Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Review by Joey Braccino
Okay… This Fraction guy… This Fraction guy just doesn’t quit. Alongside the ineffable genius of artist David Aja, Matt Fraction can do no wrong with Marvel’s not-so-superhuman superhero. This week’s uniquely layered narrative builds upon and fills in the gaps between the equally-idiosyncratic narrative of Hawkeye #8. Whereas last issue (released back in February) organized itself around delightfully retro Romance comics covers, this issue hopscotches back and forth in time over the course of Clint’s four separate encounters with the four most important women in his life. While the leaps in time might be jarring for some readers (reminiscent of the interweb’s sole complaint for the series’ debut issue), once Fraction’s pieces all fall into place, the emotional impact really, really hits really, really hard.
Quick recap: last issue, Clint Barton let his… “heart”… lead him into blindly aiding the mysterious red-headed femme fatale, Penny, in a brutal assault on the Tracksuit Mafia’s strip-club headquarters. Clint, in typical Clint Barton fashion, got the kerfuffling beaten out of him. Issue #8 did leave one dangling plot-thread for issue #9; namely, Penny barged into Avengers Mansion seeking Clint’s help, inadvertently exposing her and Clint’s relationship to Natasha “The Work Wife” Romanoff, Bobbi “The Ex-Wife” Morse, and Jessica “The Friend-Girl” Drew. And just when the ‘70s inspired costumes and romantic hilarity could ensue, Fraction left us dangling for a freaking month.
Thankfully, he hits all the right beats with issue #9, giving us glimpses into each of Clint’s relationships and exposing, quite resoundingly, all of Clint Barton’s hang-ups and screw-ups regarding his prowess with the opposite sex. In typical Fraction-fashion, this isn’t all slaps and slapstick; each sequence is filled with emotional resonance and at times painful reveals about just how messed up our eponymous hero is. The scenes with Bobbi and Jessica in particular are at once gloriously entertaining and devastatingly frank.
As always, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Eliopoulos deliver in spades. These guys all bring their A-game to their individual contributions to this book: Aja’s innovative lay-outs and naturalism are critical elements of this book’s success; Hollingsworth’s solid color palette bring purple back hard this season; Eliopoulos’ lettering has a throwback feel to it that evokes that ‘70s style that inspires much of the book. A stand-out sequence comes during the “Work Wife” sequence, in which Natasha and Penny’s dialogue shifts from word-bubbles to narration boxes and the artistic perspective widens and narrows rapidly. It’s an almost cinematic moment in the book, and it further exemplifies just how incredible the aesthetic is on Hawkeye.
Why are you still reading this? BUY THIS BOOK. You’ll notice I didn’t use of those pesky superhero codenames in this review. Hawkeye isn’t (only) about tights and superheroics; it’s about the emotional, physical, and mental toll being a bad@$$ has on the individual and, in this issue especially, said individual’s interpersonal relationships.
One word of warning: This issue will make little to no sense without issue #8. Of course, it’ll still be freaking gorgeous and witty and brilliant, but plot-wise, you’re screwed.
Another word of warning: the final sequence of panels is soul-shattering, and the character introduced absolutely terrifying. Look out.