Welcome to Read This Next, an ongoing feature designed to help you find more comics to love. We take a comic that's a big hit with readers, a comic that's been in the news lately, or both, talk a bit about why it's great and why it's noteworthy, and then steer you toward other comics connected to it in some way. Whether you're a new reader looking for a guide to more than just that one series your friend recommended, an old reader hoping to find new stuff, or just someone looking for something to read, we're here to help.
This week, we go from The Avengers' resident sharpshooter to the Justice League's Scarlet Speedster.
IF YOU'VE READ: Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, Javier Pulido and others
Earlier this week, we finally saw preview pages for Hawkeye #22, the final issue of the landmark Eisner-winning series documenting the adventures of Clint Barton, his neighbors and his pizza-loving dog. It's been a long road to the end, but "Hawkguy," as both writer Matt Fraction and fans have dubbed him, is finally closing out his run with a showdown that will decide the future of his neighborhood. What started as a critically acclaimed, quirky look at what Clint Barton "does when he's not being an Avenger" way back in 2012 quickly grew into a comics phenomenon that had people making their own Pizza Dog stuffed animals and cosplaying as a battered Hawkguy at every convention imaginable. This little book, about an Avenger who's often relegated to punchline status, caught fire with fans, and it remains one of the seminal Marvel books of the last decade.
What's special about Hawkeye is that Fraction, Aja and company deliberately set out to document the un-special life of the un-special Avenger. This isn't Hawkeye hanging out in Avengers Tower, flirting with Spider-Woman and wearing a whole bunch of tactical gear. This is Hawkeye on his day off, and it turns out when he's not riding the Quinjet Hawkeye is kind of a mess. He drinks coffee straight from the pot. He lives in a terrible apartment. He can't even hook up his DVR properly. Outside of the Avengers, Hawkeye barely has his life together, but the book is rooted in a very simple, very human drive that Clint Barton cannot escape. He wants to help people. It's what drives him to fight alongside gods and monsters with The Avengers time and time again, but it's also what drives him to make sure the kids down the hall aren't being hassled by the mob, and to go out in a rowboat after a flood hits to find people who need saving. He's a compulsive hero, and that grounds the book in something very relatable. Add in a lot of human, a very distinct "OK. This looks bad." inner monologue for the title character, and you've got the makings of a great comic.
Of course, now Hawkeye is ending, so what should you read after it's over?
READ THIS NEXT: The Flash by Mark Waid, Greg LaRocque, Mike Wieringo, and others
If you've ever wondered why so many comic-book fans were bummed when The New 52 restored Barry Allen as the definitive DC Comics Flash while basically shoving Wally West to the side, go read Mark Waid's The Flash run and you'll begin to understand. For nearly a decade, he and some extraordinary artists built a series of definitive Flash stories focused on Wally West, Bart Allen, Jay Garrick and The Flash legacy as a whole. There's a great story in here about pretty much every Flash rogue you could want to read about, including what might be the very best Reverse-Flash story ever told. These are clever, funny, fast-paced comics that will make you fall in love with these characters even if you have very little prior DC Comics experience, all while giving you a guided tour of a large swath of the greater DC Universe. So, what's that have to do with Hawkeye?
Well, Wally West obviously has superpowers, while Clint Barton really doesn't, and this is definitely not a series of stories about what Wally does on his days off from the Justice League. This is a book about the Fastest Man Alive, in a bright red suit, racing through Central City to take down everyone from Gorilla Grodd to Mirror Master. It's not alternative or quirky. It's very DC Comics. What makes the book really special for me, though, is the voice with which Waid manages to imbue Wally West and his supporting cast. When I think about Wally West, he sounds like this Wally West. When I think about Jay Garrick, he sounds like this Jay Garrick. This is a book imagined by creators with a very clear understanding of these characters and how they work, and once you get used to Waid writing Wally's inner monologue, right from the opening scene of the run, you'll never look back. Like Fraction, Waid's a guy with a very clear sense of the characters he's writing, and if you like the "Hero of the People" vibe that comes through with Hawkeye, you'll definitely find something in The Flash to love too.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Want more? Check out these titles:
The Immortal Iron Fist by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and David Aja: The first collaboration of Hawkeye's Eisner-winning creative team.
Moon Knight by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire: Like Hawkeye, it carries a very singular aesthetic. Unlike Hawkeye, it's really, really weird, in a great way.
Secret Six by Gail Simone and Nicola Scott: Do you like funny stories about heroes and villains that don't really make the comic book A-list? Secret Six is for you.