Raymond Chandler once said, “Ability is what you’re capable doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”
On a Chandler scale, “Hawkeye” #20 flourishes with attitude. As we return to L.A to see the finale of Kate Bishop’s solo, super-awesome mission towards becoming a hero and better than Clint, we return to a no-less feisty Kate but one who is also wearied, sarcastic as all hell, and tired of the toll it takes to be a “Young Avenger.” Or, in Bishop’s words, “So the jig is up. No bigs.”
But this issue is a big deal — not just for Kate, or Fraction, or Wu, but for all female readers.
As a note, this review contains mild-spoilers.
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Annie Wu
Last time we left Kate, her borrowed trailer was ruined, Harold was murdered, the cops hated her, and there is the ever impending doom sent sweetly awaiting Kate from master villain Whitney Frost. This time, there are zombies, a hit on Clint, and a terrible secret that will push Kate to learn just how much of being a “hero” she can take. Great.
Continuing the “Hawkeye” trend of non-linear story-telling, “Hawkeye” #20 opens with us seeing a failed Kate Bishop. Considering this is the last of her solo run and the last issue of Wu’s, some could say that was a pretty harsh move to make — but it is instead a gift to the series as a whole.
By opening up with a mugshot and Kate’s one phone-call (to, of all people, her father), Fraction is letting us see the damage done to the effervescent Kate. The quick shift to trouble reels readers in, and the call, and what is said to have happened at the root of the story’s trouble; it also shows us and ask us to wonder how this Kate has begun to look fierce, edgier, and less girl-like all around. So, Kate doesn’t save the day, exactly.
But she tries, and tries. And that’s the gift. We remember she is new at this hero-thing, as well as this being an adult thing. Through these combination of life journeys, her adventures are rooted in palpable and earnest hope that readers can connect to, and root for her self-discovery even if that doesn’t stop her from having to fight zombies from a super wealthy industry funded for the rich and famous to stay beautiful. We’ve all been there, am I right? No? How about up against unspeakable odds with limitless capital that can manipulate your life without your consent?
That’s right. Kate just learned she is one in a BIG corrupt system. Thing is, she still refuses to quit.
In the opening panels we see a mugshot of the new Kate Bishop, looking more like a young Patti Smith: bruised, possibly missing teeth, and smiling through smeared makeup and caked blood. The subtle narrative breaking throughout this tale gives time for Wu and Fraction to explain how she can keep smiling. Fraction knows when to pause a story, giving the reader time to process and suffer with his characters, as well as rejoice. Fraction does what Kate Bishop’s character deserves and gives her a big slice of that gritty pulpy pie — even if she can’t afford a fork of her own.
Bishop continues to trip into scenes with flair and quips. At one point she even calls the detective holding her from her holding cell to tell him she really, totally could never actually be there, obviously, yo. As always, her youthful energy and overly-self-assured ways are intoxicating to follow. In another’s hand her voice could borderline end on being self-absorbed and privileged, but Bishop carefully teeters the line by also being headstrong, a hell-raiser, and fiercely loyal to her friends without hesitation (unlike another Hawkeye we know).
Wu intuitively balances self-deprecation, grit, and comedic timing. Wu is as playful and sardonic as Fraction’s one-liners with her raising of hands and mastered eye-rolls. If only there was an Eisner for eye-rolls. Wu also knows when to stop the bumbling act and show the humbled side of Bishop as she looks away from the panel or passes out on her couch, as well as her determination. When Bishop’s father answers her call, Wu draws a face where, as Chandler would say, “the girl gave him a look that ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”Continued below
Hollingsworth also dishes out the pastel palette with dark purple hues, favoring full colors to fill in the scene rather than scenic detail, which helps us to see the ever-so-changing and precise facial features of all passing judgment on Kate Bishop — including herself.
In “Hawkeye,” we see a Clint who fails, and fails often. It is not an uncommon story to hear in noir mysteries: a stubborn male detective who gets beat up all the time (cough Phillip Marlowe cough) because he can’t trust anyone, including himself, but then makes friends who sometimes make the difference or a sultry lover. Yet, it becomes uncommon when it’s turned into a coming of age story for a female private eye. At one marvelous point in this issue, and maybe the defining moment of the issue, Kate sees the not-quite-dead Harol and confesses to him that she’s a failure and that nothing she did really mattered if the big bads don’t get punished, and he reveals to her that being a hero is just a “metaphor.”
And Kate, well, she doesn’t get it. And for a moment, where Wu depicts a hand-waving, yelling Kate, we vicariously want to yell too! Was this all for nothing? Why couldn’t Kate make everything all better? And all Harold admits is that he “needed a hero” to live again. Alongside Kate, we were allowed to live with a real-life hero — a person that has limitations and does not succeeds but keeps trying, and becomes heroic.
Her incompetency is laughable only because of Kate’s unbelievable and blatant ignorance of ever in a million years doubting herself. And in that indomitable spirit, whether it be captured, or ridiculous, or admirable, we see “heroism” in the true “Hawkeye” fashion.
All I can say is that I hope this is not too long of a goodbye.
Final Rating: 8.5 – a gritty and grand farewell to Marvel’s first self-declared female private eye detective/Avenger; a must-have uproarious adventure