I rarely write reviews in first-person but the conclusion of Fraction and Aja’s “Hawkguy” saga requires a no-filter response. After enduring multiple frustrating delays, one of the most anticipated comics of the year is finally here. Does it deliver the goods? Does. It. Ever!
Big picture stuff first: this final installment is over-sized at thirty pages and boasts a five dollar price-tag. It’s a long way from its scrappy bannerless pre-Marvel Now! beginnings and being one of the publisher’s last $2.99 hold-outs. And just in case you’re only tuning in now ‘cuz of the hype, yeah- you really are sneaking into the neighboring theater for the last ten minutes. Even the “Previously” page doesn’t have time to catch you up (tourist)- you’ll either pick up or you won’t. And if not, whatever- it’s over, anyway… (But, word of advice: compilations and back issues, now!!)
Artist David Aja is a non-stop cinematic action fireworks factory all the way to the finish line; standing as a superlative textbook example of sequential art. No seriously, they need to teach this series in art school as well as film and design schools. The cover of the iconic t-shirt flying on the retro-inner city clothes line amid the TV antenna cluster with sunset orange-y yellow and red accents is in itself a t-shirt waiting to happen. Yet, it so embodies the old school flavor that maybe it’s happened already. If so, bring it back and make a (Polish curse)-ton. Please and thank you.
Storywise, writer Matt Fraction hits all the buttons. It’s a mostly straight-forward yet highly-engaging mop-up but there’s at least one good twisty “fake-out”. It’s really a “heart-in-throat” test of your emotional investment, especially as it comes dangerously close to breaking one of Fraction’s own self-enforced series ground rules. Sure, there’s a few plot holes (ie, the sudden mid-siege presence of Darlene “Penny” Wright) and subtle callbacks to things from issues (years?) ago but again, whatever, bro- senioritis rules! So, just roll with it. Woo!
Fraction’s by no means phoning it in but there is a distinct economy of words throughout. The official count breaks down like this: eight pages without any dialogue (including the soundtrack-ready credit roll outro), plus an additional seven pages each featuring one word balloon. This is where all the running kitchen counter banter balances out and really speaks to the greater creative dynamic as Fraction steps back and loosely directs while Aja just does his thing. This is indeed a firm reminder that these are the high-octane collaborators of the legendary Immortal Iron Fist. Never forget.
If, by virtue of writing this, I am a “critic”- then, yes, I thoroughly acclaim this comic. Nine ways to frikkin’ Doomsday, now and forever. If there’s a note its mother wouldn’t write, I would write it- such applause, omg. So what if it almost got lapped by its successor series (itself set to relaunch post-Secret Wars)? By Marvel’s own admission, this title resets the standard for the line. Indulge the erratic shipping schedule, it still plays like flagship to the final panel. This finale is not only the “Cinderella story” victory lap, it is also the most glorious mic drop on the super-hero narrative in years. The bar is now and forever set, bro!