Wednesday Reviews – Week of March 12

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Hawkeye #17

  • Written by Matt Fraction
  • Art by Chris Eliopoulos
  • Published by Marvel

photo5There isn’t a nice thing that can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said before. Currently one of, if not the, most loved book Marvel is currently publishing, Hawkeye has been thoroughly engaging since it first began, with wonderful, exciting writing from Matt Fraction and amazing art from the rotating team of David Aja and Annie Wu, who have basically helped establish a new Marvel indie-house style, as seen from the artistic styles of Superior Foes of Spider-Man (art by Steve Lieber) and today’s new release, Secret Avengers (art by Michael Walsh). With a focus on fun and story time split between Hawkeyes Clint Barton (who Jeremy Renner played in The Avengersand 18 year old Kate Bishop, the book has been fantastic throughout it run.

That’s why the past month has been a little frustrating. A fun side step back to issue 6, featuring the great Saturday Morning Cartoon art of Chris Eliopoulos, our heroes are replaced by the dynamic Winter Friends (the Christmas animal Avengers), who are joined by Steve, the regular dog with no powers (aka Doggy Clint Barton).

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This book stands on its own (and well), but suffers from some bad timing that hinders the enjoyment of the book. There have been delays and some issue hopping (issue 16 was released before issue 15) and issue 17 doesn’t even forward the storylines of Clint or Kate, who both had some pretty big upheavals in the lives at the end of their respective issues (15 for Clint, 16 for Kate). So while this is a good issue, it comes at the heels of some events needing resolution. What this issue does is re-asserts the relationships and motivations that have stretched through the past 16 issues. Not a bad idea, but it deflates the tension that was built over the last two issues.

photo4But context should hold little weight when looking at a book. Eliopoulos, an acclaimed cartoonist who is the regular letterer of the book, really gets a chance to cut loose. Fraction’s script is loose and charming, but it requires the art to really come together. This book still reads like a Hawkeye book (full of snark that is absent from most kid’s cartoons), so the funny pictures bring the book together and sell the idea. This concept is similar to what Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez did a few years back with a Calvin & Hobbes inspired issue of their horror series (and one of my favorite books) Locke & Key. That issue was more impressive, simply because of the disparity between the whimsy of Calvin and utter terror of Locke. Either because of Fraction’s strength as a writer or just who Clint Barton is as a character, an idea like the Winter Friends seems to really fit this book and I imagine this isn’t the last time we’ve seen Steve, the dog with no powers.

A great story, great art, but it will only make you want to know our hero’s fate that much more.

All images copyright of Marvel.

3 out of Four Colors copy

 

Hawkeye #17 – 3 out of 4 Colors

Nightwing #29

  • Written by Kyle Higgins
  • Art by Russell Dauterman
  • Published by DC

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All signs point to the end of the line for Dick Grayson. The original superhero sidekick, Grayson is a character that is older than the vast majority of the comic book characters, including Jimmy Olsen, the Joker and 98% of Marvel’s entire catalog. But for a long time (nearly a decade now, thanks initially to comments from DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, Dick Grayson has had a target on his back. And with recent events in DC’s big storyline Forever Evil, it looks like someone finally found and hit that target.

Writer Kyle Higgins has been on Nightwing since it’s New 52 relaunch and issue 29 marks his final issue on the book, though not the final issue of the book itself (that’s issue 30). Endings have a way of showing you the beginning. If it’s good, the finale pays off the start and you can reverse engineer the storyline. I’ll be honest, that’s what I did, buying this book on a whim (and out of respect of Forever Evil‘s issue 6 end) and I felt like I had been reading this book the whole time.

That’s made easier by the fact that this is a pretty thin story in the issue itself. Nightwing has been on the trail of Zsasz, a serial killer from Batman’s Rogues Gallery who cuts a tally into his body for every victim. He killed the parents of a young girl that Nightwing has taken a liking to, if only because he sees so much of himself in her story. Like I said, the story is pretty thin, but that’s because Higgins has far more to say than just one more Zsasz story. This is his final statement on Dick Grayson.

With all the quick changes that were brought on by DC’s New 52, it’s easy to forget that Dick Grayson’s tenure as Batman was basically the last story arc for the character in the “original” DCU. The launch of Nightwing was the return of Dick to this identity. The problem with aging Dick Grayson into an adult is the care needed from creators to not turn this character into a carbon copy of Batman/Bruce Wayne. This has happened from time to time, but since Dick’s time as Bats, writers have really been able to get the differences between the two, especially Grant Morrison and Higgins. Dick Grayson is a beacon of hope for the DC, he is the legacy of DC’s superheroes. He is not mopey, angry or dark. He is on the other side of the tunnel that Bruce Wayne is perpetually in the middle of and Higgins gets at that, even as his writing takes Dick through darkness, its never pitch black.

photo12Dauterman’s art is very striking. When we enter Dick’s psyche for flashbacks, the images are full pages, divided into panels by the design work. The use of red throughout makes these images stand out, but credit really goes to Dauterman’s design work. And while the full page spreads are  gorgeous, Dauterman’s more basic storyline work is very impressive as well. His character designs are similar to Oliver Coipel’s work. This book has been going through art teams like tissue paper, so it’s a little sad to see an artist who really clicks with the series just as it is coming to a close.

A grand finale for this New 52 book, but a little lacking if this is the end of the road for Dick Grayson (which only makes more sense that it ISN’T curtains for the former boy wonder). Looking forward to what Higgins has in store for us next.

All images copyright of DC.

3 out of Four Colors copy

 

 

 

Nightwing #29 – 3 out of 4 Colors