Monday, April 22, 2013

Comic Review: Hawkeye

    The pantheon of superheroes is littered with exceptionally lame characters.  Characters with no cool, with goofy costumes, lame powers, or what have you.  For every Black Panther there’s a Sleepwalker.  For every Joker there’s a Crazy Quilt.  Personally, I’ve never thought much of The Flash or Cyclops, for example.  Lobo and Wolverine have their fans, but just seem like the worst 13 year old boy fantasies to me.  But two of the lamest characters among the Big Two’s cast of heroes have to be the archers.  Green Arrow and Hawkeye.  Come on!  First off, Green Arrow looks stupid in his Robin Hood costume and his blond goatee.  And he’s such a tool.  Hawkeye looks like a purple Wolverine with that silly mask of his.  And the only thing that makes him less obviously lame than Green Arrow is that nobody ever gave two craps about him, so he was never an important character.  Then somebody cast that Jeremy Renner guy all the girls are into (what’s up with women being so into goofy looking dudes?) and suddenly Hawkeye gets his own comic series.  Before Avengers hit theaters, do you know how many people in the entire world named Hawkeye as their favorite comic characters?  Zero.  Afterward, all the Whedon/NewWho girls were instant mega-fans.  Come on!

Dr. Doom is quaking.

    So then I start hearing people say, ‘hey, this Hawkeye comic is pretty good.’  To which I would then say, ‘whatever, dude,’ confidently brushing off  such silly sentiment.  But because of the graphic novel club I belong to, I finally relented and read the first collected volume.  And yeah, it’s pretty good, I guess.  Step one in making it not suck was getting him out of that dumbass costume.  Even his post-movie look is lame, but nothing compared to the original.  Step two, get him away from the Avengers.  Like Batman in the Justice League, Hawkeye goes with the Avengers like pralines and horse testicles.  In tabletop role playing games, there was a lot of thought put into ‘play balance.’  Groups of characters might be wildly different, but as a general rule they should average out to about the same.  Hawkeye shoots arrows.  He’s standing next to the Hulk (an ever growing engine of rage that is virtually unstoppable), Captain America (a super-soldier engineered to be the ultimate extant of human ability), Iron Man (a super-genius in an ultra-advanced mech-suit), and others.  Hawkeye shoots arrows.  He shoots arrows!  He’s fighting Doctor Doom, Thanos, Skrulls, and all sorts of crazy things and he shoots motherf&%$ing ARROWS!!!  (In case you’re not keeping up on current events, people figured out good ways to protect themselves from arrows like 500 years ago!).  The only thing lamer than that would be throwing playing cards.  And that’s just too stupid for words; they’d never do something that dumb.  So, getting him away from the Avengers was a good idea.  Like the early Brubaker run on Captain America, and his run on Winter Soldier, Matt Fraction gets Hawkeye away from the nutty, over the top kind of stuff the weirder characters and super-teams get into, and deals more with espionage/crime kinds of things.  The stuff a guy shooting arrows might actually have a chance to deal with.

    Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton) is a wisecracker.  I hate wisecrackers, mostly because they’re typically written poorly.  Cracking wise involves a difficult balance between being funny and being an A-hole.  I’ll give Fraction this, he manages to strike that balance in this volume.  Barton is funny, without being too funny or two annoying.  It doesn’t feel as forced as Joss Whedon often does (hey, I love Firefly and the first couple Buffy seasons were good, but the guy has writing issues…sorry, he does).  I think, ultimately it keeps the reader at a distance as much as other characters, though.  By the end of the volume, I didn’t feel like I knew who this Barton guy was at heart.  There’s a ‘twist’ at one point (the secret video tape) that feels like it should have emotional resonance, but I don’t know that I’d have felt any different about the guy had the ‘twist’ not happened.  The dialog works better than expected and the story is fine.  But at the end of the day, I didn’t come away caring about Hawkeye.  If anything, other-Hawkeye, Kate Bishop seemed like a bit more of a ‘character,’ though she’s hardly developed either.  I guess the reader is supposed to already be well versed in the mythology, so they already know everybody’s deal.  But for this infrequent Marvel reader, that isn’t the case.  For example, I didn’t understand who Bishop was until the extra issue of Young Avengers that rounds out this volume.  Oh, she’s the ‘new’ Hawkeye…because the original Hawkeye was comicbook-dead for a while.  OK.

Showing my belly helps me shoot better!

    The art is disgusting.  But I guess this kind of thick-line, block coloring, no shading, no detail, no subtlety kind of crap is popular among comic aficionados.  I think it looks like a turd sandwich, but my taste in comic art has never matched up with general readership or especially the more ‘literary’ types.  I guess it’s like people who enjoy the flavor of liver.  Intellectually I know they exist, but emotionally I have a hard time accepting it.  I’m a little less choosy about art than I used to be.  Once upon a time I would simply not read a book if I didn’t really like the art.  Now I may be less inclined, but it’s not a deal breaker.  Still, is more consistent and consistently good art too much to ask?  Or must Ben Templesmith and his lot (it looks like crap intentionally…for ART!) be attached to every project I might otherwise want to read?  It seems to be a choice between ‘looks like crap’ art and ‘looks like manga’ art.  I’m way past sick of both.

    At the end of the day, this is a comic I’ve read.  It’s not great.  It’s not amazing.  I don’t understand the level of excitement around it, or why so many comic readers are claiming it as one of the best comics around.  It’s OK; and among the recent releases from Marvel that makes it stand out.  I still prefer FF (also featuring hideous art!) and Fantastic Four though.  But I’ll take Invincible or the Rocketeer over this any day.  Against comics like Hellboy or Y: the Last Man, it’s not even a blip on the radar.  Heck, I’ll even take the unpleasant art of B.P.R.D. over this, because the content of the story matches the look (and is far superior in every other way).

Read B.P.R.D. instead!

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon
Author: Matt Fraction
Artists: David Aja, etc.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6562-0


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