Another month, another batch of literature. Mostly comics ahead since April was Infinity War month and my brother is also on a crusade to make comics a staple of my literary diet.
First up, Clint Barton’s Hawekeye.
Hawkeye Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon written by Matt Fraction, art by David Aja and others [4/5 stars]
Everybody’s least favourite Avenger is an interesting guy. Good at heart but a bit of a mess. Sometimes he just wanders around aimlessly, not even pouring the coffee in his mug correctly. But he can’t stand injustice, and that will make him jump headfirst into action. This is what makes him a hero. Captain America is clearly an influence for this:
“Cap … he makes you want to be better”
I rated it 3 stars initially but an extra star for Aja’s brilliant art that adds to an ultimately very human tale. What it lacks in the hyper detail common in comics, it makes up in incredible structure: from the colours to the panels. It invites the eyes to follow its lurid journey. Seriously, the characterisation is interesting enough but the art is truly brilliant. It’s hard to describe but there are few times when Hawkeye nocks and then shoots an arrow and the flow of these motions is great. It’s very difficult to describe and is emblematic of optimised artistry that you need to see it in action.
A good thing for individual books over the crossover comics: you get better characterisation. Clint and his partner Kate Bishop have great (non-sexual!) chemistry and there are some real laughs to be had at their sort of dysfunctional family sort of relationship. If you’re looking for a character-led superhero story, look no further.
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan [4/5 stars]
Gotta read The Wheel of Time, baby! A worthy sequel to the brilliant The Great Hunt and I’ll give you one reason: Matrim Cauthon. Mat spent the first two books ill (for Plot reasons) so it’s not until this episode that we get a glimpse into his character. The loudmouthed, gambling, hero the cast don’t deserve is a treat. It leads me to wonder why he waited two books to have Mat properly introduced, y’know? But Jordan is the master of “Things That Don’t Seem Important But Definitely Are” so we’ll see.
Jordan made an interesting step in this book: have the main character have a goal that is specific to him but not have him as a featured perspective. Rand has very little “screen time” and that gives room for other characters like Mat, Perrin, and Egwene to develop, to the book’s credit. Rand’s absence drives the plot and adds a much-needed dynamism to the book, if the plot points are bit clumsily handled. Rand is absent until essentially the end, seen only in the occasional glimpse and dream. For me, this reads like the twin of the former book, The Great Hunt which begins quite slowly but speeds up to explore various different avenues leading to an explosive finale. There were some nice twists along the way and the worldbuilding remains stellar if there are some character missteps (I was always on the fence with Egewene but she is definitely worse in this book).
With this, I will be taking a short reprieve from The Wheel of Time. Baby.
Infinity Vols. I & II: written by Jonathan Hickman, art by various [4/5 stars in total]
So of course in the week leading up to my viewing of Infinity War, I read the comics! (I was basically told they were mandatory reading by my brother in his continual efforts to make me read more comics.)
So Jonathan Hickman has the impossible task of uniting Marvel’s mightiest heroes against their (so far) mightiest threat: the Mad Titan Thanos. This is done to mixed degree. The first volume felt very fragmentary and the sweeping scope was interesting but frustrated clarity and made continuing almost not worthwhile. I would rate it raw a 2.5-3 stars (out of 5), with a bump of a star for the gorgeous art. The second volume ties the threads together much more satisfyingly in some genuinely moving scenes to a pretty shaky but deserved 4 out of 5 stars.
The Thanos in these comics is the Thanos that has been teased and shown in snippets across the MCU but wholly differs from the film version, which is the better presentation, for me personally.
As a relative noob to comics, I wouldn’t recommend this either. A lot of this relies on pretty deep knowledge of the comic universe. Hickman in general does a good job but there’s so much lore that it requires a good search to understand if one is unfamiliar with the wider continuity. Some people are fine to do that but I am not, in general.
Note on reading habits: I’m going to need to curate my reading habits more. My comic habits are being largely shaped by my brother who hands me what he’s read but I think I need to look into stuff for myself. He has an income so that is part of the reason why this is, so this will serve as a sort of note for when I start having one too. I want to read non-superhero stuff. I think that’s what I need to reignite my passion for the medium.