Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"We're really sorry, sir. It was my idea."
"I don't care whose damn it was! I want the damn grass cut!"
"Then why don't you cut it yourself you lazy #$%#..."
"That the best you can do, old man?"
"You mouthy little #%$!"
"Get your bike!"
"We gotta go now, Clint!"
"Where we gonna go, Barn?"
"I don't know. Just keep biking."
Well now, this was an unexpected delight. I mean, I probably shouldn't have been remotely surprised given how highly I rate Jeff Lemire, but let me tell you, if you were perhaps also worried this title was going to take a dip following the departure of Messrs. Fraction and Aja (and let us also not forget Pulido and Wu on HAWKEYE VOL 3 art duties) I can most emphatically assure you that will not be the case based on the evidence of this first volume.
Okay, so what's different and what's the same? Well, we still have some elements of the dual narrative structure, but not just through the eyes of current-day Clint and Kate, wise-cracking and one-upping back and forth whilst bulls-eyeing bad guys, but also a young Clint as the issue switches between a typical high-octane all-not-exactly-going-to-plan Hawkeye-Hawkeye team-up taking down a Hydra cell, and new, fleshed-out flashbacks to Clint and Barney Barton's childhood together. Also, I may just have broken my own record for most hyphens in a sentence there.
The two time periods are rendered with dramatically different art styles but by the same artist, Ramon Perez. In fact for the modern Hawkeye Sr.& Jr. double-act he's gone for a style not entirely dissimilar to David Aja's, so much so in fact that I had to check it wasn't him! I can only presume this is to (subliminally) reassure readers that whilst much will be different about this title going forward, the panel-by-panel fun and frolics element is going to remain largely unchanged, visually at least. I think this is an entirely wise decision on Lemire's and Perez's parts, given Lemire's own comments in his afterword of the first issue about the humongous size of the scarlet booties they were filling.
What is radically different, though, are the dreamy sequences featuring a young Clint and brother Barney finding themselves unwelcome at yet another foster home, largely due to their own inability to conform, behave and obey like good little boys, it must be said. Well, perhaps also Barney smashing their new foster father over the head with a baseball bat this time... These are produced in a water colour style, with a palette entirely composed of myriad hues of purple, minus any panels or gutters whatsoever, giving the effect of recalling long-forgotten memories of a misspent youth.
I suspect it's this era's portrayal which is going to provide the real heart and emotional depth of Lemire's run, given how much poignancy he manages to encapsulate in barely a handful of pages right from the get go. But I also doubt - especially given how the two time periods' stories and art styles begin to intercut and interact and eventually collide before culminating in two emotionally polar opposite but equally dramatic finales for the first chapter - that events in the modern era are going to be mere spurious fun, either. No, I don't think they are going to be light and frothy throwaway frippery at all...