Now is the time of a new empire to arise on the foundations of the old. In this case I am referring to “All-New Hawkeye #1″. This story comes after the huge, looming shadow of “Hawkeye” written by Matt Fraction and drawn by David Aja wrapped up and now “All-New Hawkeye” seeks to turn the corner and bring a new chapter to Clint Barton. But the question we need to ask is if there is another way to tell a Hawkeye story.
I’m not sure who else remembers but long ago Ed Brubaker ended his legendary run on “Captain America” and Marvel was left with the daunting task of finding his replacement. The decision was made to pass the reins on to Rick Remender. This was a monumentally bad decision. They went in a different creative direction, took on a new tone to the book, and dropped Cap in space—a completely unfamiliar environment with none of his supporting cast. It’s also the reason that Time Karate is the bane of my existence, but I digress. The point is that when we look to make a new Hawkeye book, do we go with the traditional formula and stay the course or do we flip everything on its head? The answer apparently is a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.
What made “Hawkeye” so appealing in the first place? Easy, he was the everyman out of the Avengers. Clint was the flawed human simply trying to do what was right. After all, his entire run involves protecting his neighbors in his apartment building—and that he was so bad at it made him endlessly entertaining. So here comes “All-New Hawkeye” and Jeff Lemire and immediately we see he is trying to change the formula. The book starts in a dreamy flashback to his childhood. The art is gorgeous and the layouts are fluid and seamless, the opposite of traditional Hawkeye art. It’s jarring in how welcoming it is, a very Jeff Lemire thing to do. But this whole book isn’t one big flashback and soon we are thrown to the present where Hawkeye and Hawkguy are running through a secret Hydra facility while all the alarms and sirens ring out. There’s the Hawkeye we know and love.
The action in this book is excellent. It’s intense and yet comical in one big explosion smoothie. Kate and Clint are of course verbally sparring with each other just as much as they are shooting Hydra up with arrows. They must be taking on two dozen trained murderers and breezing through it. Of course this was supposed to be a stealth mission but we all know Clint blew it somehow leaving the two Hawkeyes to flee for their lives without the mission objective. Looks like Maria Hill is going to be mighty cross when they get back to S.H.I.E.L.D… and that’s when you realize this isn’t Hawkeye. Clint doesn’t fight his way through some evil bunker somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Clint pisses off mob bosses and mooks in track suits. He gets in car chases with silly looking guys in Mini Coopers while firing all different kinds of arrows into the streets of New York. Perhaps there has been a mix up here.
Maybe I’m over reacting; it’s possible I’ve been known to be very protective of comic books. Just reading the book without thinking about anything else makes this book very entertaining to read, thrilling and action packed like a good summer blockbuster. The trouble for me is that while all the flashbacks are these soft, flowing masterpieces, the present day are the flat color broad art that was a cornerstone of the previous Hawkeye. Okay yes, I really miss the Matt Fraction run and I guess the book isn’t really that bad. There are a few things that give me pause. The end McGuffin makes me tense because it’s starting to veer into the weird and sci-fi which is less Hawkeye and more Lemire. Second, and this is a really big pet peeve, they go out of their way to tell us that Hawkeye now has hearing aids that completely nullify his deafness. I’m so tired of this in books, a character gets a distinct disability that challenges them and makes them grow in an interesting direction and by the next story arc they’ve tossed it out. Didn’t Thor just get his arm cut off only to get a metal arm replacement an issue later? Not only does this erase disabilities from the comic book universe but it diminishes the impact of disabilities to characters. How big of an impact can a lost limb really be if they can just make a better metal one? Hawkeye was distinct for his deafness and now it’s functionally gone—a tragic loss for comic book readers.
So what we’re dealing with here isn’t really a releaunch but a shift in the paradigm. This has happened from time to time in “Invincible” and often to explore different aspects of Mark. There was the time when he was personally recruited by Cecil Stedman to be the planetary superhero, responding to any summons for any emergency requiring his aid. Then when he rebelled against Cecil for being a sneaky, backhanded traitor. And then when he rejoined with Cecil because he could see that Cecil was doing what needed to be done. But then there was that time he rebelled against Cecil to save Dinosaurus only to rejoin Cecil to make up for allowing Dinosaurus to flood the planet… My point is that Mark knows he doesn’t have all the answers and sometimes all he can be is reactionary to the moment, one of the things that Clint excels at on a regular basis.