(p) Javier Pulido
Matt Fraction continues to astound this week with Hawkeye #5, the conclusion to "The Tape" which has seen Clint Barton tracking down a VHS cassette that contains extremely sensitive and classified information regarding the assassination of a political enemy of the United States government. Last issue, Clint made his way to the island of Madripoor in hopes of outbidding a cadre of super villains intent on getting their hands on something that could destroy the reputations of the US government, S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Avengers at large. For a series that has thus far been more about the fun and goofiness of comic books, "The Tape" has been surprisingly dark. There's no old school Hawkeye profile used as a censor bar, there's no pizza dog, and there's nobody overusing "bro". No, this story is about actual high stakes, and that's why it's so good.
Hawkeye #5's metafictional drama gives it a much more intentional punch than most superhero comics because the story hinges on a relatable and realistic narrative. Obviously, Fraction is likening Du Ke Feng to Osama Bin Laden in terms of what the public knows about the terrorist's death. It's the reason this story is so heavy. Fans can argue that the status quo is different after crossover events like Civil War or Siege, but if you really look at the trend, Captain America is still the leader of the Avengers, the X-Men still exist (albeit in a less organized fashion), and Thor is perennially dead/alive. There are minor changes, but not ones that would be perceptible to a casual reader or non-fan. Unlike the various fallouts from various crossover events over the years, the ramifications of this tape going public would actually change how things work in the Marvel universe -- S.H.I.E.L.D. would lose all credit as an 'international' peace-keeping entity (as well as it's funding and acknowledgements, I assume), the Avengers would be shamed and tried as political revolutionaries, and the US government would fall from grace on the global scene. This tape is extremely important.
But in true Matt Fraction fashion, things aren't always what the seem and the final few pages of Hawkeye #5 will remind you how good Fraction is at writing street-level heroes. Clint and Kate Bishop have been in a few pickles before "The Tape", but this is really the first time we get to see the two Hawkeyes in their natural state together, kicking ass and taking names. Hawkeye is one of the best comic book series currently being published and you're doing a diservice to yourself if you read comics and aren't keeping up with this book. As evidenced by most everything he's writing at the moment, Fraction is incredibly gifted at making comics easy and fun to read instead of a chore in backstory and line-wide events. This is the series to read.