Book Club / It Seems Less and Less That Amazing Things Are Actually Happening

HawkeyeHawkeye Vol 1: My Life as a Weapon
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

 

Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye run is one of those legendary top tier series. Taking a character that’s second rate at best (sorry Hawkeye) and transforming it into a “can’t miss” comic book series that won approval from comic book fans and comic book reviewers alike. 

At first glance it’s easy to see why. 

Everything about Hawkeye is so bright and so breezy that it should basically come with it’s own jazz soundtrack (something on vinyl of course – light and bouncy with a pleasant swing. The type of thing you’d expect to hear in the background of a 60s TV show or something). It’s one of those comic books that’s happy to root around in the gaps between other big comic book adventures. This is the stuff that Hawkeye does in between saving the world and being an Avenger. He eats pizza. He hangs out with his neighbours. He gets a dog. 

And yeah there are moments when the comic does go big. Issue #11 is the big hitter and was famously declared at the time to be one of the best superhero comics of the year. The whole issue takes place from the perspective of Pizza Dog which basically means that instead of text balloons it’s covered in symbols. And yeah ok – it is kinda cool. The kind of thing you’d expect Chris Ware to do if he finally decided to go mainstream.

And yet – despite all of this: the iconography, the sense of fun, the cheeky winks and experimentation I can’t help by feel that Hawkeye itself is kind of a let down. Yes it’s very much a step above other Hawkeye superhero comics etc but as so often when I read a Marvel or DC comic I can’t escape the feeling that it basically comes across like watching someone playing with a bunch of toys (and very old toys at that). 

Like – I do think it’s theoretically possible to do amazing things with superhero comic books even tho it seems less and less that amazing things are actually happening. Maybe there are requirements that writers and artists have to fit themselves to in order to be able to be let loose on the properties? Or perhaps it’s more the type of people who are drawn to creating superhero comics only have minds that move in a certain direction? Whichever it is I can’t help but feel that there’s something quite empty at the heart of books like this – where any connection to anything outside the world just doesn’t exist. 

I can’t help but think of the very first Philip K Dick short story he wrote which also takes place from the perspective of a dog and manages to make interesting points about the nature of reality and authority (lol of course) while Pizza Dog’s adventures are just… another link in the chain of good guys versus bad guys. 

Like maybe this is the problem with comic books? If something looks good enough and has enough care taken over the images and manages to strike the right balance in terms of the tone (“This looks bad” etc) then people are going to gobble it up and ask for more. But my brain gets screwed by the fact that there’s not much more here than what you can see. 

But hey – maybe that’s all you want? 

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