Even though Hawkeye has had the staying power to last in the Marvel universe for about 50 years, it seems his appearances in recent Marvel films have made him more popular than ever. Clint Barton hasn’t had a ton of screen time, but somehow Jeremy Renner made the character resonate with fans. Maybe it’s his performance, maybe it’s the archery (Katniss made it cool), or maybe it’s his fancy superhero duds. Or, most likely, it’s a combination of all those factors. Plus, his flirtations with Black Widow don’t hurt. Anyone she likes enough to spend time with in Budapest is a-okay by me.
Hawkeye’s approval rating has only grown with Matt Fraction and David Aja’s current run on Hawkeye. The series has garnered awards and high praise. I know when a new issue is out not because of the calendar but because I see people commenting on it all over Twitter. Not that being talked about on social media is a measure of ultimate success, but the constant mentions generate interest from people who haven’t picked up the series yet. Word of mouth, kids. It’s the best kind of advertising there is.
My introduction to the purple-wearing hero was through the movies. I liked him and was impressed by his aim, but I didn’t catch Hawkeye fever until the Battle of New York. I’ll forgive the use of two arm guards and him shooting his bow horizontally because the man can take care of business. We don’t learn much about the character’s past in the movies, but the mystery adds to his appeal. And, the tease was enough that I was left with a desire to go to the comic book shop and find some stories to fill in the blanks. Well played, Marvel.
I didn’t find a book that quite hit the target (ha) until Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye #1 hit shelves in August 2012. Unlike many superhero comics I’d read up to that point, it truly felt like a solo title. It’s not about team-ups or crossovers with a bazillion other heroes. Sure, the Avengers are referenced and Clint Barton does have a supporting cast with regulars like the lovable Pizza Dog, but the focus stays on him. It’s refreshing and different. That’s just a couple of the reasons the series has found success.
It’s not just that the stories focus on Barton, everything does. The palette of the art features purple in shades from lavender-gray to almost pink. Symbols like targets and arrows appear on the striking covers (I’d happily hang all of the covers on my walls) but also throughout the pages. You’re getting subtle Hawkeye nods on each page that squirm into your subconscious and block out awareness of other superheroes. Okay, that’s drastic, but every little visual piece has an effect.
Hawkeye works for me on an aesthetic level, but the story also grabs me. It’s just as much about Clint Barton as it is Hawkeye, and though it makes me cringe to see Barton put through the ringer time and time again, his flaws make him relatable. He’s just another dude making a living. His “same crap, different day” attitude works for the story. Yes, Barton happens to be incredibly skilled and part of a superheroic team, but when he’s off duty, he’s the kind of guy you can grab a beer with at the neighborhood bar.
And yet another cool aspect of the series? It’s a great jumping on point for Hawkeye newbs like me, and I always appreciate feeling welcome.
By seemingly doing their own thing, Fraction and Aja have made Clint Barton the superhero next door. They’ve made his story genuine, insanely fun, and entertaining. Of course audiences and critics are enjoying the ride. I’ve not read any other series quite like this one, and it’s heartening to see that Marvel is willing to let creators loose to play outside of the lines.