"Hawkeye" #2 depicts a case of Clint Barton going up against a band of robbers who steal from other villains. With such a simple set up, Matt Fraction and David Aja then go about telling a bold, innovative and praiseworthy comic story. In fact, whatever every single positive about this comic is true. This issue is refreshing, amazing and the type of story that can only be told in this format. Comics needs more issues that can only ever be made and told in the medium.
This issue feels like Matt Fraction has finally decided he's done the rote superhero thing and is big and comfortable enough to bring his unique creative sensibility back to a Marvel book. He's certainly been creative and innovative before this -- see "The Immortal Iron Fist" amongst many other early entries -- but this book is a distillation of his lessons learned.
In fact, "Hawkeye" feels very much like Fraction's "Casanova" hidden in a mainstream Marvel book. The freeze frame panel/captions and the wholistic color schemes all remind of Fraction's titanic independent creation with Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Pages break minutiae down across a sea of panels (and sometimes text), yet no page feels weighed down in the slightest. The opening page is 12 panels and a page toward the end has 24 panels. Despite the number of panels, both pages manage to fit in tight emotional beats, story, character and setting.
It can't be stressed enough, anyone who enjoys comics or has even the slightest desire to create them, this issue is perfect for an academic journey into how stories should be told in comics. The ability of Fraction and Aja to condense moments and refract them through a comic page is spectacular. They use devices that will only ever work on a comic page and there is a mixture of making it "cool" as well as something more. These aren't cheap shots, this is war and your brain is the battlefield. The added bonus is that this style works just as well for the action beats as it does the text heavy spoken moments of personal connection.
David Aja is a master storyteller. He is also an individual and a creator always looking to find new ground to innovate. He doesn't rest on his laurels and he isn't complacently looking to simply ape others who attained greatness. Aja makes a page of multiple panels look pretty while moving the story along. Aja can lead an eye across a page however he likes because he builds them specifically to be read, making the clutter a cryptic puzzle that materializes into sense as you engage with it.
"Hawkeye" #2 is sublime. There is nothing wrong with this book. The story is sharp and to the point, the art gorgeous and on point. Even Chris Eliopoulos shows greatness with the letters, especially with Barton's whispering moment. Matt Hollingsworth brings style and cohesion to his colors. This is the ultimate second tier Marvel title as it offers everything readers generally won't get in a tentpole book. "Uncanny X-Force" finally has a tight challenger at the house of ideas. The winner, thankfully, is everyone.