Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Joe Bennett (p), Sandu Florea (i)
Throughout his history, Hawkeye has held sacred the bonds of friendship. Regardless of what seems to be the difficulty, Hawkeye will stand by his pals. Even casual acquaintances are cherished. And this is the kicker to the new storyline, "A Little Murder," where a Russian deli owner has been murdered; he was Hawkeye's friend. Though detective work isn't his strong point, Hawkeye sets off to bring the murderer to justice. But a simple case turns dramatically complex, as the Russian mob, war crimes in Afghanistan, and an old flame enter the picture.
High cinematic action, an intriguing mystery, and sparkling dialogue make for a thrilling read in this tale of false identity and hidden sin. With Bennett's spectacular artwork, this is a book that'll please even the most jaded action junkie.
"But what about your old life? Can you just wipe that slate clean?"
This is virtuoso storytelling. Nicieza pulls all the stops in delivering a rich superheroic detective tale, with the type of high adrenaline action that keeps the pages turning. The pacing is excellent, with a deft sense of drama and mood. The lynchpin scene around which the plot forms is an exhilarating showdown with Russian mobsters that turns even more thrilling when the high-tech killer, Foxfire enters the fray. With scenes displaying Hawkeye's acrobatic skill and witty repartee, this is an exciting read. The astute use of scene changes and flashbacks serves to punctuate and direct a deceptively complex plotline.
Sometimes books that focus on action tend to skimp on meaningful character portrayal. That's not the case here. Hawkeye is alive in the midst of frantic mayhem, with the quips and pranks that have been his personal style for four decades. The support cast is also given convincing depiction, from Captain America's friendly concern to the smooth over-confidence of Grigori Samsonov, the Russian mob boss.
Of course, the highlight to this issue is in Bennett's amazing compositions. Hawkeye is an artist's joy because of the rich opportunities presented by the use of the bow and arrows as compositional elements that establish a sense of three-dimensional space and direct the viewer's eye. Many artists don't work this to its full potential, but Bennett does. The delineation of space and establishment of motion are of impeccable quality. Especially impressive is the use of "ghosted" multiple figures as representative of quick motion, which is really hard to pull off without looking cheesy or "cartoony." There's one panel in the fight with Foxfire that shows this technique to perfection. As an art enthusiast, this alone makes the $2.99 US money well spent.
Also of note are Florea's inks. Good line weight gives a sense of sturdiness to the compositions. This is especially evident when Foxfire makes his appearance, a beefy threat with dark line work standing imposingly over the more delicately lined background of Samsonov's elegant estate. All in all, the entire creative team mixes the dramatic elements of both written and graphic narrative elements just right for a top-notch story.
"But really…ain't a kick in the head self-explanatory?"
Well, that says it all. In the previous story arc, we were treated to Hawkeye as an out-of-costume detective, like a modern day noir PI. It was a good story with solid thematic elements that resonated well with Hawkeye's rich history. However, it didn't have the superhero elements that I wanted in my Hawkeye book. This story does!
Yes, there's an interesting mystery here. Yes, there's pertinent exploration of Hawkeye's thematic elements. But there's also high-octane, superheroic smack down on the baddies. It's not just a well-crafted, intelligent detective story; it's a gut-gripping, page-turning, visually compelling action/adventure on top of that. This is a REAL Hawkeye story.
Heck, five bullets aren't enough to express how good this issue is. Obviously, I highly recommend it.
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