"Hawkeye" #4 from Matt Fraction and Javier Pulido is another great issue in this series that writes in a Marvel style, but presents something that wholly defies expectations for a typical Marvel book. The vibe for this issue is espionage on an old school Bond level. Clint Barton must travel to Madripoor and retrieve an item of great importance without his costume. The results are great fun and page turning material.
The elephant in the room is the absence of David Aja. There is no doubt this book's masterful delivery and mammothly favourable critical praise rests atop his simple lines and masterful layouts. He is the cherry on top of this delicious and decadent dessert and not having him is felt like a punch to the gut rendered over seven panels. However, once the kneejerk reaction abates, there is much to appreciate about Javier Pulido's work in this issue. His Clint might not be as pretty, but his layouts come close to the effects Aja masters every month. In fact, Pulido's retro style manages to heighten the sense this tale feels like it was pulled from the '70s. Pulido may not be Aja, but he's one hell of a great fill in for tone and continuity.
Matt Hollingsworth is the champion of this issue as he holds everything together with his evocative and yet simple color palettes. Hollingsworth is a colorist of the school that uses emotion and scene changes to drive his use of tones and color groups. He cuts a little further out in this issue than previously as he immerses readers in the excess of Madripoor.
Fraction still seems to experiment with page structure to see what he can get away with. Most pages feel like they don't just have panel changes because the room ran out, and thus many panel changes hold purpose. Fraction plays with time and twists emotions through the space between characters. When his pages here are tight, they're a snare drum. There are a few pages that feel a little loose, or like filler, but the great pages more than redeem them.
"Hawkeye" #4 is a fun issue that hearkens back to an era of comics long gone. It certainly isn't the best issue so far, it might even be the bottom of the pile, but this is a pile that starts above where most others strive to achieve. I was prepared to be let down due to the lack of Aja and instead I've found another issue that makes me love it for a whole set of new reasons. Fraction's made this comic humorous, strange, gritty, and now kind of pulpy in a spy paperback kind of way. This title is amazing every month because you never know how it's going to win you over. It's a new delight every time.