Hawkeye #13 – Fraction / Aja / Hollingsworth

2It’s been such a long wait, but finally Hawkeye #13 is here. Honestly, I adore this title so much that even a month is too long between issues. Two and a half? Be right back, I’m in the corner shaking from withdrawal and telling myself everything is going to be okay.

Hawkeye #13 revolves around the aftermath of Grills’ death, which is a bit of a backtrack after Annual #1. I’m a big fan of nonlinear storytelling, but for those who aren’t, it could take a few pages before clicking to what’s going on. Don’t expect any Pizza Dog innovation here, but Aja is in fine form with his consistently beautiful art and page design, and Fraction’s strength in dialogue and character nuance shine.

Now let’s be honest here for a minute. Clint has a lot of man-pain in this series. Like… a lot of man-pain. What I really like about Fraction’s take on Clint’s personal demons though, is that his man-pain isn’t facilitated by fridging the women in his life, and he’s never removed of his own personal agency despite outward appearances. He chooses to deal with things in a shitty way. Clint is like us – a person who makes reactionary decisions that sometimes alienate those around him – ultimately endearing him to us as readers.

This book revolves around Clint reacting an awful lot. He reacts to Grills’ death. He reacts to working with Jessica after their break up. He reacts to Kate leaving with Lucky. He doesn’t react to everything in crappy ways, but even when he does, it’s incredibly stirring, heartbreaking, and real. When he makes good choices, they become even more poignant – a hug for Grills’ father, introducing Barney to the bropartment barbecuers – touching moments in the life of someone who is so well written, I sometimes believe he could be a real person.

Aja’s art is, as usual, pretty much faultless. As an artist myself, I really do struggle to understand how someone can put so much expression into a style so (deceptively) simple. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are consistent in their muted beauty, conveying changes in perspective and narrative without ever feeling jarring or out of place, and he’s also very skilled in creating moods with a very limited palette.

Over all, Hawkeye #13 is an excellent issue that ties together a few storylines, knitting a story that’s otherwise jumped about together very effectively, while packing a real emotional punch. Thank goodness the next part is only a couple of weeks away, because I’m only being more and more sucked in as this title progresses.

Review: FF #10 – Matt Fraction & Mike Allred

FF10I’m not entirely sure what I think about this issue. On the one hand it dares to go places most creative teams don’t – breaking down the barriers between the creator and the creation, by placing Fraction, Allred and editor Tom Brevoot into their own comic; for the most part making it an enjoyable and silly tale. On the other hand, this story can feel a little too much like one big inside joke, and does require a working knowledge of each of these characters to fully appreciate. To be fair, a lesser day in the issues of FF is still nothing to sneeze at, and the team manage to create a book that still stands out, if for sometimes the wrong reasons.

The issue is split between two stories, one with the more outcast members of the FF engaged in twenty questions with a madman as one of their own is forced to kill the old man who may-or-may-not be Johnny Storm, and another as the rest of the members take a microscopic field trip with the Marvel creative team. The aforementioned game is great and still manages to live up to the standard seen in previous issues, but the field trip does seem to feel a bit out of place. Full of inside jokes and references to the team’s social media presence, like Tom Breevot’s Formspring, this issue isn’t really aimed at anyone who hasn’t got anything more than a cursory knowledge of these people.

Thankfully, the accompanying FF members remain fun, with Scott Lang’s dialogue reminiscent of an actual parent – remaining empathetic and dismissive, especially regarding the children’s love of the tiger. It speaks volumes of the character – a man who has lost his child and is beginning to let these few take her place, and Fraction really hits the nail on the head here.

The other half of the issue is great, letting the other characters shine. Tong in particular is a character that continues to grow, following her change earlier in the series, and is becoming a larger and more fun part of the team. Alex is still battling between saving his parents, and betraying the FF.

What else can I say about the Allreds that hasn’t been said already? They are great, plain and simple, and this issue continues to be a large selling point. I really cannot speak any more highly about those two, and I love coming back to them each week.

Despite a very risky choice taking place in the issue, it still manages to be a great read. I’m glad that this team is making choices like this, and while FF #10 doesn’t hit all the right notes, it still manages to sing strongly. 

Review: FF#6 – Matt Fraction & Joe Quinones

If there was a prize for best fill-in artist it would have to go to Joe Quinones. Actually, that doesn’t do the art in this chapter of FF justice – if for whatever reason Mike Allred couldn’t return, and Joe Quinones were to take over, I’d only be a little bit sad. FF#6 manages to come together (excuse the pun) fantastically,despite the lack of Allred, remaining at the high standard associated with Matt Fraction’s titles these days.

ff6Quinones’ art really shines in this issue. While not the exact pop-art aesthetic of Allred’s work, the entire look of this issue feels like an FF issue (thanks in part to the equally brilliant colours courtesy of Laura Allred), which is the highest of praise. Quinones’ panels  draw on Allred’s unique design sensibilities, but he manages to make it his own, with some excellent layout designs. His characters are also expressive and suitably fun, with small details like the hoodies the Yancy Street Gang wear, making this issue feel like the cartoon it should.

