"It was the nineties. Our sodas were crystal. Our t-shirts were hypercolor. Our hard drives were almost 80 megs." When a comic's early pages have snappy lines like this, and focus around a cat that wreaks havoc on our hero's home, you might think that "Hawkeye" #18 is a comedy. And at first, it looks like Matt Fraction and Annie Wu are presenting just that. But this is a book that gets progressively darker with each page. As a result -- well, if Marvel published a new comic just about Kate Bishop's adventures in Los Angeles by Fraction and Wu, I'd be fully on board.
Fraction eases readers into this story about immortality, death threats and the main source of evil in Los Angeles with these lighter scenes. But bit by bit, things start to get worse and worse, even as you start to wonder if Kate is in over her head. The tension slowly ratchets up, and as the tally of bruises and collateral damage increases, you start to wonder at what point everything's going to give.
While this issue stands on its own, it also fits into the larger Los Angeles storyline that Fraction's been creating for Kate. Madame Masque has rapidly turned into a truly dangerous villain for Kate, one whose reach continues to grow and spread across the city. And likewise, Kate's supporting cast entertains me more with each episode, from Harold's backstory being revealed, Finch's little lines like, "Ew. Paging Gloria Swanson." While this is a progressively dark comic, those little gems keep it from ever becoming truly bleak.
It doesn't hurt that Wu's art looks great, of course. She and Matt Hollingsworth create dark, dank spaces for this story to unfold in a way that just drips with atmosphere. From the dark shadows stretching across the deep blue interior of Harold's home, to the little glints of glowing eyes in the darkness watching every one of Kate's moves, this at times feels almost more like a horror comic than a superhero tale. Then again, considering everything Kate goes up against here, that might not be too far off. Wu's also good with the action sequences. The jumble of bellhops in the hallway of Encounter restaurant brings a great rough and tumble feel to a scene that should be chaotic, and Kate's attempt to duplicate Clint's out-the-window arrow shot is one that you can follow almost perfectly as the arrow whizzes off into the air. Wu's given the Los Angeles half of "Hawkeye" its own look and feel, and I love it.
"Hawkeye" #18 is another big success, to the point that I don't want Kate's time in Los Angeles to (presumably) come to a close before too much longer. It's fun, it's creepy, it's smart, and I'm hooked. Once again, a winner.