(a) David Aja
"You don't gotta pretend you ain't Hawkguy 'round us, Hawkguy."
Clint Barton was already the most atypical member of the Avengers before Matt Fraction got ahold of him--he was a circus performer turned thief when he met the Black Widow, then he joined the Avengers to redeem himself. Clint's never really been the center of attention (at least, not until he was featured in Joss Whedon's The Avengers last summer), and his brash attitude and style got him into trouble more often than not in the past.
Then he was murdered. By the Scarlet Witch.
Avengers: Disassembled brought about a lot of deaths to convey the end of an era--Vision, Jack of Hearts, Thor--but Clint Barton's was the most emotional and the most poignant because he died saving his fellow Avengers from a Kree warship. In the end, the whole Kree "invasion" turned out to be a cruel trick of Wanda Maximoff's dementia, making Clint's death all the more painful.
Eventually, Clint made his way back into the land of the living (go figure) as Ronin, so as to keep secret his newfound resurrection-ness (obviously, he takes the name Hawkeye again after some time). One would think that killing off a character and bringing him back would make him more meaningful as a result. Unfortunately, this was not the case and once again, Clint was mostly pushed to the side, made to be a tertiary character once again. Now, Matt Fraction didn't necessarily bring Hawkeye to the forefront in recent years, but he is writing one of the best--if not the best--interpretations of the character ever. Partnering Fraction's impecable writing with David Aja's artwork has simply been a joy to read over the past five months.
Hawkeye #6 is a stand-alone story about "Six Days in the Life of Hawkeye", a holiday tale that brings back the Eastern European "bros" from the first three issues. In a very much appreciated nod to multiculturalism, Fraction shies away from favoring any religious traditions or otherwise. Spider-Man wishes Clint a "Happy Hanukkah!", Clint's tenants celebrate a "Joyous Kwanzaa", while Clint himself greets some TV-less neighbors with a "Merry Christmas! If, uh. If that's your thing." To many, diversity is a no-brainer, but it's often difficult to pull off without sounding preachy and/or needlessly politically correct. Here, Fraction makes this feel like a holiday story, not a Christmas story, not a Hanukkah story, not a Kwanzaa story, and not even an atheist story. It's simply a fun tale about a guy under pressure during a time of year for reasons much different than the pressures you or I face every December. And while there's not a whole lot of action in this issue, Aja's stylized fight scenes balance the plethora of dialogue nicely.
Various Marvel heroes make cameos this issue, like the aforementioned Spider-Man, and Wolverine helping to foil a plan by A.I.M. Tony Stark shows up to tell Clint to give it a rest with the tangled electronics cords and just buy some new home theater equipment, and Kate Bishop drops by, naturally, to lay some reality on Clint before he makes a very big mistake. A big part of the holiday season is togetherness, and Fraction does an excellent job making it feel like Clint has real relationships with his teammates and friends, not just professional courtesy.
Some people have favorite holiday moveis they watch every year. I feel like this will be an issue I read each and every December. Hawkeye #6 is how a holiday-themed comic should be--inclusive, fun, relatable, grounded, visually appealing, and thematic to the season. Throughout the issue, Clint is pushed to be something he's not. In the end, he comes to terms with being himself and liking that person. It's a feeling most of us go through at one point or another, and the backdrop of snowy New York City nights is just so awesome. Fraction and Aja deliver with Hawkeye #6.