Clint Barton aka Hawkeye of Avengers fame recently took up the mantle of leader of the Secret Avengers. His stories have always been interwoven with those of the crime-fighting team – but here he gets his own story, the story of Clint Barton. Joined by Kate Bishop, the replacement Hawkeye while Clint was temporarily dead, this run could more accurately be called “Hawkeyes” – the pair of expert archers take on the underbelly of crime that the Avengers don’t have time to tackle. Written by Eisner Award-winning Matt Fraction (The Invincible Iron Man) with art by David Aja of Daredevil fame.
I started on the second issue of the series, which has a beautifully crisp and clean cover, depicting Clint holding his bow in the style of an instruction manual. The purple accents on the cover repeat themselves throughout the pages, giving a toned-down feel to the artwork. Aja was going for a look which was more ironic and cartoony than usual, giving more of an impression of facial expression than technical detail in faces. We start in the middle of the story as our protagonists dive into a pool, chased by bullets; “Okay – this looks bad” is all Clint can think, and this snippet of thought brings us immediately into the feel of a postmodern and humorous story. After the first page we flash back – a newspaper lying on a cluttered table reads “EVERYTHING AWFUL. Oh God Somebody Do Something” as Kate quotes memes and lets loose a tirade of jokes at Clint’s expense. The cinematic style of freezing Kate into a stencilled image as Clint describes her works wonderfully, and on the next page we see the same theme used as Kate remarks “Well that’s cool”, drawn out letter by letter as Clint raises his bow, breathes and finally lets loose the arrows – three of them, striking the neck, chest and groin of his man-shaped target.
The first six issues of this series are designed to be read-alone and accessible with their own, contained storylines. #2 deals with an elaborate circus scam, designed by criminals to steal money from other criminals. This is not the kind of problem that the Avengers would deal with, but Clint and Kate are prepared – Kate especially turns out to be a woman familiar with the upper classes of crime families and fits perfectly into her disguise as high-society woman, often having to correct the clearly out of place Clint, who mutters the word “casual” over and over to himself. Despite Kate’s obviously wealthy up-bringing, she is not out of touch with the world – she says of the criminals “There’s kind of a global recession on right now. Only people that make money in a recession are scumbags.” The dialogue that goes on between Kate and Clint is wonderfully written – the reader gets a definite sense of the way they are talking and exchanging jibes.
The circus theme of the story does serve to make the reader get an immediate feel for Clint as a person – as someone with incredibly limited knowledge, the purple-drenched pages of the circus and Clint’s sensory memories of his youth really helped me to understand Clint as well as briefly explaining his back story. So far in the issue, Kate has seemed the most adept, but here Clint’s knowledge comes into use as he explains his professional ability to spot another professional at work – he knows immediately that the knife-thrower is another student of his late mentor, the Swordsman, and that the Ringmaster’s French is completely inauthentic, just part of the show. Kate does an incredible job disguising herself as a performer with an outfit taken straight from Pris in Blade Runner and, using the arrows imbedded in her stolen wig, she takes out a few of Clint’s captors (he was not as stealthy as Kate) before breaking his handcuffs with a shot. Clint’s thoughts are quite accurate – she is perfect. They dive through a window and we are brought crashing back to the beginning and, once again, it looks bad. Until, that is, Kate pulls off the hardest shot of the issue and nails the villains in the eyes with five arrows shot simultaneously, echoing the same breathe and release ritual Clint uses earlier. They leave their foes blind and paralysed, but alive.
The strip ends with the criminals planning their retaliation, and Clint asking a mysterious favour of Kate. There is an element of sexual tension between the two, but given the number of relationships he has embarked on with team-mates, he knows that it would be a bad idea, telling Kate that he doesn’t want to “screw up” by sleeping with her – I am inclined to agree, as are many other readers who would hate to see their fantastic repartee tainted. This is a clever and funny piece of work with an oddly disjointed art style which on occasion has strikingly framed panels, as the one in which Kate and Clint move through a ballroom which shows the progression of their movements through a stationary panel.
One last wonderful thing about this series of comics is David Aja’s recommended listening which features under the fan mail – this month’s being Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden (part 1)”, and if this isn’t enough for you Aja has set Spotify playlists of music to accompany each comic. These can be found under the Spotify username “greyrabbit” or on http://blog.davidaja.com. I seriously recommend checking it out – a truly interesting listening experience to go with your beautiful comic.
As an extra, here are some of my favourite lines of the book.
Clint: Kate. Kate? The bad guys are robbing the bad guys. I figured it all out.
Clint: I’m great at boats!
Kate: Hey. Jerk du Soleil.