by matt fraction & david aja
color art – matt hollingsworth
lettering – chris eliopoulos & david aja
special thanks to rachel coleman and dr. larry thomas
Review by Joey Braccino
If while reading Hawkeye #19 you feel you don’t get it all, if you find obstacles, congrats, you’re staring to learn what being disabled is.
— David Aja (@davaja) July 30, 2014
Finally, Hawkeye is back. And Hawkeye #19 is quintessential Hawkeye in the sense that Matt Fraction & David Aja (and Matt Hollingsworth and Chris Eliopoulos) push the bounds of comics storytelling to bold and creative new places. As a result of the shocking cliffhanger of Hawkeye #15 (from like February), Clint is deaf and Barney is in a wheelchair. As a result of those developments, Hawkeye #19 employs sign language and empty word bubbles to tell its story. And it’s a wonderful exploration of disability, perseverance, and communication.
Over the last few Hawkguy-centric issues (Kate’s off in LA doing her gumshoe routine), Fraction has been exploring the Barton Brothers’ rocky, complicated history together. We get a little bit more this issue, showcasing a time when young Clint was deafened. The context is not important (and therefore isn’t explored) because it’s Clint’s anger and brooding that drives the sequence. It also explains how Clint and Barney are so adept at sign language and lip-reading. Barney attempts to communicate with Clint throughout the issue, which Aja captures in inserts of the actual sign used. It’s brilliant and jarring, especially for readers who aren’t familiar with signs more complicated than letters. But that seems to be the purpose here; the frustration that Clint feels at letting this happen to him and his building family is mirrored in the reader’s frustration with “reading” the book. It’s nowhere near the same thing, but as David Aja’s tweet suggests, it’s just a glimpse into the very real world of communication and frustration that the characters are delving into.
Because it’s Hawkeye, there’s also a humourous bit with the Tracksuit Bros, in which they completely, hilariously misinterpret an Airport sign. It’s a joke, yes, but it reflects the rest of the tragic content of the issue. This speaks to Fraction and Aja’s careful and nuanced approach to their subject and their uncanny grasp of this universe that they’ve constructed.
I include Hollingsworth and Eliopoulos in the Hawkeye team because they are as responsible for the success of the book’s experiment as Fraction and Aja. Hollingsworth’s distinct color palette is perfectly suited to the book; his mix of purples and greys capture the tonal shifts perfectly, and the final sequence shifts to a stark red that captures the Bartons’ rage. Eliopoulos is the best letterer in the business; his lettering style shifts when the dialogue shifts from spoken to lip-read to Clint’s muted speech.
This book is, cover-to-cover, perfect.
I only wish it hadn’t taken 4 months to come out!
Buy it. Read it. Love it. Hawkeye #19 is another incredible experiment in form and narrative from the team of Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, and Chris Eliopoulos. The last time I read a superhero comic this creative was a little story called “Pizza is My Life,” aka Hawkeye #11, which just won the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue. I think they have another winner here; Hawkeye #19 is one of the most innovative, thoughtful comics I’ve ever read. Ever.
PS – The flippin’ New York Times did a write-up on Hawkeye #19that goes further into Fraction & Aja’s approach to Clint’s deafness. Check it!