“The High, Hard Shaft: Part 1 — The Hotter, the Better”
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Raise the bow, notch the arrow, drag the line, and aim. Readied, the bow forms a circle, your heart as its center. Release. The arrow soars. You miss, but that’s irrelevant because your quiver’s full and your will resolved. And with each arrow, you’re closer to that perfect shot, your real target—living meaningfully. This is the appeal of Clint Barton, the superhero archer known as Hawkeye. He never quits. And now, after forty years of hits and misses, he’s still aiming to improve lives, the world, and his own soul. In this fast-paced opening issue, “The High, Hard Shaft—the Hotter, the Better” by Fabian Nicieza and Stefano Raffaele, Hawkeye’s instinctive attempt to defend a stripper escalates into dangerous confrontations in a dirty and darkening world.
Chubby tourists, raunchy bar-goers, super-strong thugs, sensitive strippers, and strangely tattooed Southern gentlemen populate this lively set-up issue. As a simple love triangle leads to an intriguing secret, Hawkeye’s holiday in Myrtle Beach spirals towards something more familiar—conflict. Yet, although action looms, the story’s main strength is in Nicieza’s portrayal of Hawkeye, who is as heroic in plain clothes as in a purple costume. Placed in a real-life situation, Hawkeye seems bolder, contrasting sharply against the mundane. Having lived as an Avenger and Thunderbolt, he has no inhibitions and no concern for protocol when it comes to doing what he deems best, as evidenced by a shameless attack on a man who appears to be harassing the stripper. Hawkeye storms through a golf course, prepared to tee-off on the man’s head. However, though brazen and cocky, Hawkeye is also wise with a hunter’s instinct for true game. He knows that he’s stumbled across more than a doomed love affair; and by the closing panel, Hawkeye finally raises a bow. Thus, readers are treated to a striking exploration of Hawkeye’s character as he sniffs out high action for an eagerly awaited second issue.
Enhancing this display of Hawkeye’s complex character is Raffaele’s art that captures the energy, focus, and skill of the archer. Hawkeye constantly exercises his hand-eye-coordination—repeatedly tossing and catching a bottle cap with the tip of his thumb, flinging poker cards from his hotel balcony to perfectly stack them on a diving-board, and aggravating on-lookers by flamboyantly bouncing a golf ball off his club. This meticulous attention to Hawkeye’s restlessness provides a stimulating delight as the story unfolds. In fact, the art and story merge perfectly in their gritty, jaded, but witty style. Outstanding is a one-paneled scene where, with a waitress’ hairband and a spoon, Hawkeye creates a chain-reaction of tumbling people in order to drop his foe. This composition highlights Hawkeye’s extraordinary gifts, while flaunting the creative team’s mastery of movement and detail. Here, the world jumps to life with the ugly and the pretty, the menace and the hilarity. And also here, readers know that they have entered a fascinating world, at the center of which is a hero’s heart.
The HAWKEYE series offers clever dialogue and distinctive art that focuses around a charming, albeit meddlesome, character — a character driven by the need to save and to be saved, a character who’ll never quit aiming for that perfect shot, not even in a strip joint.
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