HAWKEYE: MY LIFE AS A WEAPON | ‘New to Comics’ Review

New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.

With less than a week until Avengers: Endgame, I’m taking some time to do an N2C review on some of the core cinematic Avengers that we’ve missed, and today it’s Hawkeye.

Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Matt Fraction
Art by: David Aja, Javier Pulido & Alan Davis
Year: 2013
Pages: 137

SPOTLIGHT CHARACTER:

HAWKEYE

Real Name: Clinton Francis Barton
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #57 (September 1964)

After the death of their parents, Clint Barton and his brother Barney Barton ran away from their new foster home to experience a happier life by joining a travelling circus. There, Clint apprenticed under two ‘acts’ known as the Swordsman and Trick Shot. After discovering both men to be criminals, Clint also fell into a life of crime as Trick Shot’s brief partner, and later became the new partner of Black Widow. After clashing with Iron Man numerous times, Clint hoped to turn over a new leaf, and defected to the Avengers, confessing his crimes and asking for redemption. Armed with numerous trick arrows, unmatched skill in archery and a rebellious and determined nature, Clint became the stalwart Avenger Hawkeye. In later years, he would form strong bonds with his teammates, experience a doomed marriage to Mockingbird, and become a mentor figure to the younger Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

WHAT’s THE STORY?

The 2000s were a big decade for Hawkeye. Firstly, he was killed off as part of the Avengers Disassembled event, wherein Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were torn apart by one of their own members. Then, sometime later, he was inadvertently brought back to life by the Scarlet Witch in the House of M event. By this point, the Avengers had reformed as the New Avengers, introducing characters like Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Wolverine and Spider-Woman into the lineup, alongside the likes of Captain America, Iron Man and the Superman pastiche, the Sentry.

Alongside the New Avengers, a second team, known as the ‘Young Avengers’ was also formed. This consisted of a group of teenage characters whose superhero identities reflected more classic heroes: Ant-Man’s daughter took on the identity of Stature, the souls of Scarlet Witch’s children became Wiccan and Speed, the son of Captain Mar-Vell became Hulkling, the grandson of a Captain America trial subject became Patriot, the younger iteration of the time-travelling supervillain Kang the Conqueror became Iron Lad, and a rich society girl named Kate Bishop took on the name Hawkeye.

With his title taken by someone else, the returned Clint Barton, post-Civil War, joined the New Avengers, who had since gone underground (think Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon from the movie Avengers: Infinity War). As a New Avenger, Barton adopted the identity of Ronin (something expected to happen in Endgame), forgoing his usual archery and taking up the sword.

Today’s comic collects Young Avengers Presents #6, which acts as the first meeting between the revived Ronin and the younger Hawkeye, as well as the first five issues of Hawkeye’s ongoing series by Matt Fraction, which takes place some years later, when Clint has returned to being Hawkeye alongside Kate Bishop, ie. when he’s rejoined the Avengers proper.

WHAT’s THE PLOT?

Clint Barton is the world-famous Avenger Hawkeye. But when he’s not battling time-travelling conquerors or rampaging supervillains, he’s hanging out at his apartment building in Bed-Stuy; training the younger Hawkeye, getting into fights with his landlord, and occasionally undergoing dangerous missions for S.H.I.E.L.D.

He may be one of ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’, but his day to day problems need a bit more of a down-to-Earth touch.

IS IT ACCESSIBLE?

Part of this comic book is quite accessible. The first five issues (ie. the Hawkeye series itself) are fairly straightforward. Hawkeye is a superhero, he has no powers but he does have a bow and arrows. There’s a second Hawkeye, she’s called Kate Bishop. This is the sort of stuff they get up to when they’re not out Avenging.

However, at the end of the comic, this collection has, as I’ve previously mentioned, an issue of Young Avengers Presents tacked on to show how the two Hawkeye’s came to know each other. Of course, those of you who are reading this now have some idea of what’s going on with the various characters because I ran through it up top, but if you were to just open this issue having never read a Hawkeye comic before (or Young Avengers, or New Avengers, etc.) it would probably be quite confusing. For one, Hawkeye is dressed as Ronin, and two, a lot of the talk revolves around past issues and the fact that Hawkeye himself was dead. Also, the comic is told from Kate Bishop’s point-of-view; someone who standard audiences will obviously be unfamiliar with (until she shows up in the new Hawkeye show on Disney+).

WHAT’s THE VERDICT?

People rave about this comic. They say it’s one of the best comics Marvel has ever put out. But like yesterday’s Black Widow: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted Breakdown, I think it’s quite obvious that while this is very strong work from the creators, it feels lacking when taken as a single piece. The run as a whole is fantastic, but this one section feels somewhat choppy. The first three issues, by Fraction and illustrated by Aja, go for a sort of offbeat, down-to-Earth style, which is minimalist and beautiful.

Then, the story pivots into a globetrotting espionage tale, with Javier Pulido taking on art duties. While both artists are especially talented, Aja’s minimalistic art doesn’t really blend all that well with Pulido’s action-packed cartoonier drawings. The back-up Young Avengers story then features art from Alan Davis, which contrasts even more heavily with the two styles seen before. His art is much bolder and more conventional (I’ve also previously noticed that he really emphasises the features of black characters – big lips and noses – which I find a bit strange, but I may just be reading into things too deeply).

Art aside though, Fraction’s writing is killer. He’s essentially reinventing Hawkeye here – turning him from the brash hero to the deadbeat washout who you can’t help but love. In the main story, Kate Bishop consistently shows herself to be the more competent hero, and Clint Barton continuously blunders his way through the proceedings. It’s actually quite hard to imagine this Hawkeye being an actual Avenger, but on the flip side, it makes him so much more relatable, and a lot more fun.

Espionage aside, the problems he faces at the beginning of the book aren’t Earth-shattering, they’re problems that everyday people also have to deal with, albeit in a less superhero-y way. Stolen cars, evicition, trips to the vet. This isn’t the sort of thing you’d see Captain America doing, but it has a certain charm that reiterates why the Marvel Heroes occupy a world that’s meant to be the one outside your window.

This is definitely worth reading (although personally, I’d read the last issue first and then jump into the main story), and again, like the Black Widow comic yesterday, is worth reading as part of the completed collection, which goes on to tackle subjects like being hard of hearing and other things you wouldn’t normally find in a superhero comic.

RATING:

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