Will the real Matt Fraction please stand up?
Hawkeye #12 isn't a bad issue. Not by a long shot. The art is beautiful, and the story touches on some key themes that are very personal to the protagonist of our tale, Clint Barton. So why the frack did I only give this issue three stars when the majority of critics are continuing to methodically sing this book's praises? Well for one thing, I feel like our writer has gone missing. Oh sure, his name is still on the cover, but as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Fraction has been coasting these last few issues - relying on the hip art and the tremendous buzz that this book has generated to carry the day. His individual voice is barely audible. What happened to the whiplash dialogue, the awesome quips, or the brisk but packed-to-the-brim stories that we were getting before? They're nowhere to be seen. In fact, we haven't had an issue like that since issue #8 or #9. Now that I mention it, it feels like we've been in issue #9 for four issues now.
I have to say, Francesco Francavilla has done a stupendous job filling in for Aja on the off weeks. I believe this is his last issue, and I'll be sad to see him go. He's got a very distinct style that lends itself well to this type of storytelling. It's a little disappointing that we won't be able to see him work with some more meaty storytelling. Instead he was on two pretty somber background stories - one for the villain in issue #10, and another for Clint's brother in the latest issue.
So how about this latest issue? What's it all about? #12 continues the snail like pace set by issue #10 where we basically see some of the same stuff happening over again except from a different perspective. Some of the ground covered is new, but it's mostly a lot of "bro bro bro" mixed in with some "seriously seriously seriously." And "seriously," I love the bro gang. But Fraction is taking entire issues to cover something that took him like three pages in earlier issues. The entire pace of this series has started to drag major ass.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad issue. It's not. But this series has already set an incredibly high standard for excellence. So when it's not balls-out awesome sauce, I can't say that I'm happy. Granted, I think it's worth mentioning that Marvel's double shipping might be to blame for the dip in quality. I mean, Fraction is also pumping out two Fantastic Four books and is supposedly in charge of the next "event" coming down the line. And Marvel wants two Hawkeye books every month? Heck, we're getting a double-sized annual in a couple weeks. Here's hoping Fraction can regain some of his momentum. For the record, Pizza Dog is awesome. You're not going to hear me rag on the last Pizza Dog issue. But given the placement of it, this series feels like it needs a real shot in the arm.