By Scott Southard. Marvel continues its diabolical scheme to make cataloging comics as confusing as possible with their second All-New Hawkeye #1 of 2015 (Don’t worry, the same writer, artist and colorist are still on board, so any attempt to use names to differentiate is futile). But aside from the titular merry-go-round, I couldn’t be more pleased that the creative team has stuck together with Hawkeye (and uh, Hawkeye) to properly start anew.
They continue where the first (very well received) run left off, with Clint and Kate resuming business as usual. But the trauma of their last mission (and their inability to truly save a group of children) haunts Kate’s current state of mind. We see the wisdom in her apprehension during brief glimpses of the future, spliced between scenes set in the present. With this technique, Lemire drafts for us a very clear flowchart of cause and effect, and it’s almost therapeutic to see an argument between Clint and Kate occur, only to then immediately see how the argument plays out 20 years later. (Spoiler: Kate was right) It also primes this valuable “How did I get here?” storyline to fill in the missing decades with loads of character building narrative.
These chronological jumps are represented with great visual divergence as well. Ramon Perez highlights the present day with a thick-lined/heavy contrast look, and uses a hand-sketched, muted pallette for the future segments. The stark differences between the two art styles emphasize that the actions of today can and do affect the future in profound ways. The mistakes that Team Hawkeye are currently making are creating dire situations for the future of humanity, and it’s on full display with Perez’s impressive pencil work. (He also uses this style to continue the series trademark of breathtaking covers in a regal puddle of faded purples and unsettlingly sad yellow accents, all rendered to ominous effect.)
At times, the sheer cohesiveness of Lemire and Perez’ work is astounding. As the story darkens, so does the art. The exploration and implication of Clint Barton as an aging man/retired hero is a sad look at inevitability. We see that he’s withdrawn from society and let himself go, or as Kate puts it, “staying in that brownstown and hiding from the world.” It’s a depressing concept to confront; Hawkeye’s relinquished his status as an Avenger and rotted in oblivion for 20 years. But this solemnity is the beating heart of this comic, and what makes it stand out as one of the best on the shelves.
I mean this is the best possible way: Jeff Lemire brazenly chips away at the “super” in superhero. Even if the characters have superhuman abilities, they’re still people that have to socially function with each other, making small talk in simple conversations. Watching two flawed heroes’ in an argument that plays out like a ping-pong match is almost bizarre, if only because it’s something we see in ourselves, right there on the printed page. The dynamics of working with others in such a high stress environment is certainly something that would take a toll on the psyche of anyone, and that’s something you simply don’t read about in superhero comics very often.
I suppose social dynamics are more often dismissed in favor of seemingly more pressing issues, like global destruction, human enslavement, or the myriad other villainous plots du jour. But setting Lemire’s take on the hero/sidekick (fix that: hero/hero) dichotomy aside the rote aspects of saving the world provides insight into the inner workings of the world-savers themselves. These are the aspects of heroes that we can identify with as readers and as humans.
As Lemire and Perez provide us with a deeper look into the psychological struggles of the champions we put on pedestals, we all gain a greater sense of understanding and connectedness. I want more weakness. I want more defect. I want more dark imperfection and flawed sadness. I want more Hawkeye.
Written by Jeff Lemire.
Art by Ramon Perez.
Colors by Ian Herring.
8.5 out of 10