Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Review by Joey Braccino
Matt Fraction’s acclaimed Hawkeye series continues to build toward an impending climax with yet another seemingly stand-alone issue. This time, Fraction shifts attention to the most unlikeliest of characters: Barney Barton, brother to our eponymous Hawkguy, Clint Barton, and former member of Norman Osborn’s second Dark Avengers team. Needless to say, whereas Clint has made the most of his second chance as Avenger and street-level superhero, Barney’s life has taken a decidedly less glamorous and more… disheveled and homeless direction.
I say “seemingly stand-alone” because, as has been the case for a few issues now, Barney’s one-and-done adventure in street-peddling and getting beat up by the Tracksuit Mafia actually fits into a larger narrative running through Hawkeye. Put alongside last month’s incredible Pizza Dog issue, the clown-faced killer’s origin story in #10, and the two previous issues featuring Clint’s (romantic?) misadventures with the women in his life, this week’s #12 adds yet another layer to what really has only been 1 to 2 days in the story. A single panel in this issue connects Barney’s confrontation with a pair of Tracksuit bros with a key moment in last issue in which those same Tracksuit bros run into Pizza Dog. Fraction has been taking us to every street corner as it were in the area surrounding Clint’s apartment, showing us all the major players and all the key moments in a non-linear fashion. It’s an innovative way of telling the story, and surprisingly underused in the comics medium. What Fraction can do by telling the story this way is truly focus in and spend time with all of these characters while still maintaining a sense of cohesion between the seemingly disparate one-and-done stories.
Ultimately, however, time will have to move on, and with each passing issue, the tension and conflict rises significantly. It’s only a matter of time before Clint, Kate, Pizza Dog, and now Barney come face to face with Kazi the Clown and the Tracksuit Mafia and learn the truth of Grills’ death. In the meantime, however, Fraction is expertly moving all of the pieces into place.
It’s almost a cliché to say “Matt Fraction is so hot right now” because a) he’s been on a roll for years now and b) he has the uncanny ability to maintain said roll on a nearly weekly basis. This week, however, I want to shift focus and say Francesco Francavilla is so hot right now. Between his creator-owned work and the recent announcement that he’ll be joining Marvel’s cosmic flagship title, Guardians of the Galaxy, Francavilla has become the comics industry’s hottest new pulp-inspired artist. His distinct pop-noir aesthetic and stark red and blue color palette make for an engaging visual experience regardless of what story he’s telling.
Seriously, read this book. Issue #12 might seem a bit strange at first given the focus on a relatively obscure character, but Barney Barton’s relevance to his brother Clint (which Matt Fraction poignantly handles via flashbacks to their childhood) and the aforementioned ongoing conflict will probably make this a critical chapter in Hawkeye’s narrative. Not to mention of course that Francavilla’s artwork is simply incredible. Must read!