Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Hawkeye, Volume 4: Rio Bravo Review (Matt Fraction, David Aja)

FINALLY! Finally we get the conclusion to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s defining run on Hawkeye! I read this one in single issues and the earliest one in this collection was advertising Thor: The Dark World, coming soon, to the latest one advertising Ant-Man, in theatres now - that’s how long it’s taken! 

Was it worth the wait? Of course it was. It might’ve suffered from enormous delays (Marvel got impatient waiting for this Hawkeye series to end and pulled the trigger on Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez’s All-New Hawkeye which, at the time of writing, is already 4 issues in!) but you can’t argue with the quality results.

So. The fourth and final Hawkeye volume sees Clint reunited with his down-but-not-quite-out, hobo brother Barney. The Barton brothers are gonna take out the Russian bros once and for all – with the help of Clint’s tenants. The subtitle, taken from the John Wayne movie, has a similar plot as Clint and co. make a final stand in their apartment building against the enemy, led by the fearsome Polish assassin in clown makeup, Kazi (Grills’ killer). Rio Bravo, bitches!

Masterful storytelling from both Fraction and Aja has been the defining quality of the series (who could forget the award-winning Pizza Dog issue?) and this book is full of equally brilliant moments. The first two issues take place at the same time but focuses on a different Barton, the phone call between Barney and Clint connecting them, almost like the characters are communicating across comics.

And here I’ll say minor spoilers if you’ve not read it yet - but of course I’m recommending the book. I won’t say anything about the final issues either except to say Fraction/Aja deliver a flawless finale, perfect down to the last panel (those last 3 pages!).

A preliminary assault on the apartment building by Kazi leaves Clint deaf and Barney in a wheelchair. In a similarly innovative style to the Pizza Dog issue (Hawkeye #11), Aja draws almost an entire issue of untranslated sign language comics between Clint and Barney. Slooowly, speech is reintroduced but I loved how the comic wasn’t just clever visuals but that it was the difficult communication that brought the brothers closer.

Fraction spends some time on the Barton brothers’ abusive childhood. Older brother Barney teaching Clint how to throw, and take, a punch, after another fraught evening with their alcoholic dad, was really sweet. It beautifully informs their present dilemma and tells us so much about their characters. It’s easy to see why Jeff Lemire would want to go back and develop that aspect of their story for his run. 

If there’s one easy cut to make from this volume it’s the Winter Friends episode (Hawkeye #17). Set back in Vol 2 around Christmastime, Clint falls asleep watching a kid’s Christmas cartoon called the Winter Friends and dreams about his life if everyone in it were talking cartoon dogs! It’s weird and whacky as hell, and I appreciate that Marvel published something this peculiar, but it’s easily the most throwaway issue. It doesn’t make me dislike this comic any, it’s just an odd, kinda pointless tangent.

The final two issues are action-packed goodness. A couple of beloved characters reappear to join the fight and their entrance is so baller thanks to David Aja’s eye for framing. You know Clint’s gonna beat Kazi and co. but Fraction throws in such curveballs in the final showdown, my heart was in my mouth – and I’ll leave it at that. It’s one helluva showdown. Afterwards you’ll feel like you’ve been in the wars a bit yourself!

I can’t say enough good things about Fraction’s writing and Aja’s art so I’ll just say it’s among the best Marvel has ever put out – ever – and certainly the best in Hawkeye’s history. This title’s single-handedly cultivated a readership for a second-tier character hardly anybody cared about before. And what a high note for Fraction to leave Marvel on after so many years – Hawkeye is an awesome curtain closer.

(I’m reading between the lines by the way – Fraction’s not officially announced he’s leaving Marvel but he’s got no titles lined up with them either for the first time in a long time. Couple that with several ongoing titles at Image along with TV/movie projects being developed by his and wife Kelly Sue DeConnick’s production company Milkfed Criminal Masterminds and he certainly seems to have moved on from Marvel for the time being. Kelly Sue as well for that matter.)

Rio Bravo is a completely satisfying final chapter to this wonderful series. It’s full of the artistry, humour, inventive and imaginative storytelling, emotional character-work and outstanding art that has made Hawkeye one of Marvel’s prestige titles. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll love how it ends – and hate that it’s over!

Take a bow, Fraction, Aja, Hollingsworth, Wu, Pulido, Francavilla and the whole creative team behind Hawkeye – you guys repeatedly hit the target!

1 comment:

  1. I'm really looking forward to this one. Vol. 2 felt like a low point in the series, but otherwise Hawkeye has been amazing.