Hawkeye #11 is turning out to be one hell of a hard book to review in the way that I normally do it. Oh, I can hear you: “But Rob,” you’re saying, “You normally review comic books drunk, and you’re looking a little weavy right now. Plus, you smell an awful lot like a fraternity carpet.”
Well… yeah, Fair enough. But most of the time, the comics I review are about guys and women in tights, smacking the crap out of each other when they’re not trying to accomplish normal, human-type things. And Hawkeye #11 isn’t like that.
Because Hawkeye #11 is about a dog. Specifically, Hawkeye’s dog Lucky. Formerly known as Arrow, when he was owned by Russian mobsters. And known by Twitter as Pizzadog. And while I have seen comic books about dogs ever since I was a kid – Krypto and Rex The Wonder Dog from Steve Englehart’s old Justice League of America books leap to mind – those dogs were always presented as having human thoughts and motivations. Human thoughts and motivations that somehow elevated above, “I can lick my own sack! I will be busy for the immediate future!” but human thoughts nonetheless.
Hawkeye #11 writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja try something very different. These guys are trying like hell to put us readers into the head of Pizzadog, and they do it with the full recognition that dogs don’t think in complete sentences, and they don’t think in terms like “conspiracy,” or “treachery,” or, “long-term goals.” They think in smells and in immediate motivations and in sounds and in vague memories, and their loyalties are based on a combination of simple and complex motivations that come from current need and prior treatment.
And the end result is a comic book that you don’t read so much as decode and experience. And while I don’t think the result is completely successful – show me, for example, a dog that can salute out of nothing but pride, and the next time you’ll see my fat ass will be on Letterman – what it is is one of the most interesting single issues of a comic book you’ll find, and one of the best books I’ve read all damn year.