Although one issue still remains in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s ongoing “Hawkeye” series, Jeff Lemire and RamÃ³n Perez get started with their own run in “All-New Hawkeye” #1. Clint and Kate are back together as a crime-fighting duo sharing the same moniker, but Lemire’s story is just as much about Clint and his brother Barney. Lemire and Perez give readers a Clint Barton that’s a natural progression of Matt Fraction’s characterization, but he is also a bit of a departure in terms of story and appearance, which keeps this new title from being simply more of the same old — albeit still excellent — Hawkguy.
Perez’s lushly painted cover illustration not only symbolically represents Clint Barton as both a child and an adult but acts as a stark difference in comparison to David Aja’s more expressionist covers on the previous series, which points to the far different storytelling method used to tell young Clint’s story. Perez’s use of colors plays a large role in this symbolism, with Clint standing amidst an endless golden field as a child while shadowed in purple hues evocative of his various future costumes. His simple target icon plays the role of a bright, shining sun as it dominates the sky, while his outstretched arms cast an arrowhead-shaped outline of his form. Perez’s brilliant cover speaks volumes at first glance.
It’s young Clint’s story that starts off the issue, and Lemire initially scripts it as a typically idyllic and carefree summer day in the lives of two brothers. Perez’s hazy, freeform collage of painted monochromatic images evoke a feeling of recollected memories that nonetheless linearly carry Lemire’s story. It’s the kind of feeling that anyone would gladly embrace at first, until Lemire begins to unveil the far more unpleasant reality of the boys’ home life. Barney is especially well-characterized as the troublesome but brave older brother who will gladly tease his younger sibling but is just as willing to defend him from harm.
Perez demonstrates his versatility when the scene shifts to Clint and Kate in the present day, where he switches to traditional line art that fits right in with the effectively simple renderings and bold perspectives that readers enjoyed on Aja’s run. Colorist Ian Herring supplies darker colors that contrast the pastels of the previous pages and sticks to an effectively minimal color palette, free of any kind of shading or gradients. The deep reds and oranges from inside an arctic Hydra base give way to frosty blues outside, and the transition gives Perez’s art an even more dynamic look. Throughout this sequence, Lemire delivers a lighthearted style of banter between the two Hawkeyes that also plays well with the mood established in Fraction’s run.
When the story flashes back to Clint and Barney, the darker mood is punctuated by Perez’s bursts of maroon, symbolizing the off-panel but still disturbing violence that ensues. The color of blood is at first symbolic but becomes literal as the tension escalates, and Lemire makes it all too clear that the lives of the two brothers is anything but idyllic without any gratuitous displays of violence. Lemire also steps up the pace by shifting more frequently between the two storylines, leading up to an even more disturbing reveal in Clint and Kate’s story. The innocence of one thread and the lightheartedness of the other both segue into a darker, sinister tone, making for an emotionally wrenching but powerful first issue as Lemire transitions from past to present and back again at an ever-increasing pace.
“All-New Hawkeye” #1 is an impressive debut issue; the book is equally impressive for the way it fits in the continuity of such a well-regarded series. Lemire, Perez and Herring demonstrate a remarkable kind of synergy for such an eclectically designed story, and it’s the kind of dynamic that is plenty enough to win over existing Hawkguy fans and target a few new ones.