For those that are familiar with my blog, then you will appreciate that I rarely review a comic title more than once. This is often because I try to discuss everything that the creators bring to the plot and character in one sitting. However Hawkeye has been a regular HOFS feature, because I have so much to say about how Matt Fraction and David Aja produce their craft. The build up and hype for this particular issue was immense and it has been tipped to be the best comic of the year, prior to its actual release. So what has made everyone so excited? The narrative is delivered from the perspective of a dog. This is not a one shot oddity for the sake of uniqueness, but part of the overall story arc and character development. The sheer audacity of the creators to attempt such a feat is ambitious enough, but to succeed is pushing the boundaries of our imaginations and the art form itself. So we shall postulate no further as we join Lucky, aka Pizzadog, in his inadvertent quest to solve the murder of Gil, the man who coined the moniker Hawkguy.
Imagine if you will, the classical detective trope of a cynical gumshoe lured by an attractive lady to a murder case. He hunts for clues, engages in fights with suspects, becomes wrapped up in a precarious sexual liaison with his client and even ends up captured, beaten, but determined. Welcome to the story of Pizza Dog. Not only are we privy to a great super sleuth caper, but we also engage in the further vicissitudes of Hawkeye and Hawkguy’s relationship. The true brilliance of the issue lies in the fact that these events take place through the colour-blind eyes of a canine. The storytelling is verbally ascetic with minimalistic dialogue and only isolated single dog command words are utilised in English and Russian. Lucky’s thought processes are communicated through olfactory thought circles, as he smells the identities of tenants in the building and deduces clues of the crime scene, all from his keen sense of smell. The delicate colour palette of Matt Hollingsworth focuses on yellow and blue, which is true to the dichromatic colour perception of a dog’s vision. The book contains wondrous moments of emotional turmoil and exceptional examples of artistic delivery, including Lucky’s sexual flirtations, the melancholy of failure, and a fortuitous escape scenario. Discarding the traditional use of language and combining the use of semiotics with Aja’s unique panelling style has led to an extraordinarily expressive book.
The key to this book has to lie in more than innovative storytelling, because it is not an original art device; it has previously been used in Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan. In both books the abandonment of traditional dialogue has to allow the other senses to shine, and they do this by heightening visual emotions. This is certainly a difficult task when your main character is a dog, but there is more emotional exposition and empathetic depth in this book than in most mainstream comics. Aja has the ability to show Lucky manoeuvre from being inquisitive to angry, being delighted to disappointment and most pertinently develop fear upon recognising his previous abusive owners. Pizza Dog is certainly a wonderful little character and displays the important qualities prevalent amongst most dogs: loyalty, love and obedience. The overall arc doesn’t actually move with the dog, but we see it progress through his eyes as he continually acts on instinct, but ultimately reverts to the most primal instinct of all: survival. This is a brilliant character juxtaposition to Clint Barton, who is so firmly attached to his moral code, that he undergoes physical and emotional beatings for the wellbeing of his tenants. Pizza Dog just isn’t that stupid. The final few pages of this book are incredibly moving and sad, as we realise we are watching the demise of a friendship. I once described Hawkeye as a postmodernist comic because it transcended the commercial norms of graphic art. This issue continues to demonstrate this, as Matt Fraction and David Aja push past their limitations and unveil to us all, the true genius of the artform.
“I ————-Collar Stay”