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July 5, 2015 5:16 AM   Subscribe

In Hawkeye, narrative strategies like the in media res opening, the flashbacks, and the flashforwards are complimented by Fraction and Aja’s use of motifs to thicken individual issues and stories. In #3, two different lists—the “nine terrible ideas” Clint has on the day the story takes place (featured in first-person captions), and a catalog of the trick arrows in Clint’s quiver (featured in inset panels with labels like “Explosive-tip Arrow”)—offer running commentaries on the dominant story. Sometimes Hawkeye’s echoes and callbacks can be very on-the-nose, as in the small panels of Clint praising his boomerang arrow that appear early and late in the story.
For The Comics Journal, Craig Fischer examines Matt Fraction/David Aja's Hawkeye. Warning: spoilers.
posted by MartinWisse (25 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Matt Fraction's Hawkeye is the real Hawkeye. I don't know what was going on with that dude in the last Avengers movie, but, as John Oliver would say, #notmyhawkeye.
posted by redsparkler at 6:47 AM on July 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


Welp. Just ordered volume one off Amazon. Can't wait to read!
posted by annekate at 7:15 AM on July 5, 2015


I was very disappointed when Age of Ultron gave us a glimpse into Hawkeye's home life and it bore no resemblance whatsoever to this series. They could have at least given him a golden retriever named Lucky; that would have been enough of a shout-out to make me happy at least, while still feeling perfectly in keeping with the idyllic family scene. (Seriously, bro.)
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:22 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bro, is great series bro. [Something Russian maybe?] Truth, bro.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 7:29 AM on July 5, 2015 [12 favorites]


This is definitely my favourite thing in mainstream comics of the last few years by a long way, though my annoyance at waiting for the final issue is fast submerging my excitement at reading it. Is it out, now?
posted by Grangousier at 7:34 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was very disappointed when Age of Ultron gave us a glimpse into Hawkeye's home life and it bore no resemblance whatsoever to this series.

SPOILERS (but it's for kind of a crappy comic, so no big loss, really): Unfortunately, Whedon stuck with Millar's Ultimates version of Hawkeye's home life; fortunately, that didn't extend to fridging his family (and framing Cap for it).
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on July 5, 2015


(Ah, from another look at TFA, I see it's next week, which still counts as "almost, but not quite".)
posted by Grangousier at 7:40 AM on July 5, 2015


When I finally got around to reading Fraction/Aja's Hawkeye, it was one of those rare moments when I went "HOLY SHIT SOMETHING IS AS FUCKING GOOD AS IT SAID TO BE."
posted by Kitteh at 8:14 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like a lot of TCJ stuff, this sort of relies on contempt for the superhero genre and its conventions as a given, which means that the author can praise the story's formal experimentation and the difference in stakes, but can never explain how the story and its form work together to illuminate something. Clint is a trainwreck and the story's formalism and motifs set that up...but what is the reader to make of this story about how a fictional character is a trainwreck?

If you only read genre stories as commentaries on their own genre, then your readings are fairly shallow. This is not an argument that the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye is shallow, just that this reading identifies some tools that could be used to produce an interesting reading and then...well, just sort of gripes about how other comics aren't like this and pats itself on the back for laying out the tools.
posted by kewb at 8:18 AM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I heard good things about Fraction's Hawkeye, but gave it a pass when I saw they took away his Kirby Helmet. Now Scarlet Witch shows up in the last Avengers movie, no Kirby Helmet, either!? Did she lose it in the funny books too???

Kids, lawn, &c.

Dude mentions Satellite Sam in TFA, though. Srsly, go track that one down. Quality trash (SFW).
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 9:18 AM on July 5, 2015


Also worth seeking out the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja Immortal Iron Fist which is basically the best thing with that character. I really really hope that's where they go for inspiration for the Netflix series.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2015


Holding out for the omnibus in November before revisiting it. Ms Marvel is keeping me going in the meantime.
posted by Molesome at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2015


"Like a lot of TCJ stuff, this sort of relies on contempt for the superhero genre and its conventions as a given..."

In TCJ's defence, there's a thousand other comics sites that LOVE superhero books and will review them entirely from a fanboy perspective. The Journal's just trying to provide something different for people who don't want that stuff.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:34 PM on July 5, 2015


This was interesting because while I've been a devoted reader of the series, I knew there were things I was missing by not being able to put some of the pieces together. I'll probably do a reread before 22 comes out and this will be useful.
posted by PussKillian at 12:44 PM on July 5, 2015


I was very disappointed when Age of Ultron gave us a glimpse into Hawkeye's home life and it bore no resemblance whatsoever to this series.

Of all the decisions made for AoU, this was the most disappointing.

