Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run on Hawkeye has been critically acclaimed winning two Eisner Awards for Aja’s art. It also has gained a cult following of fans for whom “bro”, “Hawkguy”, and “Pizza Dog” have become part of their personal vernacular. Sometimes Hawkeye can be too cutesy for its own good and focus on its protagonist’s ineptitude at the expense of storytelling. However, Hawkeye #6 represents the series at its finest. Matt Fraction’s dialogue is sharp and occasionally hilarious, and he delves into Clint Barton’s inner demons and interpersonal relationships without getting too melodramatic. Aja’s collage-style art fits Fraction’s writing because it juxtaposes Clint’s facial expressions, body language, and reactions to the people and objects around him. The many fragmented panels he uses to tell the story fit the non-linear nature of Fraction’s plot. But Hawkeye #6 isn’t just a technically solid comic, it is the story of a normal guy trying to move into his apartment, who just happens to be an Avenger and skilled at archery.
From the first page, Fraction and Aja commit to the slice of life genre in Hawkeye #6. That page has a lot of close-up shots of colored wires and Clint talking about cutting them, like he is trying to disable a bomb. Then Aja pulls away and reveals that Tony Stark is helping Clint install a DVR in his messy apartment. Even though this comic features appearances from Marvel heavy-hitters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, the events of Hawkeye #6 are very mundane and range from Clint chatting with an elderly neighbor at a cookout to trying to avoid spoilers for the popular show Dog Cops. Fraction crafts Clint Barton as a relatable character with every day problems, like moving into a new apartment or just general insecurities, like feeling he is unwanted by the Avengers or even his neighbors.
Aja doesn’t also shy away from showing the physical punishment Clint takes in his day job as an Avenger or even when he tries to keep the Tracksuit Vampires (read Hawkeye #1 if this is confusing) from intruding on the apartment building he brought from them earlier in the series. Colorist Matt Hollingsworth captures Clint’s vulnerabilities when he uses black silhouettes to show him getting beat up by his enemies. However, Clint doesn’t get his ass kicked verbally and physically the whole comic. Aja uses bigger panels and even a full page spread to show Clint reminiscing over the laser disc of his favorite film Blade Runner and eventually protecting his block. His art captures the little ironies of a man who has a credit card with no limit, but doesn’t even own an HDMI cable. He also provides most of the punchlines for Fraction’s jokes with character reactions and facial expressions.
Hawkeye #6 is a stand-alone, character driven comic with art that is part newspaper strip and part collage. It captures both the warmth and pain of the holidays through the eyes of the Marvel universe’s most blue collar superhero. Fraction and Aja’s Clint Barton is similar to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Peter Parker because he can’t catch a break as a superhero or in his relationships, but he lacks Parker’s genius-level intellect which makes him even more sympathetic to readers. If you read one comic this holiday, buy, borrow, or steal Hawkeye #6. It’s a superhero comic for people who hate superhero comics and an indie comic for people who hate indie comics. And it’ll probably be the only time that you’ll ever see Tony Stark setting up a DVR.