Friday, August 5, 2016

Trade Weight: Hawkeye Vol 4 & 5

Trade Weight is a quick look at the heavy stacks of trade paperbacks (graphic novels, etc) that were purchased with excitement but left on the shelf, unconsumed for too long. 

Hawkeye vol 4: Rio Bravo, 2015, Marvel
Hawkeye vol 5: All-New Hawkeye, 2015, Marvel

If I remember correctly, the All-New Hawkeye series had started before Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye run had ended.  Marvel was at least committed to letting Fraction and Aja finish up their character-redefining run, but at the same time weren't willing to wait any longer in getting a new Hawkeye series out as part of their "All-New" initiative.

AJA's cover game is on point
It is true, Fraction and Aja's take of the character has become rather beloved by a new set of fans.  In their hands Clint Barton has become a bit of a joke, the unlikeliest Avenger, a not-altogether competent hero (or person, for that matter), to the point that he is almost completely made up of flaws.  He's a relatable characters for these reasons.  He doesn't have all the answers, and most of the time doesn't even know what questions to ask, never mind ask the wrong ones.  Pre-existing fans of Hawkeye kind of hate this run for these very reasons.  Barton doesn't come out of this series looking particularly rosy.  In fact, his not-a-sidekick, Kate Bishop, for all her family money and spoiled-rich attitude, often acts like the senior member of the duo.  Bishop, despite being so young, seems to have her shit together, and Barton is practically her charity case at this point.

This fourth, and final, trade of the Fraction/Aja run collects a hodgepodge of issues (12-13, 15, 17, 19, and 21-22).  The reason it would seem is because volume 3 filled those gaps with the alternating Kate Bishop-goes-to-L.A.-with-Pizza Dog story.  Thankfully it works and there's no real bleed between the two arcs, until Kate's return late in the story.  This trade closes out Hawkeye's feud with the Russian gangster-bros, reintroduces Clint's shifty brother Barney, and leaves a juicy plot thread dangling that doesn't look like it gets resolved.

Fact of the matter is, it looks like Jeff Lemire and Ramon Pérez weren't given a lot of insight into the story Fraction was implying could continue, and so the All-New team just went in a different direction.  The new series opens away from the cozy confines of Hawkeye's run-down tenement building for bigger adventures, Hawkeyes Barton and Bishop align with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Maria Hill to take on Hydra, but when Kate finds the secret Hydra weapons experiment is a trio of mutated kids she goes rogue and attempts to save them from both of the opposing agencies. 
...but so is Pérez's

What Lemire and Pérez manage is to continue with much of the dynamic Fraction and Aja managed to set up, and yet veer onto a different course with it.  Barton and Bishop maintain much of the same dynamic, and in the latter stages they wind up back at Barton's tenement building so it does share some consistency.  Lemire's own particular style comes out with a healthy investment in Barton's backstory, flashing back to Clint's childhood with Barney, escaping from foster care to the circus and both learning a whole new set of skills. 

Pérez likewise both upholds some of Aja's fun quirks, and tosses in more than a few of his own.  For instance Perez illustrates the flashbacks in a loose, unframed watercolor wash, while the present day story is Aja-style hard, clean lines with Ian Herring working with mostly solid color base.  It creates for a very stark, yet quite attractive contrasting compliment of sequential storytelling.  Pérez's style changes yet again at the very end when the book jumps a couple decades into the future.  The lines are less rigid and scratchier, while Herring's colours take on a hybrid tone of flatness and a Perez's flashback wash.  It's clever to distinguish the eras this way, and effective.

I wasn't expecting Lemire and Pérez to compete with their predecessor's run.  I liked that run quite a bit.  Yet, there's a lot of heart in All-New Hawkeye, more than a few gut punches before the end, which is left on a hell of a tantalizing cliffhanger.  Lemire and Perez seem invested, ready to give it their all and make something complimentary and unique.  Mission accomplished.  Bring on Volume 2.  (volume 2 is out and available)

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