Boy, wasn’t Hawkeye #15 great? Oh right, it didn’t come out yet. So… here’s Hawkeye #16! Yay! David Aja needed some more time to finish the art on #15, so artist Annie Wu stepped in to get #16 out to us early before we go into Hawkguy withdrawal. Luckily writer Matt Fraction, who’s been playing with nonlinear storytelling since the first issue, has been spending the past few issues telling alternate stories of Cliff Barton and Kate Bishop, so Hawkeye #16 shouldn’t be any more confusing. But is it good?
Hawkeye #16 (Marvel Comics)
I’m not one to complain about delays in comic book production, especially considering how much Marvel and DC seem to be rushing their creative teams these days. Why sacrifice quality by pushing an artist to put out a product that isn’t ready? This is particularly true for David Aja, whose innovative layouts and framing helped make Hawkeye one of the best superhero comics in recent memory, earning several awards and, more importantly, a devoted fan base.
Yet for as much as Aja defined the look of the series, it still seems a bit unfair that Annie Wu’s issues have received relatively little fanfare since her debut in #8. Her work shares enough similarities to David Aja and Hawkeye‘s other guest artists to retain the book’s visual consistency, but her work still has a voice of its own, one that perfectly reflects the youthful exuberance of Kate Barton.
I’m sure that many fans are frustrated by the direction that Matt Fraction went in when he separated Clint and Kate (both in terms of physical location and in storytelling sensibilities), but giving Kate more time in the spotlight has proven her to be an interesting enough character to carry her own stories that don’t need to involve her adult partner. This issue has Kate continuing to establish herself as an independent detective/superhero as she tries to help an eccentric has-been musician whose music has been leaked online without his permission.
Sure, it’s not the kind of fate-of-the-world stuff that you’ll find in Avengers, but if that’s what you’re looking for, just read Avengers (note: I do not read Avengers). Part of the brilliance of Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye has been his focus on smaller, character-driven stories that sometimes can barely even be classified as superhero stories at all, yet never are ashamed of their superhero roots. Whereas the classic Marvel formula seems to be “superheroes have problems too,” Hawkeye is about regular people that just so happen to be superheroes.
Needless to say, this is another great issue of a great series. Fraction has a brilliant way of writing tightly plotted standalone issues that move the larger plot of the series forward while retaining a sort of breeziness in the pacing. The dialogue is naturalistic, believable, and quite often very funny, even when it does become somewhat expository. And Fraction’s chemistry with Annie Wu seems just as strong as it is with David Aja. The only real problem with this issue is that the resolution feels somewhat abrupt, but it’s quickly followed by an effective cliffhanger.
I should also note that Hawkeye #16 is Stephen Wacker’s final issue as an editor, as he’s moving on to work at Marvel’s animation department. Between Hawkeye and the similarly transcendent Daredevil, it’s become clear that Wacker has played a huge part in bringing high quality, unique, creator-driven work to Marvel’s stable. Hopefully his successors will continue on that same path that he laid out, but it certainly bodes well for Marvel animation.
Is It Good?
Definitely. Even releasing an issue out of order has done little to slow down Hawkeye‘s momentum.