Comics without words -- or without many words -- are kind of a gamble. There's extra pressure on the art team to convey story without relying on verbal cues, and there's a big risk of readers missing the point. Comics told from an unconventional point of view -- like, say, a dog's -- are also kind of a gamble. There's a risk of cheesiness, of disruption from the usual series format, and of muddled storytelling. HAWKEYE #11 put it all on red, and won out on both of these. Where Pizza Dog is going, he doesn't need words.
David Aja is blowing my mind a little bit with his range. I've always enjoyed the art on HAWKEYE, but this issue took things to the next level. Pizza Dog's communication is almost clearer than words in its simplicity, and it's fascinating how well the story itself and incidental details are conveyed via symbols. The symbolic style is a great pairing with the book's flat colors; it feels completely in-place. I'm also delighted by how well Aja captures Pizza Dog's mannerisms; the facial expressions, ear perks, pizza distractions, and body positioning are so spot-on. (If he isn't a dog owner, I will be positively floored.)
Matt Fraction gets major kudos for giving up the verbal reins in this issue. He scripted this perfectly, and opted for only the most deliberate use of words. It's a great way to show off some really important developments in Clint's/Kate's arc, and what could easily have been a quirky Pizza Dog tale is actually one of the more critical pieces in the HAWKEYE story so far.
I tried. I can't think of anything I don't like about this issue. (Except maybe that missing state line between Missouri and Iowa, but my goodness, that's nitpicky, and I'm not entirely sure it wasn't intentional.)
It's rare that I'll throw down the "best issue of the series" label so early in a series (I mean, how do I know that Fraction and Aja aren't just going to prove me wrong with Issue #12?), but oh my, this issue was incredible. It's not just the schtick of using the dog's POV, and it's not just the minimal-words thing; it's both of those, done well, and paired with truly expressive storytelling. There are so many ways this issue could have been cheesy and weird, but instead of making the Pizza Dog issue a one-off novelty, it's a fully-realized (and important) part of the ongoing arc.