by Matt Fraction & David Aja
“See? I listened. It comes back to you in the end”
“I am right way more than you people give me credit for”
Almost three years after it’s debut issue, Fraction, Aja & friends Hawkeye is closing the book on it’s innovative run that took the character from the b-list to our modern superhero archetype in 22 issues of story plus an annual. In that time, we’ve watched Clint, Kate & Lucky deal with tracksuit Dracula’s, Madam Masque, telekinetic carnies, bad hookups, hurricane sandy, death of friends, depression, pizza, separation, Phillip Marlowe, deadbeat siblings, hearing disabilities and ultimately, growth. In it’s final issue of the landmark series, Fraction & Aja delivered in the most Hawkguy way possible.
Of all the praise that get’s heaped on Hawkeye for it’s many unique strengths, what stood out most here was the quality of craft. Everything had been leading up to this moment, all threads had been laid bare and to their credit, Fraction & Aja closed it out as masters of the form. Panel & plot structure for this issue is impeccable, Aja does some of his greatest visual story telling while the virtuosity of his pencil work is stunning in it’s loose renderings. Even more impressive, almost every page is a new style of layout or storytelling, it feels like Aja took every trick from the entire series and managed to pack it into this one single issue. There’s these stunning nine panel grids, dynamic action shots, viscous combat scenes, arresting facial work; it’s the whole package top to bottom. But perhaps what’s Aja does best here is the details. Look at this panel:
It’s Clint hearing the phone ring but what stood out for me was Lucky’s ear. Every dog owner knows that reaction but look at the surroundings of the environment as well, look at the sloppily organized book shelf, the coffee pot on the edge of the counter, the light shining in from the window, the brick and tiles, the shadow of a stool on the other side of the room. Aja’s illustrations aren’t just beautifully rendered or technically sound, they are lived in. That’s the difference with Hawkeye, that’s what makes it special.
Same with Fractions writing, I’ve already written thousand of words on how brilliant he is which is but a spec of dust in the comics internet echo chamber of praise for the creator. But like Aja, his greatest strength here is the small details, the parts that made “Hawkeye” Hawguy, what made him human and what made his world so real. To his credit, Fraction loads the final issue with film and comics references as he has been for the entirety of his time on the book (the way he ended the fight is an especially lovely callback to the original Ultimates) and he manages to close out all the story-lines in ways that are unique but real to the series. But it’s his pacing of the story, his ability to get just the right dialogue and create just the right moment that truly shines though here. If this is the final superhero comic from the writer, he couldn’t have gone out any better.
When Fraction & Aja started on Hawkeye, they were two veterans playing with the form and parameters of the superhero comics but on this they are something different. This is the sum total of all their time and passion put into the book, it’s apex level of their craft. Hawkeye #22 wasn’t as innovative, heartfelt or funny as some of the issues that we’ve read prior, it was all of those things. In the first issue of the series, former editor Steve Whacker wrote “This in your hands is the purest crystallized Marvel comic of 2015 distilled to it’s perfect form”
It comes back to you in the end.