Hints had been concealed throughout the series before issue 11, but Pizza Dog's story demonstrated that the creative crew was more invested in how perspective influenced plot than the other way around. In many superhero narratives, operatic plots are the be-all, end-all. Thematic content or characters beats take a backseat to solving the ridiculous problem of how to save the world. In Hawkeye, how characters perceive the plot supersedes the action. This approach has made it unique and beloved among Marvel Now! books, and it's not hard to see why. Lucky's journey through Clint's apartment building is a treat because no other series on the stands would showcase a dog's point of view.
Throughout Hawkeye, Fraction and Aja have taken the time to detail varying perspectives, often to delightful results. We get an issue of Lucky's adventures. We get Kate Bishop -- the other Hawkeye -- encountering a Long Goodbye-ish L.A. detective who may or may not exist. And we get Clint Barton -- the first Hawkeye -- spotting a Daily Bugle headline, and translating it into his own interpretation of events. Other highlights include Clint quizzically translating the potential French or Italian being yelled at him by thugs, and a visualization of his concentration while aiming his bow and arrow:
Of course, this series has its problems. Clint is very much a white straight guy, and there are already a lot of white straight guy heroes in comics. Clint is set apart by his truly terrible decision-making, but the "bro bro bro" refrain from his thug antagonists can get tiring. Likewise, Kate's penchant for Kate-ifying everything (she calls trouble a "Kate-astrophe") can get grating. Such are the dangers of pointedly placing the reader inside the characters' heads. The long wait times between issues has also been hard to accept. (Fraction's decompressed storytelling, which has showcased the same series of events from four different perspectives, will likely read better in trade, instead of month to month.) I've found myself falling out of love with the series, despite its innovation, because I'm never sure when the next issue will appear. And since the two Hawkeyes are living across the country from one another right now, I've lost a sense of the story's larger stakes, at least regarding protection of Clint's apartment building.
That's all changed with issue 19. I didn't even realize the book was coming out today, so unaware have I been of its extended schedule. Luckily, my friend Nick linked me to a New York Times article last week discussing the fact that the series would be embracing Clint's past as a hard of hearing hero. After reading about Fraction and Aja's intentions, I got pretty fired up. I've always been troubled by Marvel's claim to bonafides in portraying disability; Clint rarely if ever displays hearing loss in appearances I've read, and while the creation of Blue Ear is an amazing story people link me to on a consistent basis, I'm still aware that Marvel recently "fridged" its one Deaf female hero, Echo. Hawkeye's artistic and editorial team working to share the perspective of somebody with hearing loss could only be a light in the darkness.
If you have any interest at all in graphic innovation or diversity in comics, please, please, PLEASE pick up Hawkeye 19. When we last left Clint, his ears had been damaged by an assassin, and his brother Barney had been shot. At the start of this issue, not only is Clint mourning the loss of his hearing, Barney is adjusting to the use of a wheelchair -- which Aja depicts in detail, as Barney must transfer from his chair to a car seat for the cab ride home from the hospital. Clint refuses to read lips, which leads to Barney encouraging him to speak via sign language. Clint's perspective is represented through blank speech bubbles, and Barney's signs are displayed in spelled letters or "how-to" manual type graphics, as shown above. Late in the story, when Clint begins to read lips, his tenants' words appear in lopsided bubbles, with sentences broken up into parenthesized fragments. (Still, their agreement to work together to rid themselves of the villains terrorizing their lives is represented not in speech, but gesture -- the powerful image of several raised arms, in unison.) If Fraction and Aja aimed to depict the non-hearing world for those who can hear, I'd say they more than succeeded. The effort it takes to decipher this story reminds me of the extreme focus I need to employ when my hearing aid is in the shop. And Clint's efforts to touch the world and understand it become more worthwhile and celebratory for his concentration and effort.
Hawkeye's hearing loss has appeared and disappeared before, but I hope it at least sticks around for the rest of Fraction's run, which ends with issue 21 or 22. Marvel could use the perspective; such characters only enrich the company's universe. And if you look at the sales numbers for digital comics and comic book movies, it's clear the audience wants more than white bread heroes. With diversity being triumphed by many creators and even companies, with the reading audience broadening and clamoring for more varied points of view, a big change feels like it's coming to comics: one that includes as many points of view as there are people on the planet.
Hawkeye artists: Matt Fraction, Writer; David Aja, Artist; David Aja & Chris Eliopoulos; Matt Hollingsworth, Colorist.