There are some cases where enjoying entertainment can also double as a learning experience. It’s not just entertaining, but also informative because the technique can be studied. There is no other artist drawing comics today that tells a story quite as well as David Aja. His work on Iron Fist is still memorable, but something about his work on the everyday hero of Hawkeye stands out even more. His art is so good that there are times the writing looks glaringly bad by comparison even when it’s good. In the case of Hawkeye #8, is it good?
Hawkeye #8 (Marvel Comics)
Film noir is a genre of movies that is known for stark black and white cinematography, gumshoe detectives and an overarching nihilistic view of reality. Femme fatales pop up all the time because they at once symbolize good and bad. They sway the hero into doing bad things, but when they convinced them it always seems so right. Sex’ll do that to you. This issue is the first part of a story that is very much drawn in a film noir style, only it’s not a film and it’s done in bright colors. Nobody said a comic can’t be neo-noir, now did they?
Feminine Wiles: Effective since the dawn of time.
If you’re just joining this series, Hawkeye is the owner of an apartment building. He’s effectively stopped a gang from messing with his tenants and actually bought the place to stop a gangster from harassing them. It’s a lot of responsibility, but he’s doing his best. The gangster family he bought the building from is none too happy with his defending the little people. A woman asks for his help after she killed her boyfriend…who just so happened to be the son of said gangster. How could this ever go badly?
A nice running joke in this series.
So far he’s done a little traveling to do S.H.I.E.L.D. business, but Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye has been sticking around his new building to keep the people safe. The story has had its moments, but honestly if you told a movie producer this idea they’d laugh in your face. It needs a stylized hand to keep the boat afloat, and David Aja is that man. The composition of each page is astounding and a single issue could have so many different style choices every single issue could be broken down and studied. It’s not just what is drawn, but in the order and spacing in which the pictures are organized as well. The composition forces the reader to slow down, speed up and read it in a very intentional way. For instance, take a look at the top half of page 15 below:
Note the first panel shows us the closeup of the gun. The following three panels display to the reader where the characters stand spatially, but also an interaction. The man spitting in panel #4 at top-left culminates in said action. When he spits again, the panel moves in slightly. We then get closer, an over the shoulder shot, and then finally back to the gun. Think of this as a scene in a movie and you can start to understand just how powerful Aja’s art is at driving the story. The above panels begin with the threat of a gun and ends with the threat of a gun. This enhances the moment and makes it all the more threatening.
In the panels below, taking up the middle portion of a page on page 12 is a great example of Aja working in some action.
It’s not necessarily the actions taking place that are in focus, but the chaos of the violence that’s on display. Hawkeye is moving in quick and creating violence to instill fear. He said that was his intention prior to entering and he did just that, perfectly displayed in these tight eight panels.
It’s incredibly easy to take Aja’s work for granted. It’s easy to read the comic briskly and miss some incredibly detailed and interesting work. You’d think bringing in a second artist might hurt the book, but in this case it has only enhanced it. Annie Wu has been brought in to do some pulpy comic book covers that help break up the story. Sort of like chapters in a book, these covers are a helpful way to focus the reader’s attention on the episodic nature of the story. They also serve as a clever McGuffin. They’re incredibly well done, from the titles on the covers, to the wear and tear on the book tand we’re not even talking about the images yet!
What’s a girl to do?
- Art school advanced 101
- If you dig pulpy film noir get some of this
- Part of a larger story you’ll need to read to fully enjoy
The only downside to this series is it requires you to read every single issue. It certainly rewards the reader who has been sticking with it for every single issue, but anyone new might get confused as it doesn’t do too much to catch you up. When it’s collected this is going to be a series people will come back to and read multiple times. That said, this issue is a good jumping on point for anyone, albeit with the knowledge that Clinton is protecting those who live in his apartment building. This isn’t just a good comic, but good storytelling.
Is It Good?
Yes. There’s nothing else like it on the shelves.
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