*Warning! Spoilers of sorts!*
It has been a tough task trying to rationalise my feelings about this book over the past few years. It was one of the very first covers I ever reviewed and I have discussed many issues with the House. I have a deep and profound love, not only for Clint but for the creative team and especially David Aja and his unique brand of storytelling. This is only issue #22 and the book has spanned almost three years. A fair number of those books were drawn by Annie Wu and featured Kate in another city entirely, after she left Clint. Not to criticise Annie Wu as her issues were solidly drawn but they did not have the character depth, plot or the entrepreneurial spirit of Aja. To be fair to her, very few creative teams do. It is essentially not Hawkguy but a complete diversion. This book represents the friend or lover you cared for so deeply who just went off for a long time, with warning or phone call but then they suddenly arrive and expect everything to be forgiven. The question then posed is, do you still love them? And do you remember why?
Matt Fraction once described Clint as a human crapsack at the beginning of the penultimate issue. Quite frankly I always found that extremely harsh and the writing did not necessarily direct you to that conclusion. I think every reader out there has a profound love for Clint Barton and for Lucky, who is metaphorically the same character as a dog. I once titles my review of #2 as, “What is so special about Clint Barton?” because I never understood why he needed his own title. I now know the answer to the question: There is nothing is special about Clint Barton.
Hawkguy is a man.
He has strengths and weaknesses, he succeeds and he fails. Though he has no special powers as such, his supreme accuracy lends to him being a hero. He has integrity and determination, which has been inspired by his brother in the later issues, and he is loyal. He suffers the same afflictions of the heart as any man and he is bad at relationships and talking to people. Kate leaves him for a multitude of reasons, above all his own inability to handle recurrent problems and to allow anyone else to help him. He has so many friends that would be there at a drop of a hat, and it is not that they haven’t tried. Hawkguy would rather fight his way out of a problem and he does. What Matt Fraction and David Aja have managed to do is develop Clint into a character who is quite simply a good guy but not very mature when it comes to dealing with people and feelings.
Hawkeye #22 is the finale to this story and features the return of Kate Bishop, and you would have to try hard to convince me that her first appearance in this issue is not exactly how Clint looked earlier in the series: battered, bruised and with Lucky by their side. Hawkguy, fresh from being pummelled by an angry grandma, is determined and upset at the beating of his brother in the last issue. I have to mention this moment as it was very touching, when Clint holds him in his arms, his brother says to him, “Guess what?” A word game he has been playing with him since he was six years old. Even this issue alludes to that remnant of their brotherly love on it’s final pages. With both Hawkeye’s back in action and Lucky by their side, those Russian bro’s have their work cut out for them. And this is where Aja truly flies with his imagination.
Straight from the get go we see this spectacular sweeping motion of Clint flying through a window, readying his bow. This could’ve easily been three consecutive panels but he combines them into one and by having his body merge together seamlessly, the effect is quite impressive. Aja doesn’t even fade the previous movements at all because it is so clear what is happening. He employs a range of effects in this issue and the 12-page panel makes a reappearance. Few artists can impress the tension of a fight better than David Aja. He takes the close up of weapons, the expression of the people and the silhouette of the projectile’s impact. Put them altogether and you have a flowing depiction of the damage caused and the emotional upset. The colouring is just perfect as the panel goes red when the bullet hits. The following pages are all out action and the dynamic nature of the panel sequences make the flow so easy to follow. This is perfectly exampled by Clint punching the assassin and Kate tossing the gun to the tracksuit mafia bro and then firing an arrow at him. Aja also has a couple of occasions to bring in some effects he used earlier such as the concealed wrist weapon mechanism diagram and the sign language instruction sheet, which simply says thank you.
This issue is as wonderful as the ones that preceded it and the story is drawn and coloured emphatically, passionately and so very clearly. In fact it is one of the greatest books I have ever read in that regard and all three creators should take great pleasure in the crafting of this masterpiece. In taking the time away from this book and being forced to take off those rose tinted glasses, I have realised a few things that I might never have even thought of before. The story is very simple but effective for Clint but the Kate Bishop hiatus was rather more average. I never felt for her character development and her rationale for returning was one of duty and frustration at being manipulated as a hero. I have been thinking if there is a parallel story here and whether Kate’s frustrations were once Clint’s long ago, but I struggle to see it. Bishop always knew she was returning and I think always knew Clint needed her. I do not want to be unfair to Bishop because there has been very little development with Barton. His story evolves because he has decided to defend the people he lives with, and this causes becomes all the more personal as we lose Grills. Even with these events Clint does not change, he carries on regardless, resolute, downbeat but when duty calls, he will always answer because that is what he does: unless he is in a hospital bed for a week.
The real ending to the book lies in the reunification of the Hawkeye’s and the final pages are certainly testament to that. There are references to the early issues and now both are in the sights of the higher level bosses, not just Hawkguy. The conclusion was a little unexpected and seems a little forced. I never truly felt Kate and Clint’s friendship was at risk; there certainly was no longing for one another whilst they were apart. Which is even stranger considering Clint chose her to be his partner very early on that was not even addressed when she left him. A large amount of this relationship is left unsaid which is possibly meant to be the case, especially with a character that refuses to acknowledge personal frailties. I cannot help but feel that too much time was devoted to storytelling devices and intelligent panelling and not to the characters. There is so much adoration and love for Clint and Kate out there in the comic community that we are so pleased to see them back and working together again, that it is easy to forget why they separated in the first place. Especially when this issue has taken so many months for it to be published. There is a place in our hearts for these creators and these characters and when David Aja draws the Hawkeyes so beautiful together with the most joyous sequences of a bow and arrow you have ever seen, all is forgiven…..perhaps.