I'm just going to come out and say it: this issue is brilliant. Matt Fraction has made sure Clint Barton's life is entertaining, uniquely presented and full of gripping emotion, but this "dream" story is pure, unparalleled fun. You know those holiday cartoons that invade your TV set during the holiday season? Well, Fraction dedicates basically the entire issue to one of those... except it stars animals and Hawkeye is a dog named "Steve." I'm guessing some of you just imitated the "wat" meme right about now, and if so, odds are this issue isn't for you. There, $2.99 saved. You're welcome. However, for the rest of you, this issue not only gives us some insight into how Clint truly feels about his life, but also brings about record high levels of happiness.
The parody of these TV specials is beyond clever. Not only does Fraction present some hysterical holiday heroes, but he also puts a beyond hilarious twist on some of the characters that regularly appear within the series. I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say fans may stop saying "bro" and start using a totally different word. And to top it all off, the conclusion has what is without question the most tender and adorable moment you'll read all week. Prepare to exclaim, "awww." And if you think you're too cool to say it out loud, you'll probably at least say it in your head. But really, don't fight it. Appreciate the cuteness! On top of all this levity, it also manages to serve as a character study. Fraction jumps into Barton's psyche and, in a totally comedic and pleasant way, illustrates how he feels about his life and relationships.
David Aja only creates the first and last page, but as always, they're full of character and the panel layout is perfect for Fraction's script. The rest of the issue is by artist Chris Eliopoulos and it's delightful, animated and simply heartwarming. Jordie Bellaire's coloring boosts all of the charming craziness and these pages are exploding with vitality and color. It honestly feels like you're watching a twisted yet lovable take on one of these iconic and silly animated movies. All in all, it's a real treat for your eyes.
Is it a bit of a bummer we don't get to follow-up on the last issue's crazy cliffhanger? Of course, but that has literally nothing to do with this issue, so there's no reason why it should be held against it. Smiling is good for you, friends, and this issue will absolutely keep you smiling.
A wise person once asked, "what is love?" Well, I think we finally have an answer: love is this issue. It's simple: if you have a heart, go buy this issue right now and prepare to have it cuddled and warmed. If you think you don't have a heart, well... it's very possible this issue will make you discover that you're wrong and you'll fall in love with this completely out there and joyous read. If you think this cartoonish standalone is too wacky for you, then hey, to each their own, right? But for everyone else, this is going to be a pure delight. Long story short, Fraction continues to prove HAWKEYE is one of the best books currently available. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read this again.