You may have first encountered Hawkeye in last year’s “Avengers” movie, although the team’s dry-witted archer and sharpshooter has been a supporting character in various comic books for nearly 50 years. Recently, though, writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja came up with a terrific hook for the Hawkeye series, whose early issues are collected here: It’s about what a superhero does in his spare time. Clint Barton describes himself as “an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Paleolithic era.” He’s a mentor to a younger Hawkeye named Kate Bishop; he looks out for his neighbors in Bedford-Stuyvesant; and he gets into a lot of trouble, often involving a bunch of Russian mafiosi in track suits who call everyone “bro.”
The opening line of nearly every episode is “Okay, this looks bad.” In fact, it looks amazing. Both Aja and Javier Pulido (who draws a two-chapter sequence here) have a remarkable design sense and can make five lines do the work of 60. The visual tone of this volume is unified by Matt Hollingsworth’s muted color scheme, built around the purple of Hawkeye’s costume — although he wears his official superhero outfit on only a few pages here.
What makes “My Life as a Weapon” a particular joy is its playful, nimble approach to storytelling. Fraction’s stories are densely packed, with scrambled chronology and crisp snippets of dialogue that hint at much more. Aja’s artwork filters the world through Hawkeye’s lightning-quick perceptions. (Aja often breaks pages down into a dozen or more panels, just to show the details of motion or subtleties of facial expression.) The section drawn by Pulido takes a different approach: It casts the two Hawkeyes in a classic James Bond-style setting and demonstrates how they interact with their surroundings. Neither Barton nor Bishop is anything like Bond, though, which is the point. They’re not killers or glory hounds or bon vivants; they’re just trying to fix the world, one trick arrow at a time.
Wolk is the author of “Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean.”
My Life as a Weapon
By Matt Fraction, David Aja
and Javier Pulido