It took me a long time to talk myself into picking up Matt Fraction's Hawkeye #1. For one thing, I've never really been all that interested in Clint Barton as a character. I like him enough to enjoy him in spots (I kinda dug his recent Hawkeye Solo miniseries) and I like the idea of him – the wrong-side-of-the-tracks carnie who's one of the only guys willing to butt heads with Captain America on tactical moves- but he's still kind of a yawner to me. My eagerness to read Secret Avengers each month wanes a little when I remember he replaced Cap as their leader. On top of that, I've never really seen much out of Fraction that I've enjoyed, either – his Defenders made me twitch with its smugness and I spent most of last year hating Fear Itself.
But this is a new #1 launching a new series with a lot of hype because Jeremy Renner was cool in the movie, and it's my job to read these things and talk about them, no matter how much I'd prefer to shrug it off. For pete's sake, I actually read Hawk and Dove #1, I can't read this? Surprisingly enough, it turned out to be pretty well worth my time and effort to get over my prejudice. Matt Fraction's Hawkeye #1 is a good read.
That said, my enjoyment of this book comes less from any particular appreciation for Clint Barton as a character than it does from how much I like the setting, the fleshed-out, realistic world Fraction builds around him. Clint's recovering from a six-week stay at the hospital after a superhero-fail, and returning to his home away from mansion – a crappy Bed-Stuy building owned by a Russian gangster who has set about evicting everybody by tripling their rents. Money doesn't mean jack to Barton these days (one supposes being an Avenger is lucrative?), but that's not the case for the families losing their homes. Thus, it's up to Clint to try and make things right. But this Ivan guy, he's the kind of guy who would throw a dog in the street, so it's not going to be easy or pleasant. But don't worry. The dog gets fixed.
The story is told in jump cuts from past to present, and that gets a little confusing here and there, but David Aja's strong, gritty artwork is well in service of this life-build we're getting for Clint. The people around him feel real, the city around him feels real, and there's no sense of ain't-I-clever asshattery that I feared I'd get from a Fraction-penned wiseacre Hawkeye. The fact that he's just a guy who's good with a bow and arrow could really make for a compelling series where superheroing is completely incidental, and a depiction of everyday life in the Marvel Universe would make for a great hook. Every once in a while, Clint has to break out the archery to solve a problem, but it doesn't have to be a killer-death-robot or Count Nefaria. It can just be jerkwad thugs or real-world threats.
Of course, next issue is bringing us Young Avenger Kate Bishop as a potential sidekick, so that might not stick as an idea. Then again, she's just a good archer, too. The lack of powers and lack of punisher-style gunplay could really make this a unique book. We'll just have to see how long this respectable restraint lasts.