Friday, 1 November 2013

Eye on Hawkeye #13

Or the interaction between time and plot in Hawkeye #13
by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Matt Hollingsworth

This entire thing is built on a mountain of *SPOILERS* and the corpses of those who ignore spoiler warnings. READ ON IF YOU DARE (or if you are up to date on your Hawkguy).

Hawkeye is a comic about Clint Barton the Avenger who is just a guy and Kate Bishop the Young Avenger who is better than Clint but still just a lady-guy. It's a comic that takes the grand majesty of superhero comics, strips out the romance and epic scale, and infuses an element of, well, shlubby mundanity. And the result is this kind of granular, intimate story that, despite a distinct lack of Asgardian thunder gods and Sorcerers Supreme, has a kind of magic.

Part of this magic can, I think, paradoxically be attribute to the sheer REALNESS of Hawkeye. Team Hawkguy have really created a world that feels legitimate, a world with well established and defined environments, diverse supporting characters, reasonable injuries and consequences, and a really granular, impeccably paced sense of time. And the result of this is a sense of consistent reality that helps suspend disbelief and make every aspect of Hawkeye better.

Hawkeye #13 is a perfect example of the really great and interesting way Team Hawkguy uses time to integrate the plot of their comic. 

Normally in superhero comics time is kind of this spongey medium for punching and lasers: the key detail is what is happening instead of when it is happening. Furthermore, most superhero comic series, even those that do acknowledge that time is a thing, tend to start each subsequent issue after the previous issue. That is to say, the events of issue 1 occur before the events issue 2. (This of course is speaking only to the "present" narrative of the story and excludes flashbacks and time travel.) Generally superhero comics also often follow a pretty linear time scale within individual issues: the book begins and then events occur sequentially until the book ends. (Another common variation is a late event in the story occurs, the book starts over and then loops around.) Part of what makes Hawkeye such a remarkable series is that it trumps these conventions.

In Hawkeye time is very carefully metered out: events take place at certain times and in specific places. A great example of this is an issue of Hawkeye called "Six Nights in the Life of Hawkeye" (issue #6) set around Christmas that grafts the story onto specific dates and, through the use of a clock, sets events to specific hours of those days. Team Hawkguy also frequently use a non-linear approach to storytelling that takes advantage of the cemented nature of time in Hawkeye to unfold stories in interesting ways. The Christmas Hawkeye also demonstrates this aspect of the book pretty well as events jump from day-to-day and time-to-time in a non-linear order to promote reveals and set up jokes. The one aspect of time in Hawkeye that was mostly conventional for issues #1-8 was that events followed a sequence issue to issue: subsequent chapters of the story picked up where the previous issues had ended.

However, this all changed in Hawkeye #9 when WHAT PART OF *SPOILERS* DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND Grills was murdered. That moment not only dramatically changed the feeling of Hawkeye from a safe space to a place with real, tangible consequences but it also shattered the story structure of the comic into numerous narratives driven by individual characters. One of the remarkable things about this decision is that time in Hawkeye no longer follows a clear issue to issue progression, and that events depicted in Hawkeye #9-13 weave through each other in this interesting way that, if anything, enhances the timed nature of Hawkeye. It's really interesting comics.

Hawkeye #13 is the most recent issue of the comic and focuses on Clint's perspective of ongoing events. It is also an issue that wends very tightly to events established in previous (in a publication sense) issues of Hawkeye. As such it has a bunch of previously seen scenes that can be used as touchstones to put other issues of Hawkeye into a kind of narrative order. Because I think it's interesting and kind of brilliant I've gone through recent issues of Hawkeye and found all (I think) of the touchstone scenes that can be used to create a Hawkeye timeline:

1. Futzin' Hawkeyes no. 1


3. 9 o'clock somewhere part 1.

4. A Lucky encounter on the street

5. Dog Cops

6. Awwww Funeral

7.  Pizza Dog and Tracksuit Draculas

8. Kick-shot

9. 9 o'clock somewhere part 2

10. Bro! Bro bro bro.

11. Futzin' Hawkeyes no. 2

12. Hawk-bye!

So, taking all of these touchstone scenes I have made the following narrative order timeline for recent issues of Hawkeye:

So yeah. There you have it, the complicated, ingenious approach to time in recent issues of Hawkeye. Which, guys, this is a mainstream superhero comic book. It's mind boggling to me that a comic with such a complicated approach to time and storytelling is being published alongside the X-men. The more I try to figure out Hawkeye, the more I'm just kind of grateful that it and Team Hawkguy are things that were allowed to happen.



  1. Hopefully you get a million followers now that Fraction linked here.

    I tried a similar read/review on a budget project, but I got burnt out. I'm glad you're here fighting the good fight.

  2. Thanks! I am mostly excited that Mr. Fraction read something I wrote and liked it enough to share it with other people. It's always amazing when my favourite writers and artists like something I've written.

    We'll see how long I can keep it up. I'm having a lot of fun with it and am starting to feel like maybe I'm getting the hang of it a bit... but real life does have a way of getting in the way of time consuming habits.