Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Hawkeye, Volume 3: LA Woman Review (Matt Fraction, Annie Wu)


Clint Barton aka Hawkeye screwed up. No surprises there, but this time his protege, Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye, has had enough. She’s leaving New York for the West Coast, and she’s taking Lucky aka Pizza Dog with her. Together, they’ll set up an unlicensed private detective agency and Kate will strike out as: the West Coast Avenger! 

When Kate left to be her own person and left Clint behind, the series literally became split with Matt Fraction writing one issue of Clint, then one issue of Kate, and so on, which is why the numbering of this volume is all over the place (#14, 16, 18, 20 & Annual #1), and why it’s been over a year since volume 2 came out that we’re finally seeing volume 3. Good news is that volume 4 is right around the corner, bad news is that it’s Fraction and co.’s last Hawkeye book! 

I really liked this book but I didn’t LOVE it like I did the last two Hawkeyes, so, before the praise, let’s get the negs out of the way.

Hawkeye as a series has worked really well because of the concept - what he does when he’s NOT being an Avenger. It’s an anti-superhero book. It’s about becoming more street level than an already street level character. And that was really charming - for Clint. 

For Kate? Well, she sets up a detective agency. I love Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman/Bored to Death, but that is such a hipster douchebag-y thing to do. A detective agency? It’s just so twee and precious, y’know? And then there’s the cases themselves where she goes looking for some stolen orchids, or helps out a Brian Wilson-type who was a ‘60s superstar who went crazy and has been working on his masterpiece album for decades… they weren’t bad to read, I just wasn’t enamoured with them. 

Oddly, the concept the series has thus far tried to avoid - the superhero story - IS the best part of LA Woman. Kate tangling with her nemesis Madame Masque (who we met earlier in Volume 1 when Kate impersonated her) were the most entertaining moments in her story. It forced her to step up and become more real than the posturing, overly cute hipster-type she is when she’s pretending she’s a PI. 

I loved that Fraction splits the Hawkeyes but they both end up having similar adventures. On the East Coast, Clint’s got Clown-Face and the tracksuit bros to contend with, while on the West Coast, Kate’s got Madame Masque and the bellboys to fight. 

Then there’s Kate herself, whose character I really liked. I know, I called her a hipster douchebag, but, thankfully, there’s more to her than that - she’s got a great personality, she’s funny, she’s clever, she’s silly. She’s basically the younger female version of Clint! More impressively though is that Fraction’s made her seem like a real person - in the Marvel Universe! 

She is a superhero who’s part of the Young Avengers, and she’s killer with the bow, but she’s also a teenager and her limited world experience comes through at times to make her seem vulnerable, naive and human. She’s also optimistic and caring, and I’m tiptoeing around the fact that she’s beautiful too because that’s a pretty shallow judgement, but what the hell - yes I would!

Which brings us to Annie Wu, the artist on the Kate Bishop issues (David Aja draws the Clint Barton issues). Wowee, is this art good! Kate’s outfit is stylish but practical and also fits into her dead-broke-ain’t-no-joke situation. And yeah she makes Kate look gorgeous too! Wu isn’t Aja in that she doesn’t do crazy imaginative layouts and approaches, but she lends a smooth, flowing and beautiful line to the comics that feels perfect for the breezy West Coast culture. It’s her own style but it’s also incredibly accomplished and stunning to see - Hawkeye is a series that has had nothing but fine artists throughout. And I especially loved that Kate’s PI mentor looked exactly like Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye! 

My favourite issue in the book though was drawn by Javier Pulido, the artist from the two-parter Tape storyline from Hawkeye Volume 1 (and who’s also currently drawing the brilliant She-Hulk series). Some people might not like his silhouette-heavy style, but I adore it and, while all of his pages were awesome, his credits panel was ridiculously special. It also helped that that issue was probably the best written of the bunch, too. 

Hawkeye Volume 3 may not be as perfect as the first two volumes were, but, damn, those were some pretty high bars Fraction and co. set for themselves, and it’s unfair to expect that level in every outing. Instead, Volume 3 is a really good Hawkeye book, one that focuses on a different Hawkeye but still retains the Hawkeye atmosphere and fun. Fans of the series will certainly enjoy it as will those who miss Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers - this is the story of what Kate did next. And she did good!

Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman

2 comments:

  1. I found myself really not impressed by Hawkeye Vol. 2. It actually made me like Clint Barton less and that was something that the Pizza Dog issue couldn't fix. That said, I've been loving the character of Kate Bishop, so really want to read this one.

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    1. Really? Wow, all I've heard is great things about Vol 2 and Hawkeye #11 was my favourite comic of 2013. At any rate, Vol 3's awesome and so's Kate!

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