a silent story told from the perspective of rescued Arrow aka Pizza Dog aka Lucky. It’s a standalone issue that folks will look back on for years as an example of the best work of both creators.
If you don’t usually go for the dramatic superhero book as opposed to the masked action story, this may be the one exception you should check out. Marvel Comics’s Hawkeye is one of our contenders for best comic book series of 2013. Pick up Issue 6-11 in the trade edition Hawkeye: Little Hits, Vol. 2 via Amazon.com and later issues via your local comic book store.