From the very onset of the cover art, suggesting a beat up old paperback novel bought for a fraction of a dollar on a New York street, to the closing pages of Marvel criminals converging in a Mario Puzo fashion, Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye #8 delivers a solid crime-heist story that would make the veterans of EC comics proud.
If the staple of Marvel story-telling derived and evolved from the Stan and Jack days and honed by the likes of Claremont is soap-opera styled, then Fraction and Aja are bucking the decade long trend in favour of what feels like more of a classic sitcom styled approach. Opening up with Hawkeye himself in a ”Three’s Company” type bind of romantic misunderstanding, the plot doesn’t shirk away from poking fun at the protagonist and throwing him into scenarios for the sake of his embarrassment. Whereas a sitcom has the indelible charms of actors like Kelsey Grammer or John Ritter to infuse the characters with enough lovability to ensure they’re not merely bumbling oafs to the audience, here the role is filled wonderfully by David Aja whose depiction of Clint through body language and facial expressions nails home a breeziness and flippancy to the man’s character. Sure he’s flustered, but it’s such an everyday occurrence for him now he handles embarrassment and foot-in-mouth syndromes in his stride with a strange combination of cocksure uneasiness.
Of course Fraction’s writing is also a major component of what I see as the sitcom approach in that virtually each issue wonderfully sets up it’s premise, plays it out and nails it’s resolution in less than two dozen pages so succinctly. While a larger story is and has been building since Hawkeye #1, each episode can be seen virtually stand alone, like an episode of Frasier compared to the heavy narrative of The Wire, such as that seen in Hickman’s Avengers.
Annie Wu’s additional illustrations of trashy comics and magazine covers reflect the tone and plot of the story amazingly, as the initial “romantic confusion scenes” are given cheesy romance comics representations, while the darkening tone of the plot towards the crime heist sees the comic covers shift from Kirby/Simon Romance to more Johnny Craig era Crime SuspenStories, tales of a woman embroiled in a world of law-and-neck breaking, fearing as much for her heart as her life.
Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are, as always, a great addition to the linework. The shifts in color pallet between Clint’s apartment, the bar, and the meeting of criminal bosses powerfully suggest the notion of location and atmosphere.
The throwback amalgamation style of the women’s fashion, Godfather novels, pulp magazines and 70s sitcom might come across as eclectic in another book, but in Hawkeye #8 the creative team are definitely shooting straight.