At The Comic Book Shop: Hawkeye 22

The 22nd and final issue of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run on “Hawkeye” came out on Wednesday. It’s was a milestone moment for great comics and I was going to be professional and rush out a review on Wednesday as soon as I finished reading it. But then I got busy.

And then I thought, “Why should I rush?” It’s not like Marvel was in a hurry to get this comic to the public. In fact, the proper response would really be to wait 6 or 9 months and then run the review.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first issue of “Hawkeye” by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja came out in August of 2012. I remember it well because it came out during LawyerCon so I picked up my copy in a strange comic shop in a strange state. Took it back to the hotel and read it while sitting by the pool.

hawkeye_2It was a special comic. It starts with Clint falling out of a building and ends with him adopting a dog that saved his life. The villain is Clint’s landlord, who’s legally raised everyone’s rent to clear out the building. It wasn’t a big, special-effects extravaganza with the fate of the world at stake. This volume of “Hawkeye” was going to be different.

It would have to be. Clint’s previous run of more traditional superhero adventures hadn’t set the world on fire. “Hawkeye and Mockingbird” was canceled after 6 issues. That was followed by a couple of low-selling mini-series. It was actually something of a surprise that Marvel was going to give the character another chance. I guess that’s what happens when you become a movie star.

Fraction’s premise was simple: This would be about what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger. Of course, he still ends up fighting evil because no one wants to read 22 issues of Clint doing laundry or watching “Dog Cops.” But the evil here is mainly a bunch of Russian thugs in tracksuits engaged in real estate fraud.

To everyone’s surprise, “Hawkeye” became a critical, and for the first time commercial, success. Awards were won. The collected editions topped best seller lists. Digital sales were high. People were showing up at conventions cosplaying as Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and his protegé Hawkeye (Kate Bishop). Hawkeye merchandise was plentiful. It was, for the first time in a long time, a good time to be a Hawkeye fan.

And then it all went to hell. Because Hawkeye fans can’t have nice things.

Comics, you’re probably aware, are periodical magazines that come out on a schedule. Usually monthly. As I mentioned earlier, “Hawkeye 1” came out in August 2012. “Hawkeye 22” came out in July 2015. You do the math.

Don’t bother, I can even do this math: It took Marvel 35 months to publish 22 issues.  I don’t remember when the schedule went off the rails, but the delays over the past year-and-a-half really sucked all the momentum out of what had been a big buzz comic. The previous issue came out in February. That’s a 5 month wait for the finale. Marvel actually started publishing a new Hawkeye series with a new creative team and got two issues out before the Fraction/Aja finale arrived.

Could be worse. Could be “Planetary.”

But hey, it’s here. It’s done.Hawkeye_22 Fraction and Aja have moved on to other things. No one will know or care about the delays as future readers will come at this in collected editions or an omnibus.

So how does it stack up?

Pretty well. Obviously it couldn’t live up to the five-month wait, but writer and artist cleverly tie up most loose ends, bring in all the secondary characters for a final bow, call back to a variety of small moments in the book’s run, and reunite Clint, Kate and Lucky. It’s one of the finest comics Marvel has ever published and it’s changed how the company deals with its second-string characters.

So kudos to Matt Fraction, David Aja, Matt Hollingsworth, Chris Eliopoulos and the many other artists, editors and whatnot who brought this volume of “Hawkeye” to life. As a long-time Hawkeye fan this was long overdue.

Good job, bros.


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