Editor's Note: With the first trailer for Disney Plus' Hawkeye debuting like an early Christmas present, we are re-publishing our review of the holiday-themed issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye run, which appears to be heavily inspiring the live-action TV show.
There's a scene in Hawkeye #6 that really illustrates what Matt Fraction and David Aja have done with Clint Barton. As the world's greatest marksman sits on his Bed-Stuy rooftop for his building's regular potluck, one of his neighbors just can't quite seem to get his name right.
'Hawkguy.' And that's really what Hawkeye is all about.
For this holiday-themed issue — yeah, it's really a Christmas issue, but it's far from serious, and Fraction tosses in some tongue-in-cheek Hanukkah and Kwanzaa references so all we non-Yultiders feel included — Fraction delivers a quiet story of everyday heroism. It's not just the war against the DVR, although that certainly helps ground this comic in reality. It's about taking superheroism down to the street level, fighting the good fight not with repulsor blasts or Uru hammers but by simply standing your ground and not leaving your home because a gang of punks sent your entire building a death threat.
It's really a poignant work. But what keeps it manageable is the underlying humor. 'Hawkguy' being an example. For those who know their comics inside baseball, the misnomer came from Fraction's young son misunderstanding Clint's name. But Fraction has made it a joke we can all get in on — of course the name fits, he's one of us. Clint is a goof and a screw-up, so him cutting the cables of his DVR like they were a bomb doesn't seem so out of character. Perfect aim, imperfect life trajectory, and that contrast between the humor of everyday life and the cold resolution of a life-and-death decision makes both seem much more powerful. You don't need big set pieces to make a big impression.
And I haven't even gotten to the return of David Aja with this issue yet. What an interesting artist — Aja really flies in the face of widescreen storytelling, instead favoring almost the opposite approach. Tons of small square panels dot the page, but surprisingly that doesn't muddy the emotions behind his David Mazzuchelli-style faces. Every page winds up having a method to the layout madness, like the DVR instructions lining the side of one sequence — there's a real sense of design at play here, and it adds a deliberateness that you don't really see anywhere else. The small panels also really set us up for the big, quiet, expansive moments — there's a beat where Clint stands his ground that absolutely makes the book, and that's all based on Aja's salesmanship.
Now, I know Hawkeye isn't for everyone. I know that plenty of superhero fans out there want cosmic action, broad visual storytelling, stakes that shake the universe and alter heroes forever. That's everything Hawkeye isn't. What Hawkeye is is a human story with spurts of superhuman potential. It's a character piece, a quiet assurance for a Christmas night. It's nothing you expected and everything you wanted. Hawkguy is the gift that keeps on giving.
Hawkeye #6 is available now in single-issue form or as part of the collection Hawkeye Volume 2: Little Hits.
Get ready for the next Hawkeye comic book series debuting November 24 - the same day as the Hawkeye show.