Delays are a fact of life: sometimes, events intervene to prevent your most hotly anticipated property from releasing on time. It’s annoying, of course, but if the final product is great, the wait time shouldn’t factor into your judgment. Why preface my review like this? Well, Hawkeye #19 was supposed to come out six months ago.
Hawkeye has been a series that’s garnered lots of fan acclaim and even recently won an Eisner Award for last year’s issue #11. Though this comic has experienced numerous delays since its inception, I want to be clear: such issues shouldn’t affect my view of an issue’s quality. Furthermore, this issue excited me with the prospect of telling a story almost entirely through American Sign Language. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Hawkeye #19!
Hawkeye #19 is an experimental issue, told mostly through American Sign Language. At the end of the previous issue, Clint suffered an ear injury which has rendered him temporarily deaf. As a result, Clint and his brother Barney are forced to communicate (or, more accurately, argue) through sign language. Can our heroes overcome communication difficulties and their mutual enmity to rally against a mutual enemy?
Matt Fraction and David Aja have never shied away from experimentation since launching Hawkeye. This issue once again re-examines comic book story-telling, as this “silent issue” is almost entirely told with Sign Language. We as the reader are rarely given translation of these signs: if you don’t know Sign Language, it’s up to you to try and decipher the conversations occurring. While some people may find this troublesome, I really liked this choice; it forced me to pay deeper attention to the story and, as David Aja pointed out on Twitter, “If while reading Hawkeye #19 you feel you don’t get it all, if you find obstacles, congrats, you’re staring to learn what being disabled is.”
The plot itself is great as well. We learn more about the shared history of the Barton brothers, and watch as they work to reconcile despite all the horror they’ve experienced at the hands of the Tracksuit Bros. There’s an awesome inspiring scene at the end, as we watch Hawkeye bring his neighbors together against a common threat.
In terms of artwork, Hawkeye #19 gives a presentation of the art team’s best work thus far. It’s clear Aja, colorist Matt Hollingsworth, and letterer Chris Eliopolous worked hard to ensure this story flowed with the aid of the experimental storytelling technique. We’re treated to some excellent scenes, especially the final splash page.
Overall, Hawkeye #19 is a great comic. Though it may be difficult to comprehend initially for those not versed in American Sign Language, it is nevertheless all the better for this fact. This comic utilizes an intriguing method of conveying a comic book plot, and one I think will be remembered for its creativity. If you’re a Hawkeye fan, or are just interested in exploring this intriguing approach to presenting a narrative, pick up Hawkeye #19.
-Original story-telling idea (story told through American Sign Language)
-Readers who don’t know American Sign Language will have to work harder to understand the full story
Brett Simon is a twenty-four year old comic enthusiast. He’s really happy he has a friend who knows ASL to better explain this issue to him at a later date.
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