Now Scarlet Witch shows up in the last Avengers movie, no Kirby Helmet, either!?

Of all the decisions made for AoU, this was the best.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:46 PM on July 5, 2015


This was good comics and I'm glad I read it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:38 PM on July 5, 2015


The old Hawkeye mask is still around, it's just only used to cover the things that really need to be covered.
posted by ckape at 5:39 PM on July 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved the series, and I can't wait for the last issue. The uh, issue based in sign language was pretty fantastic, especially the art that managed to clearly show motion in a static, 2d illustration. The same art helped me get the gist of the issue without understanding what was happening at all (which was the point of the issue, I think).

The overlapping of events, with scenes from different character points of view are also something that gives depth to the series. I'm sad it's ending, but I seriously want to read the last issue.

Bro.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:24 PM on July 5, 2015


In TCJ's defence, there's a thousand other comics sites that LOVE superhero books and will review them entirely from a fanboy perspective.

I'm not really asking for that, either; what I want is critical examinations of comics that aren't about which genre is better *or* about how cool it was when the Hulk punched Thor or whatever. That's genuinely tough to find.
posted by kewb at 10:54 AM on July 6, 2015


I'm not really asking for that, either; what I want is critical examinations of comics that aren't about which genre is better *or* about how cool it was when the Hulk punched Thor or whatever. That's genuinely tough to find.

I do sympathise. My ideal site would combine the old print Comics Journal's intelligence and demanding critical standards with a willingness to acknowledge the handful of worthwhile mainstream books.

For my money, no comics critic has come close to Fiore, Groth and Thompson's trenchant readability in the Journal's golden age. We still get a Fiore piece once in a blue moon - and it's always a treat - but, man, I wish he'd write more. For them as might need it, here's an example of his work.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:11 PM on July 6, 2015


Lots more R. Fiore here. (And here).
posted by Paul Slade at 2:58 PM on July 6, 2015


Matt Fraction's Hawkeye is the real Hawkeye.

I love this Hawkeye, and look forward to it ending so I can collect it.

But, I disagree.

I'm really tired of Hawkeye being an incompetent boob in Fraction's series - which seems to have extended into the Avengers (comics, not films. I'm dark at the MCU because of other reasons)

The "real" Hawkeye was married to Mockingbird (hey, reasons!) and was smart enough to run the West Coast Avengers, without powers. The "real" Hawkeye was competent enough to take down the Hulk.

Second best Hawkeye is Teen Hawkeye (aka Kate Bishop).

(But Clint is the Third Best Goliath!).
posted by Mezentian at 2:04 AM on July 7, 2015


I'm really tired of Hawkeye being an incompetent boob in Fraction's series - which seems to have extended into the Avengers (comics, not films. I'm dark at the MCU because of other reasons)

Fraction is a bit like Bendis, in that he tends to write stories that focus on what he sees as the flaws in the characters; and, like Bendis, he also tends to write characters who are incapable of correcting or recognizing their own flaws in any lasting way. The difference is that Fraction tends to wed this to the hyperbolic elements of the genre, so that his protagonists don't just fail, but instead precipitate full-on disasters.

It's instructive to compare the end of Bendis's Daredevil, where Matt Murdock ends up suffering a nervous breakdown and doing things that land him in jail and Fraction's Invincible Iron Man, where Tony Stark realizes at the end that he's an addict and a control freak responsible for every setback suffered by the new company he's built and therefore quits and heads off into space. Bendis writes Matt Murdock as a guy on quixotic quest who, because he doesn't understand himself fully, hurts a lot of people in his personal life and ends up in prison. Fraction writes Tony Stark as indirectly at fault for massive social and economic problems, even when he's just trying to build electric cars.
posted by kewb at 4:33 AM on July 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


One key difference is that Bendis tends to blame systems for what happens to people, a sort of outgrowth of his noir sensibilities, while Fraction tends to blame people for the faults of systems. There's a larger question there about how to approach questions of social justice, one the TCJ article elides when it compares

Fraction's Hawkeye briefly to the Bendis- and Miller-influenced, noirish Daredevil series on Netflix. There's a reason that Fraction and his collaborators use Eliott Gould's Marlowe, not Humphrey Bogart's or Robert Mitchum's, as their intertextual reference when Kate Bishop finds herself tangling with gangsters in California. Fraction's stories are structured by relationships of sympathy and empathy; part of the achievement of Hawkeye is that Aja and the other artists work with Fraction to translate this into an aspect of the formal structure of the comic itself.

