STORY: Matt Fraction
ART: David Aja and Chris Hollingsworth
“So hobos are warning other hobos that something big and/or police inducing, ergo criminal, maybe about to occur. And that may-or-may-not involve other hobos and/or circuses?” asks the second Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, to her mentor, Clint Barton. “Well when you put it like that, it sounds stupid.” And therein lies a baseline within Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, a series that in two issues alone has not only paid homage to one of the best Silver Age stories in DC’s history, but has also brought back one of my personal favorite characters from one of my personal favorite, totally underused, teams, Kate Bishop (a.k.a. Hawkeye II) of the Young Avengers. Hawkeye #2 is full of Fraction’s emotion-filled style, David Aja’s amazingly-appropriate artwork that never fails to amaze, as well as the sum of these parts, which resembles a cross between an Anton Chekhov play – which turn the everyday banality of normal lives into emotional and meaningful exercises in surviving day after day – and TV’s Community – a show that pushes the boundaries of ‘real life’ so close to the edge, the definitions are often blurred. Clint Barton grew up in a circus, so when a vagabond code sign warning of bad things to come shows up in his neighborhood, the most grounded Avengers knows something is afoot.
Enter Kate Bishop, who uses the same moniker as Clint, but who couldn’t be much more different than the original Hawkeye, in terms of personal background. Clint grew up fending for his life and proving himself every day while travelling with a circus, eventually going into a life of crime before the Avengers intervened and saw his potential for good. Kate Bishop, on the other hand, comes from a wealthy family, was trained and taught by some of the world’s brightest, joined the Young Avengers purely out of spite (at first, at least), and currently doesn’t have much to do besides bugging her mentor. While I’ve always liked Kate’s character, I especially enjoy Fraction’s interpretation of her – in the past, she’s often been written as a hard-assed snob juxtaposed to the more meager means of her teammates. Here, Fraction molds Kate into what she truly is: an intelligent, humorous, loyal, talented young woman who is a lot more grown up than some of the other teenaged heroes running around (say, like the ones over at Avengers Academy).
When I began reading Hawkeye #2 and realized Kate was featured, I was hoping for a Batman/Robin vibe between them. What I got was something much better. Bruce Wayne’s relationships with his many Boy Wonders’ are based on the meaning behind the vigilantism – each Robin has a clear-cut reason for taking the mantle, and it’s often one rooted in emotional turmoil. In the case of Clint and Kate, their relationship is more like a really cool, bleeding heart civics teacher and his student who understands more about the world than she should. They respect one another enough to have each others’ back, which is saying a lot in the post Civil War and Secret Invasion world they inhabit. Fraction takes the time to make sure we understand that these characters have a fantastic working relationship.
But just like those cool teachers who are always so laid back and open minded, they can say stupid stuff sometimes. The conversation between Clint and Kate at the end of the issue is awkward – that’s the most direct way to put it. Clint is asking Kate to work more closely with him (concerning Hawkeye-only missions around the world) and before you know it, their amazing partner chemistry becomes strained under the weight of seven little words that cross a line, even if it is just a little bit. Again, Fraction uses emotion and real human situations to drive his narrative, and it’s worked well so far.
While there are only these two issues of this series from which to judge, Hawkeye is turning into one of the best series Marvel releases each month. Matt Fraction is a volatile writer whose work either flourishes, as is the case here, or flounders terribly, as was the case with last year’s Fear Itself crossover event. What makes Hawkeye so great, fortunately, is it’s ability to mine emotion without taking advantage of the medium. At every turn, this series becomes more and more relatable and grounded, while still keeping the high-concept idea “Robin Hood” idea intact and – I’m assuming – a future with at least a few super-villains thrown in for good measure.