Despite the cartoon-ish art style, Fraction manages to continue his skill in telling multiple stories. Bentley-23 and Medusa are still missing, Tong has a revelation, and Scott – amongst dealing with his grief over the loss of his daughter – helps Darla fight off the Yancy Street Gang. Each of these stories feels suitably fleshed out, with the Tong one in particular being a standout. Only Fraction could show a character’s development on a single page, and make it feel worthwhile.

Scott Lang’s slow descent into losing it is also a highlight of the story. He’s constantly lost when he has nothing to do, often dwelling on the death of his daughter, but when he takes control of things outside of caring for the Future Foundation’s children, he’s focused and smart. It’s a clever way of showing how badly the death has affected the way he reacts to any child he deals with, and it seems he has a ways to go.

A ways to go is what I hope with this title. In fact, I’d be happy if the Richard’s family never came back, because FF is one of the best titles in the Marvel Now!, and I never want it to end.

Review: FF#2 – Matt Fraction & Mike Allred

ff2“For the next two hundred and forty seconds, we are the Fantastic Four.”

Oh Scott Lang, you could not be more wrong. But it’s ok, the ride turns out awesome anyway.

FF#2 picks up right after the second issue of Matt Fraction’s other tie-in, Fantastic Four, as Marvel’s First Family begin their trip to the unknown universes. Events make a turn for the worse back on Earth, as Scott Lang and the Future Foundation learn that the new Fantastic Four’s stint will be a lot longer than expected. Fortunately for us, it makes for a fun story.

Fraction’s biggest strength in his other acclaimed series Hawkeye, the dialogue, carries over into FF. From Scott’s slight horror when he realises that the Fantastic Four aren’t coming back, to She-Hulk lamenting the loss of her Stella McCartney outfit; each of the character interactions are brilliantly handled. Without spoiling anything, if you aren’t laughing at a few of the excellent lines in this book, you need to check your pulse.

Dana Deering’s transformation to Ms Thing also comes to a head within this issue, and while the marketing seems to be building her up to act a bit like a bimbo, she often comes across as less like a an airhead, and more of an ordinary person thrown into extraordinary events. While it seems that Fraction is trying to make her likeable, she doesn’t come across as even remotely annoying – just a bit naive.

Once again the art pairing of Mike Allred and wife Laura looks as great as ever. There is a particularly stunning moment when the Mole Man and his beast appear to take on the Future Foundation, which shows that the Allreds know a thing or two on how to create fantastic looking monsters. The series so far harkens back to old Silver-Age comics, and is a treat to read.

One other problem that plagues this issue is that it almost requires you to read the Fantastic Four as well, as the events pick up immediately after the second issue of that series. Hopefully that is something that will change in the coming issues, with the Fantastic Four embarking on their journey, but readers of only the FF series will have a harder time following what is going on.

Despite issues regarding extra reading, FF  again continues to impress, both in story and in visuals. If Fraction and the Allred’s can keep this momentum going, while allowing FF to stand on its own, this book will be one to watch in the coming months.

Review: Hawkeye #6 – Matt Fraction & David Aja

Hawkeye6-197x300I once told a friend regarding Hawkeye that if Matt Fraction spent an entire issue dealing with Clint Barton doing the laundry I’d love every minute of it. It seems I almost got my wish in the special Christmas themed Hawkeye #6, which, for half the issue, is Clint trying to get his DVR to work. But that is the beauty of Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye –  although this issue also deals with the Russian Mafia and a crisis of faith, the best parts of this issue, and in this series in general, isn’t always the action. It’s the heart.

It’s almost Christmas time in the apartment that Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye lives. Over the next six days, he will deal with with a broken satellite dish, A.I.M., the Tracksuit Mafia and his own DVR.  As he deals with the issues of owning his own apartment (reluctantly bought off the Russian Mafia back in issue #1), Clint must also ask the question: can a man who is trying to do good, still end up making things worse?

This is how the heart makes its way  into Hawkeye. Clint Barton is a normal, regular human being. Granted; a regular human being who is also the greatest sharpshooter alive, but Matt Fraction taps into the human side of his psyche, stripping away the “heroic” traits of a super hero comic, and drawing on the more everyday experiences of this Avenger. We see him desperately try to avoid spoilers to his favourite television show, convince a neighbour his name isn’t Hawkguy, and try to clean his apartment. It is these moments that give the issue its charm – Clint is a normal human being, and acts like so. Even the cameos from other famous Marvel heroes give them more grounding features that most other writers gloss over.

That’s not to say that this issue skips over the heroic. The Tracksuit Mafia (or as I like to call them the “Bro Mafia”) return, intent on reclaiming their lot back. We meet their leader this issue, after a few surprisingly unsettling panels, which prompts Clint’s crisis of faith.

David Aja’s art, combined with Matt Hollingsworth’s colours look absolutely sublime. The wonderfully expressive faces thanks to a simple art style, combined with the flat colour palette and striking purples, make this one of the best looking comics all year. The layout also looks absolutely stunning, as Aja manages to fit more panels than one would think possible on a single page. It also helps that there is a nod to the old X-Men Arcade game that looks fantastic. Aja’s work on Hawkeye just looks brilliant overall.

If you haven’t picked up Hawkeye yet, let me ask you a question: what is wrong with you? Go and pick up the first six issues and get lost in the world of Clint Barton. Give these people money to make more comics – just so I can see that laundry issue.