"Hawkeye" #6 by Matt Fraction and David Aja is so good, I read it in the middle of a terrible bout of food poisoning and laughed and smiled throughout -- it may have even temporarily cured me of my illness. If only all comics could be so good.
I love a good holiday themed comic book, but they're tough to do well as they so easily fall into cloying sentimentality or cliché, but "Hawkeye" skirts all of that nonsense. This issue jumps back and forth in time, but begins, sort of, with Clint burnt out and needing a vacation. A simple thing, this leads to he and Tony Stark trying to fix his DVR set-up, Clint trying to avoid hearing spoilers on "Dog Cops", the return of the Tracksuit Mafia (and the necessary hi-jinx that come with that), a hint about our mysterious red-head, Kate Bishop calling Clint on his crap and just about everything else you could jam into one crazy, fun comic.
Matt Fraction is simply at his absolute best on this title. Some will (and do) find this book slight; I find it joyous. I find it perfectly, deliciously in sync with what superhero comics need right now -- a sense of humor, some breathing room from all the bleak and dour, some life, some joy. But it also always makes sense. There is a method to the madness, not only is there a method but a vision, a perfectly executed vision that is easy to understand and a sheer delight to experience. This book being exactly what I need in comics right now doesn't mean there isn't room for different more serious books, books with more plot or layers; it just means that sometimes a hilarious and exceptional character piece is exactly that.
David Aja is also at his absolute best with "Hawkeye." Embracing the talk-y, humorous style of Fraction's writing, and leaning heavily on character acting and inventive panel layout, Aja is doing wonderful things with storytelling in a way that is somehow both entirely different than J.H. Williams III and also completely reminiscent of Williams' work. I have a feel for Aja's Clint (as well as his Tony Stark, his Kate Bishop and even his 'hot redhead hookup') that only the finest cartoonists can manage. In just a few lines, he tells me so much, and part of what he tells me is that I am in love.
Being in love with a superhero comic book is such an amazing experience. It's rare enough that I'm having trouble remembering when I last felt this way about a superhero book. Perhaps it was Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III's "Batwoman/Detective Comics" run? It's fitting that though these two titles could not be more different, they both perfectly represent what makes superhero comics work. Brilliantly talented creators with a passion for their work, fantastic characters, and editors/publishers unafraid, and even excited, to do something a little different and a lot wonderful.