Saturday, 19 September 2015

Hawkeye, Volume 5: All-New Hawkeye Review (Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez)


Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez have the unenviable task of following up one of Marvel’s most celebrated titles in recent years, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye – but they’ve risen admirably to the task and hit the target with a damn good comic! 

Lemire decides on a mix of past and present as he goes back and focuses on Clint’s difficult childhood with his brother Barney as they were bounced from one abusive foster family to another before literally running away to join the circus! 

Meanwhile in the present, the Hawkeyes rescue some kids being experimented on by HYDRA – before realising SHIELD are in on it too! With two massive organisations with (supposedly) differing alignments on their trail, will the two best archers in the Marvel Universe (and their trusty dog) be able to give these kids a shot at a happy childhood? 

Though it’s titled “All-New Hawkeye”, it’s still the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye characters – deaf Clint and Kate – and of course the beloved Pizza Dog; so it’s basically a misnomer as the only difference is the creative team. The change behind the scenes is instantly noticeable as Lemire’s approach isn’t as funny as Fraction’s. That’s not to say his script doesn’t have its moments but generally it’s a fairly average story without that crackly energy or a satisfying ending. 

It’s an origin story of sorts as we see Clint get his nickname, the inspiration for his classic outfit, his original moral compass, and how he got started on bows and arrows, all of which is kinda corny and pointless. Lemire keeps Clint and Kate’s relationship fun and light for the most part which makes the forced fight between them towards the end feel all the more contrived. Parallels between the past and present repeating are a major theme and Kate punching Clint felt out of character and done in service to that theme more than anything. 

By far the big draw (pun intended) on All-New Hawkeye is artist Ramon Perez who produces one of 2015’s most breath-taking comics here. He draws the childhood scenes in stunning watercolours and the present in a convincing Aja facsimile albeit in his own style. Colourist Ian Herring assists in giving the past a romantic look with all that purple and stark primary colours for the present – wonderful choices! 

Early on there’s a double splash page designed to mirror a pond’s surface which is drawn in a dreamy watercolour as the panels swirl amongst them – it’s not only gorgeous but your eye effortlessly follows the correct sequences of panels from left to right across both pages to left and right again in a zigzag pattern. When Clint and Barney’s abusive foster father appears the (Hawkeye) purple watercolours become red symbolising the danger and violence he represents. 

One character holds a sword to another’s throat, the perspective in the reader’s first person so we’re looking up at the person holding the sword but the character in our place is reflected in the blade. The cover to issue #3 has the character of the Swordsman holding up his sword with classic Hawkeye in the blade’s reflection, ingeniously showing us the influence this guy had on Clint in later life while also cleverly placing Hawkeye in the cover. 

One sequence has Clint in the present running from HYDRA with the watercolour of his younger self reflected in the glass opposite also running. Perez beautifully incorporates the parallel stories together in his art so one issue has the past storyline playing out silently in the bottom panels and then in the next it’s the present underneath with the past at full volume. It’s not just a pretty comic but its panels are designed intelligently, imaginatively and stylishly at the same time. 

I can’t emphasise enough how good the art in this book is. Ramon Perez did an incredible job in Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand but outdoes himself on All-New Hawkeye. It’s such impressive work that elevates the quality of the book far beyond Lemire’s writing. 

Comparisons to Fraction and Aja are unavoidable and All-New Hawkeye isn’t as awesome as their books were but it’s still really good. Lemire’s script and story is just ok but Perez’s art saves the comic and pushes it into the realm of greatness (a bit like the current Black Widow comic where Phil Noto’s art easily outshines Nathan Edmondson’s work). Hawkeye is a title that continues to have some of Marvel’s best and most interesting art and that alone makes it worth checking out.

Hawkeye, Volume 5: All-New Hawkeye

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