With a book as good as "Hawkeye," it sounds strange to be disappointed with an issue that is only "above average." And while there's no doubt that Matt Fraction and Francesco Francavilla have created a good comic in "Hawkeye" #10, it's hard to keep from being a little wistful when you compare it to some of the stronger issues that preceded it.
"Hawkeye" #10 introduces us to Kazi, an Eastern European young man that Kate Bishop meets at one of her father's parties. The book jumps back and forth between Kazi's past and present. It's a somewhat familiar story, with the new person that Kate's met not being quite what he seems and in fact proving to be quite dangerous. I like this issue's focus on Kate, though; she's been a great character ever since her creation in "Young Avengers" and I love her getting a more central role. Her explanation of the grid of New York City to Kazi and why she loves it is the sort of moment that is both pure Fraction and also pure Kate; it plays to the strengths of both, and I think in some ways it's why her appearances in this title have been so strong.
Otherwise, though, this story is rather straightforward. Fraction doesn't play any tricks, there's no large shuffling of time periods or viewpoints (even though a lot of this is a flashback). I did like the technique that Fraction uses where the words that Kazi uses to describe his past having a distinctly different meaning when you pair them with the visuals. That's something that works well in a medium like comics, and Fraction never loses sight of making the words sound innocent until you see what Kazi is really talking about.
Francavilla's an amazing artist and so it's not a surprise that the art looks great. There's also no denying, though, that Francavilla brings his own style and approach to the comic. He doesn't try to ape regular artist David Aja's page layouts or overall look to the art, and as a result those who were expecting Aja might be a little surprised. Gone are the lots of little panels, and in its place are large, strong images that carry a lot of detail and emotion. There are a few little narrative tricks that show up here and there, though. I love the historic postcards that are overlaid onto the map of Manhattan when Kate talks about the city, for instance. It's a nice way of bringing her points across (especially showing the actual grid) and also a reminder of the time of the city that she's referring to. The page with the caption, "I come from a real hellhole," is also especially noteworthy, with Kazi's eyes in the center and little shards radiating out of them. Not only does Francavilla draw some perfectly dead eyes in the center, but by having all the other images coming out from where they are, gives the reader the additional statement that these are all things that Kazi's seen.
"Hawkeye" #10 is a different format than normal, and because there's a lot of backstory and set-up here, it's not quite as fantastic as readers might otherwise expect. Don't get me wrong: it's still very good, and I definitely would like to see Fraction and Francavilla collaborate again down the line. But nonetheless, I am looking forward for the shift back from "very good" to "great" again, and soon.