There are some ideas that are so amazing, so beautiful that you can’t help but grab the book and say, “Yes, this is the story I’ve been looking for all my life.”
And then there are some ideas where you just find yourself thinking, “What the hell was the creator on that he thought this was a good idea?”
A comic based on Hawkeye is one of those truly terrible ideas.
Hawkeye is probably the most mocked Avenger, and for good reason. Captain America is a freaking super-soldier--the peak of human capability and awesomeness. Thor is a good. Tony Stark describes himself best as a "genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist." The Black Widow is a super-spy, a combination of super-soldier serum and KGB training. The Hulk is the Hulk. And then there is this regular human with a bow and arrow running around. Yeah, Hawkeye's got nothing other than a carnie past to recommend him.
He’s the one Avenger who time and time again has not been able to support his own individual comic title. Everything about a Hawkeye comic was a bad idea.
Except…this isn’t really a Hawkeye comic. As in, it’s not about Hawkeye doing missions for SHIELD or the Avengers. Matt Fraction had another idea, the tag-line that would be on the title page of every issue:
A comic about what Hawkeye does with his downtime is not something anyone had ever seen before, and it turns out, it’s a completely brilliant idea.
Clint Barton isn’t Special
Clint Barton is not a super-soldier, he’s not a god or a genius, he doesn’t come from money, and he sure as hell has no idea what he’s doing.
Hawkeye is the Avenger who is trying to pay his rent, deal with life, and not die.
Basically, he’s who you and I would be if we were an Avenger. And since we’re not Avengers, he’s the Avenger you and I could hang out with and not feel completely out of our depth.
And this issue shows us that in detail. Clint Barton needs weeks to recover from injuries in a battle that any of the other Avengers would have walked away from. He’s a guy who lives in a run-down apartment building and knows all of his neighbors. He’s a guy that sees a dog get hurt and can’t leave him there to die.
He’s just a good guy. Your average guy, sure, but he tries his best to do his best.
And that’s something we can all relate to.
“Paleolithic. I looked it up.”
Voice in comics is a much harder thing to pin down than it is in novels, because in comics you can have multiple voices: the narrator’s, the character’s, the artist’s, etc. But in the best comics they all meld together into something perfect and beautiful. Like in Hawkeye.
Clint is our narrator, and his voice is spot on: it’s the compelling voice of the every-man do-gooder that he is. A guy who came from nothing and in many ways still views himself as nothing. Perfectly underscoring that we have David Aja’s art and Matt Hollingsworth’s coloring. I can very much believe this is the world as Clint sees it: a world where he isn’t anything special to look at and a world that has perhaps a little more purple than it should. (I mean that last bit literally. Purple is Hawkeye’s favorite color, and man, the colorist for this comic is a master of coloring entire scenes using only varying shades of purple).
And that’s what a truly great voice does. It’s not just slang or word choice that pops off the page. A great voice filters the entire world as the narrator sees it. We come to understand the world as the narrator understands it. And that it was the creative team behind Hawkeye does. They give us the world according to Clint Barton.
Hawkeye had everything going against it. This was a comic that when it first came out, people heard about it and laughed because who the hell thought a Hawkeye comic was a good idea? It is now the most popular Marvel comic, the one that everyone is talking about.
Every issue is as good, if not better, than the first. It’s one of the few comics where truly interesting things are being done with the medium. But none of those other issues would exist if the creative team behind Issue #1 hadn’t stuck the landing.
And stick it they did.
If I write a first chapter half as good as Hawkeye Issue #1, then I will have done a good job indeed.