In this post, I’d like to talk about work that is not my own. After all, this is a blog, and I’d like to start featuring work that I enjoy and find inspirational. So let’s talk comics.
I recently dove into Hawkeye, Volume Four at the suggestion of my comic book aficionado brother–in–law. I must say that, although I enjoy comics and graphic novels, I am extremely particular with what I read. If the art is bad, I don’t read it. If the writing is bad, I don’t read it. I typically do NOT like superhero stories, because why are we limiting an entire medium to one tiny genre?
(top picks on my list are Watchmen, Metal Gear Solid, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, 100 Bullets, and Garth Ennis’s run on The Punisher….I like noir–ish tales and protagonists that are flawed, “regular” people)
Hawkeye, Volume Four is written by Matt Fraction with art by David Aja. The covers are extremely clean and graphic, with an Apple–like attention to the use of white, silhouettes, color, and negative space.
The interior is equally interesting. Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, is a regular dude with no powers (but extraordinary skill with a bow), and even so, the stories are much more about common issues like helping his neighbors out than it is about fighting off villains. Aja makes clever use of panels, icons, and composition. This is a great example of a work that could only be done in this medium, and it’s done very well. It’s very refreshing to see a leap forward like this, especially after reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics (which is an excellent book and will make you wonder why comics is considered such a “low” art form).
Particularly awesome is an issue that is told from Hawkeye’s dog’s perspective, involving only panels and icons, with a word here and there that the dog might recognize. It works beautifully, and even though the writing is usually light and witty, it’s interesting how this comic plays on our ability to navigate through the panels and unravel the story. Another strong point: a serious female main character who is NOT a love interest.
So, despite Hawkeye being an Avenger, this series really turns the genre on its head. It’s quite invigorating. I think it’s really unfortunate that comics have been locked into this stereotype that they can only be for guys who grew up with them, or for geeks, or source material for big budget superhero films. They are pictures and words, which we all use and like. This medium could be so much more than it has been. I’ve noticed that board games have become more popular recently (thank goodness…as much as I love videogames, I think board games are a great social alternative). Maybe the same could happen here…comics just needs a push.