So, for example, the horrors of war are represented by the fragmenting of the killer Clown's memories, and by the literal fragmentation of the panel borders. Likewise, the famous "Pizza Dog" episode is about how one character's perceptions restructure time and space, with the tragedy that this also means Lucky cannot communicate successfully with the Hawkeyes, who are themselves having a bitter argument over Clint's brash egotism and its consequences. Everyone is so busy talking they won't listen, and everyone is so busy with their story and its subjective form that they can't understand anyone else's story until it's too late.

But the "institutional" world doesn't really exist in this comic; we don't even find out what war the Clown was in or how it started, nor do we get a sense of how the gangsters got their power. As Puzo's The Godfather, here even things that are "just business" are really "always taken personally." In fact, business can only be understood in terms of the personal. When Kate Bishop goes from riches to rags, for example, the reason is that, for reasons of revenge, her enemy Whitney Frost has seduced her father, and beyond that this is made possible by her parents' divorce.

Even when the story touches rather directly on geopolitical issues, as in "The Tape" storyline and its brief contact with the War on Terror, the stakes are personal: Hawkeye's reputation and the personal safety of soldiers. The question of whether or not the deception is warranted is answered by the appeal to personal duty and courage. The question of whether the killing is justified never comes up at all. Questions of morality become questions of perception: the stakes of "The Tape" are the bond between Kate and Clint, and on the larger scale, Clint's reputation and that of his country. The answer to the question "what should we do?" is always "what relationship of feeling is created?"

The side consequence of this is that the story never quite leaves behind the curse of the action genre, the tendency to treat some characters as sympathetic while others are disposable nonentities, no more to be tarried over than the faceless mooks dispatched by an action movie her or the umpteenth Goomba stomped by Mario. (And of course, both "mook" and "Goomba" refer to the minions of organized crime, who function in such genres as objects on which the characters demonstrate their prowess with violence.) This is thus a comic where the beating of a dog is cause enough to wage war on the Russian mob, a war which inevitably has casualties, but also one in which those same mobsters are comically identical to one another and where our protagonists blithely shoot arrows into people's eyes and leave a man paralyzed for life during what is otherwise played as a lighthearted caper story.

While the aforementioned caper story precipitates the revenge plot that drives the rest of the series, the cause is less the spectacular violence itself than the humiliation experienced by the gangsters. Hawkeye has a rather strange relationship with violence overall; death is a serious matter, but anything short of it is not (unless it happens to the dog, but this is a kind of sentimentalism). Fraction and his collaborators do suggest that this economy of reciprocal violence is monstrous. They also present violence as a matter of masculine ego -- virtually every scene of violence in the comic is precipitated either by misplaced bravado or wounded pride -- which Kate Bishop and Lucky the Dog manage to escape.

Whitney Frost is played as a foil to Kate, but part of the reason this works is that, per her backstory, she is the daughter of a gangster who chose to follow in his footsteps. Where Kate breaks with her parents, especially her corrupt father, and makes her own way, Whitney has destroyed herself as a person by trying to imitate her own corrupt father, the old Avengers villain Count Nefaria. This is not spelled out in the series, but Whitney's ascendance in California underworld is a plot point Fraction has picked up from Bendis along with her psychotic responses to anyone seeing her now-unscarred face. The ideology of masculinity, too, is a matter of self-perception and the perceptions of others: the comic diagnoses it primarily as a violently dysfunctional mode for managing affective relationships. But of course none of the characters can ever quite grasp this larger problem, because the driver of conflict in the book is that they see only their perspective on these networks of sympathy and reputation.

It is left to the formal level -- both the page layouts and the overlapping structure of the narrative -- and the paratextual elements -- the way the comic is collected in trade form, solicited as an ongoing story and the shared-universe of the corporate comic book franchise -- to unify these various strands into a complete narrative world. (Here the comparison to Ulysses in the TCJ article is especially useful.)

The story is about how conflicts and tragedies arise because people cannot see things from one another's perspectives; the form is about allowing the reader access to the structure of their experience. We can unify the story and imagine how things might have gone well, but the character cannot. But those perspectives left out on both the narrative and formal levels prevent the book from engaging fully with some of the larger concerns it gestures towards; there are limits to what local sympathy , however dazzlingly formalized, can map.
posted by kewb at 5:31 AM on July 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm really tired of Hawkeye being an incompetent boob in Fraction's series -

I loved the Fraction Hawkeye and it's one of my favorite comics, but did find it hard to mentally unite hapless re-life fuckup Clint to competent worthy-of-being-an-Avenger Clint.

The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a series with a very similar tone, but since it centers around a hapless gang of would-be supervillians, it doesn't suffer from that disconnect. It does, however, suffer from the Smurfette problem, whereas I liked that the Fraction Hawkeye followed Kate to LA. She's not just a side character in Clint's story; it's her story, too.
posted by not that girl at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2015


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