2012-08-01 Comic Book Diary
Hawkeye, No. 1
Matt Fraction & David Aja
Marvel Comics, Oct 2012
For reasons unknown to the reader, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) lives in a low-rent apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. This comic is set in a different part of Bedstuy than I lived in, but I think that I went to a party here once. To my eye, the neighborhood looks more Bushwick-like, mixed with South Brooklyn, but what do I know?
The thing that is good to know is that Barton doesn’t actually do much of his renowned archery in this debut issue. He applies his sharpshooting talents in different ways which makes this more interesting than if he busted out his trick arrows in the middle of a street-level-crime story.
Mr. Aja, along with colorist Matt Hollingsworth craft a visually restrained world that calls to mind a stage theatre production. The palates run warm and cool and with a dry edge throughout. Save for the first page and a half, the perspective is firmly rooted at eye-level. There is an intimacy associated with maintaining such a tight focus on events that unfold at a human level. Mr. Fraction is firmly in his element: a tunnel-vision focus on a character whose entire reason for being is that he literally is tunnel-visioned. Yes, I’m reading into that, but the likeness between the character and this writer feel important to mention.
After the first two pages, Clint Barton doesn’t appear in his costume (or with his bow) for the rest of the story. Instead, he walks through the believably rough Brooklyn neighborhood whose walls reveal subtle Hawkeye graffiti. He wears his identity on his sleeve with at least one article of purple clothing in his outfit at all times. Other than that, he’s just slumming it, trying to have a good time and live with normal people. When you consider the kinds of things these superhero characters usually do, the conflict of “Lucky” seems lightweight. But that’s part of what sells this comic. The story is low-stakes compared to a guy whose day job involves time travel and battling invading extraterrestrials. But the stakes are drawn up close, on an intimate scale to make the entire story feel every bit as big as staring down Norman Osborne after he took over the free world. When you’re facing down a megalomaniac who overthrew the world police, it’s all you can do to beat him with violence until he stops being in control. When you’re fighting a immoral landlord, the character has to solve the problem with a different tack. And that is more interesting to read about than “he shoots arrows at the bad guy until bad guy falls over.”
There’s also a satisfying conclusion to this episode that does two things: (1) it shows Clint Barton as a credibly unique character compared to his genre peers in how he goes about making changes to his surroundings and (2) it leaves the door open to future problems, should the antagonist be foolish enough to call Barton’s warning for a bluff.
At long last, I get to talk about something dear to my heart: endings. Matt Fraction has given us a debut story, a pilot episode essentially, which does everything that a pilot needs to do. It establishes the scope of the world in which this series is set. The Marvel universe streets. Low-level stakes, high emotional connection to those stakes. This debut issue gives us a problem and then solves it outright. That provides the reader with a blueprint for how future stories might play out. I like that Fraction is confident enough as a storyteller to not need to rely on cliffhangers in a series like this.
A lot of silly, unbelievable clown stuff happens in this story but that’s okay. I like this comic. When I got to the last panel of the last page, my heart didn’t sink, it broke. My instinct says that this comic series doesn’t have a prayer at lasting. It’s too much of a personal vision. Too unencumbered by the overall editorial vision of Marvel Comics. It’s like “Thor, the Mighty Avenger” all over again but worse off because it appears to be part of normal Marvel world continuity. What that means is that after a few issues, this series will be expected to fall in line with the overall tides and currents of the events in other Marvel superhero comics. On the other hand, I could have said the same thing about “Here Comes Daredevil” a year ago.
That’s the pessimist in me talking. Twenty months from now, I would like to be reading the twentieth successive issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye adventures. We’ll see how that goes.
Wonder Woman, No. 11
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
DC Comics, Sept. 2012
Might be that I’m the only fan of Wonder Woman who doesn’t care for the Greek mythology angle that a lot of writers lay on the character. I’m a really big fan of Greek mythology and in my head, it’s its own thing. So to see it sloppily smeared across my superhero toast is actually pretty annoying and boring.
Azzarello and Chiang’s take is pretty interesting. My favorite character is Strife, a grey-skinned character who exists to get under the other characters’ skin more than anything else. She is also a useful expository tool, I’ve noticed.
Demeter and Artemis look great. All of Cliff Chiang’s character designs are exciting and fresh. One thing that is weird is that the god Apollo is basically just Sunspot from the New Mutants. You’re better than that, Mr. Chiang.
“Get Ready to Shed a Tear”
Fury Max: My War Gone By, No. 5
Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov
Nick Fury and George Hatherly are in Cuba in 1954 to assassinate Castro. As you might imagine, it doesn’t go that well.
“My War Gone By” is a walk through twentieth century American warfare since World War II, with the spy charger Nick Fury’s story running parallel to the historical doings of the U.S. government. As you might imagine, this involves losing a lot of times.
Garth Ennis is one of the best writers about human beings destroying one another that American comic books have. Goran Parlov adroitly brings the scale of every twist and turn down to a personal, human level with his mastery of facial expression.
“A Confluence of Wonders”
Earth 2, No. 4
James Robinson and Nicola Scott with Eduardo Pansica
DC Comics, Oct 2012
“There’s been enough death for one day,” the Green Lantern proclaims as he literally splits a dude’s head in two with his bare hand.
World’s Finest, No. 1
Paul Levitz and George Pérez
DC Comics, July 2012
This comic is dumb but I always liked the characters. The drawings are pretty, George Pérez is a classic superhero artist. I just might buy the other issues of this.
“Rotworld Prologue: Part One”
“Rotworld Prologue: Part Two”
Animal Man, No. 12
Swamp Thing, No. 12
Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder, Steve Pugh, Marco Rudy
DC Comics, Oct 2012
Jeff Lemire seems like a nice guy.
“What is the Concordance Engine?”
The Defenders, No. 9
Matt Fraction, Jamie McKelvie w/ Mike Norton
Marvel Comics, Oct 2012
I enjoyed reading this comic even though it is kind of bad. McKelvie is a nice artist to look at and I always enjoy his illustrations, covers and sequential art pages. This particular comic is no different. The regular penciler Terry Dodson carries currency with me, but McKelvie might be the only person in this family of art styles who completely excuses a missing Dodson.
The story of this comic is forgettable. Definition of chasing after a McGuffin. The Defenders try to secure a Valuable Tool and return to their Home Dimension. Who cares. That isn’t to say that I found it “bad.” Matt Fraction’s handling of the individual scenes is pleasant enough and his tongue-in-cheek sideline ads are amusing. I couldn’t tell you if the characterizations are “spot on” or “off the mark,” and I don’t care. None of the characters truly stand out as being different from one another save for things like “She-Hulk is female” and “Alternate reality Nick Fury is not yet the Defenders’ friend” and “Frankenstein Hitler is a gutless baby.” There isn’t much personality to spread among the team, they’re all kind of alike. That’s okay in reality–you’re probably more likely to go dimension hopping with your friends–but it doesn’t give the reader much internal drama. Part of the fun of an ensemble cast is if they don’t all get along or, if they do get along, they have significant personality/cultural differences between them all.
All said, if you just want to see a seven-foot-tall woman hoist dudes up for twenty pages, then brother have I got the comic for you!