A few weeks back, we took a look at what Marvel was doing with the “classic” Clint Barton iteration of Hawkeye in the pages of Occupy Avengers #1, but Clint’s not the only archer at loose ends in the MU these days — his protege/successor/sidekick, Kate Bishop, is on her own on the West Coast and finally ready to step out of her mentor’s currently-troubled shadow after playing second-fiddle to him in the last three (Jesus, guys, seriously?) Hawkeye series by starring in her own solo book. And since a year apparently can’t go by without a new Hawkeye #1, December 2016 sees our annual quota met with the first issue of Kate’s new title courtesy of writer Kelly Thompson, artist Leonardo Romero, and colorist Jordie Bellaire. But does it hit the mark?
Based on what’s on offer here, I’m pleased to answer that question with an enthusiastically tentative (how’s that for an oxymoron?) “yes.” Thompson has a superb handle on her protagonist’s voice, mannerisms, speech patterns, and overall attitude, and since “attitude” is the arguably the most dangerous (and fun) metaphorical arrow in Kate’s equally metaphorical quiver, that counts for a lot. As we watch her attempt to set up shop as a private eye in Venice Beach, California, we get sass and smarts to spare, are introduced to a tight but intriguing supporting cast, and hey — there’s even a pretty slick POINT BREAK-esque bank robbery sequence that plays out in a manner that you could almost be forgiven for calling charming. Yeah, alright, Kate’s first case does seem like a rather standard-issue affair, but there’s even hope for that, as the last page shows that what we thought to be a rather “open-and-shut” affair is probably anything but. In short, then, the operative word here is fun, and that’s something that’s been sorely missing from any Hawkeye book since Matt Fraction and David Aja left the building.
Romero’s art is of the “crisp, clean, and contemporary” variety, with some cartoon-ish influences at the forefront that suit the tone of the script quite well, and while it’s not what you’d call outright remarkable in any way, it’s certainly several steps above merely “competent” and definitely reinforces the comic’s overall “let’s not take ourselves too seriously here, folks” tone. I’m not sure that his style would work on, say, Captain America or any other “traditional” super-hero book, but on this one, it not only does the job, it does it well. Bellaire’s color work is always among the best in the business, of course, and here she employs an uncharacteristically bright and lively palette that further cements the feeling of fun and light-hearted (though hardly insubstantial for all that) adventure established by the line art while eschewing the temptation to fall completely over into the whimsical and/or farcical. The end result is that rarest of rarities these days : a single-issue “floppy” that both reads and looks like it was intentionally designed to be experienced as such, rather than simply as the first chapter of an inevitable trade paperback collection — and this, friends, is something that I dig very much, because the monthly (or thereabouts) single is still where my heart as a comics reader lies.
On the subject of monthly singles, though, I don’t think it’s any secret that I was less than enthusiastic about yet another “Marvel Now!” relaunch back when it was originally announced — even if its arrival meant that Civil War II was, mercifully, over with — but I have to say that on the whole I’ve been more than pleasantly surprised by what’s come out of it, particularly as far as our two favorite bow-slingers are concerned. Any gripes I have about the new Hawkeye #1 are very small indeed (for instance, while I love Julian Totino Tedesco’s cover, shouldn’t it say “The Adorable Archer Takes Aim — At Danger?”), and for anyone who’s been waiting for Marvel to “get it right” with the Hawkeyes again, between this book and Occupy Avengers it looks like they’ve done just that. Thompson, Romero, and Bellaire have scored a real bull’s-eye with readers on this one, and ya know what? It doesn’t hurt a bit.