Matt Fraction and David Aja's "Hawkeye" #1 is unlike so many mainstream superhero comics that I took in most of the book with my mouth hanging open. Feeling much more like a great indie book than a structured "big two" installment, the enthusiasm Fraction and Aja have for this comic is practically palpable.
The indie feeling about this first issue is evident even before the book begins, with a casual (and super fun) introduction on the first page. The non-traditional art and unusual writing style only reinforce the feeling that this book is something unique. By the end of the issue, readers will be hard-pressed not to feel like this is an indie book masquerading as a big-two comic.
The story is decidedly simple and not terribly unique, but the execution is so flawless that it sings anyway. Amidst a somewhat cliché series of events, Fraction has found a surprisingly nice angle on Clint. He's the nice guy who finishes last, but he's also an Avenger, the most beloved superheroes of the Marvel Universe, so how can he ever be perceived as someone who finishes last? It's a nice dichotomy that Fraction sets up and it works well in establishing Clint as someone interesting that you'd like to read more about.
Aja's art is perfectly chosen for the tone and style of this book. It's pared down and lovely, and not overly superhero-esque, but has just that right touch of hero that makes it work on so many levels for the characters and settings. It's simultaneously loose in the way it renders Clint's world, but also detailed enough that everything feels fleshed out and well considered. The looseness of Aja's style lives within a highly structured and simple panel layout that contrasts nicely and also echoes some of Fraction's contrasts. Aja's art is a little bit Sean Phillips, a little bit Chris Samnee, and a little bit John Paul Leon (all good things to be) merging together beautifully into something that becomes decidedly his alone. I'm left waiting anxiously to see more.
Matt Hollingsworth colors are also a perfect tonal match for this book and an exceptional complement to Aja's art. His color palette shifts effortlessly and expressively from bathed in yellow day scenes to blue toned evenings, the sickly green of an underground casino and the darker, deeper blues of a rainy night. It's gorgeous subtle coloring work that easily adds as much emotion to the book as the writing or art.
Marvel has had their share of missteps lately, but they have also made so many cool and smart choices of late, like bringing on Brian Wood and letting Fraction and Aja do this book exactly as I imagine they wanted. The result is a smart, modern comic that pulsates with creativity. "Hawkeye" #1 joins books like "Wolverine & The X-Men," "Ultimate Comics Spider-Man" and "Daredevil" as one of the best and most interesting superhero books on stands.