In “All-New Hawkeye” #1, Jeff Lemire and a really innovative artist take one of the most famous archers in comics and reinvents them in a brand new story that heavily revolves around said archer’s childhood. Wait, we got our “Green Arrow” notes mixed up. Uh, here’s a spoiler-free review of “All-New Hawkeye”.
Words by Jeff Lemire
Art by Ramón Perez
THE AVENGING ARCHERS ARE BACK!
• Hawkeye returns in an all-new series featuring superstar writer Jeff Lemire in his Marvel debut and Eisner Award-winning artist Ramón Perez, as they bring you a fresh new look into the life of everyone’s favorite Avenger. With Kate Bishop, his trusted ward and protégé back at his side (not titles she would use), Team Hawkeye is thrown into an all new adventure spanning two generations of avenging archers. Past and present lives collide as Kate and Clint face a threat that will challenge everything they know about what it means to be Hawkeye.
• But no one puts Hawkeye in a corner.
• Hawkeye and Hawkeye take aim March 2015!
Having to follow up on an instant classic is weird. So is following up on them when they’re still not finished. We’re not even at the point where you could argue that the last series is in the past, “Hawkeye” #22 comes out in April. I also think the events of it chronologically ended in April 2013. Hawkeye’s just a weird character, yo.
Anyway, with Fraction, Aja, and Wu’s time with Hawkguy coming to a close, it’s time for a new team to take on The Avengers’ Charlie Kelly. Lemire and Perez, along with Ian Herring and Joe Sabino, dig into Clint Barton’s past while his future (which involves the always crowd-pleasing Kate Bishop) explodes around him. In this issue, Clint and Kate (don’t call her Katie) are called in by Maria Hill to investigate a secret weapon belonging to HYDRA, who have quickly supplanted AIM as the generic goons that everyone beats up now. The premise itself is a little too convenient. Kate and Clint just show up, arrows flying, and fighting their way through Neo-Nazi snake goons. It feels a bit cheap and (absolutely feel free to crucify me for writing this) a little shallow compared to the world-building the last series had. At first, it almost seems as if the current events feel ironic, detached, like the cold-open to something grander. And honestly, that may not be inaccurate, especially considering just how much focus in this issue is placed onto the past.
The structure of the comic is cleaved in two: the aforementioned HYDRA mission in the present and a flashback to Clint’s origins as an orphan in Iowa with his brother Barney, and it’s in these segments where the issue really shines. There’s not much new to what we learn in the flashbacks (Clint and Barney lived as sad orphans before joining the circus which turned them into morally irresponsible bowmen), but these scenes are fueled with a melting sentimentality, thanks in large part to Perez who has gone full Jekyll and Hyde on us. Unless I’ve misread the credits page, Perez has rendered this issue in two styles: hard pen and ink for the present and hazy watercolor for the past.
Rendering Hawkeye’s childhood in watercolor is an interesting choice for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how it makes for the perfect representation of recollecting memories. Barney and Clint have had few happy moments and even fewer happy moments together and Perez’s layout reflects Clint’s imperfect recalling of one. In a two page splash, Barney and Clint spend a day catching frogs at the lake and their conversations begin to blend together in the infinite ripples of the lake, like a dozen memories melting into one large one. It’s a subtle choice, but one that informs us that we’re not just getting a cut and dry re-telling of Hawkeye’s origins. We’re getting a deeply personal recalling from Clint’s point of view on how he grew up, relying on the art to convey Clint’s emotions rather than heavy narration boxes. It’s half super heroics, half memory play, and a top-notch creative team using their storytelling tools to the top of their intelligence.Continued below
And while I appreciate the childhood segments of this issue more than the present-day ones, I can’t fault either for a lack of pacing. The HYDRA scenes start fast, with Kate and Clint diving through Nazis and blurting out the cute one-liners we’d expect from them. They keep a comfortable pace until Kate discovers something horrific which strikes a chord with the childhood story that has also begun to pick up speed. Soon, the two collide, bleeding in and out of each other like the pond of frogs. Hawkeye runs down a hallway while, outside the window, Li’l Clint speeds away on his bike. Meanwhile, Kate’s realization of Hydra’s newest horror is matched by the boys’ faces upon seeing something that would change their lives forever. It’s the perfect implementation of the two story lines, weaving in and out of each other until we realize there’s no “current scenes” or “flashback scenes”. It’s all one story, made larger by implications that simultaneously exist in the past and present.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – The worst thing “All-New Hawkeye” #1 could’ve been was a continuation of the snarky Hawkguy and Pizza Dog series. There’s definitely traces of that there when the action cuts to 2015, but it’s paired up with a deeply passionate look-back on Hawkeye’s beginnings. Beyond that, “All-New Hawkeye” #1 isn’t just a good story being told, it’s a good story being told smart. Perez and Herring are at the top of their freaking game here and I can’t imagine an Eisner nod not being in their future. “All-New Hawkeye” #1 may not have everything set in place just yet, but so far it’s looking to be a masterfully told tale of children, cruelty and compound bows.
Yes, I could have just written “crossbows” and made that alliteration easier but no one in “Hawkeye” uses those. Yet.