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Dang, look at all those futzing masques!

Dang, look at all those futzing masques!

Hawkeye Annual #1

Matt Fraction: Writer

Javier Pulido: Artist

Matt Hollingsworth: Colorist

VC’s Clayton Cowles: Letterer

Review by Joey Braccino

SUPP-A-BOOOMMMMM…..

One week short of its one-year anniversary, Hawkeye celebrates its award-winning, critically acclaimed run with an over-sized Annual issue. Matt Fraction once again shifts his narrative focus for this issue, this time taking readers on an old-school caper starring Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, aka Lady Hawkeye, aka Hawkingbird (check it).

Fraction’s storytelling strategy over the last few issues of Hawkeye has been to explore a singular event or period by shifting narrative perspective from character to character. We’ve jumped from the Tracksuit Draculas’ maudlin assassin to Pizza Dog to Clint Barton’s brother, Barney, and somewhere in those one-and-done narratives we saw Kate Bishop storm out of Clint’s apartment. At the time, we didn’t know why, but all is revealed in Hawkeye Annual #1.

The action of this relatively self-contained annual follows Kate Bishop as she strives to make a new start for herself in Los Angeles. Fraction wisely capitalizes on the “West Coast Avengers” in-joke and brings back Madame Masque as Kate’s new “Big Bad.” In many ways, Kate is broken down in this issue, losing her money, her resources, and her car as she plays a game of cat-and-mouse with Masque. Fraction expertly establishes all of his players and the main conflict quickly and uses the issue to demonstrate Kate’s finesse and ingenuity. I won’t go into the plot to heavily here, because the action is resolved (pretty much) by issue’s end, making this annual a perfect jumping-on point for new readers looking for a way in.

In many ways, this annual serves as a “first issue” for the Kate Bishop side of the Hawkeye book. While Clint Barton deals with the Tracksuit Bros in NYC, Kate is going to be discovering herself and her status as a superheroine in LA. Fraction has stated that Hawkeye will be alternating issues between these two arcs in the near future, and the annual kickstarts Kate’s story.

Javier Pulido’s delightfully pulpy, old-school artwork is very different from series’ regular David Aja’s moody, experimental aesthetic. While Pulido may be a departure from the likes of Aja and Francesco Francavilla, the vibrant energy and kineticism of his artwork is perfect for Kate Bishop’s brazen, youthful character. Having Matt Hollingsworth on color duties lends the series as a whole a visual continuity, so Pulido’s bold artwork for Kate Bishop is the perfect counterpoint to Aja’s gritty urban linework for Clint. There is one strange choice that Pulido makes in this issue; throughout the story, various character, including Kate and Madame Masque, are entirely blacked out, almost as though they were cut out of the panel and colored in with black. I can’t yet make out the reasoning for it. At first it reads like a perspective shift or shadow play, but it occurs a bit too often to the point of distraction.

Verdict

Buy.  Long-time readers will love the focus on Kate Bishop. New readers: If you’re interested in seeing what all the Hawkeye hubbub is all about, Fraction and company provide a great jumping on point for new readers with this annual issue. Kate Bishop’s uphill battle of wits with Madame Masque perfectly captures the type of energy and grit the Hawkeye series is known for. Sure, the price tag reads $4.99, but Fraction and Pulido jam plenty of story into this oversized annual in an effort to establish Kate Bishop’s new status quo on the West Coast.

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