Let’s be brutally honest — Marvel hasn’t really known what to do with the character of Hawkeye since Matt Fraction and David Aja left the building. Their so-called “Hawkguy” run had it share of critics, to be sure, but by and large readers — myself included — loved the idea of Clint Barton as a street-level “man of the people” hero, and his next series couldn’t duplicate the prior one’s success, eventually succumbing to the twin pressures of both creative/editorial aimlessness and low sales. Another new monthly Hawkeye book is in the works — no shock there — but this one will feature Kate Bishop in the title role, with our guy Clint now at loose ends (and in less than a “good space” mentally) following his murder of Bruce Banner (yes, you read that right) in the pages of Civil War II. Enter writer David F. Walker, penciler Carlos Pacheco, inker Rafael Fonteriz and Occupy Avengers.
We all know that when times get tough, the tough hit the highway (uhhmmm — don’t they?), and Hawkeye is looking to get his head together with a cross-country road trip on his motorcycle. Route 66 is still the place to go for this uniquely American brand of don’t-call-it-soul-searching-even-though-that’s-what-it-is, naturally, but it doesn’t take long for Clint to find trouble — or perhaps for trouble to find him — as a quick stop-off in New Mexico leads to an investigation of water contamination at a local Indian reservation, and who better to lend a hand combating this sort of chicanery than Red Wolf?
Walker has promised that this series will be a “socially-conscious take on superheroes” — a notion more than reinforced by Agustin Alessio’s much-discussed, and quite striking, main cover — and I’ve got all the confidence in the world that he’s the man for the job given his track record on series like Power Man And Iron Fist, the just-completed Nighthawk, and Dynamite’s Shaft. Of course, Marvel made similar noises about Red Wolf’s recently-cancelled solo title, but with that one they made one of the most poorly-advised (to put it mildly) hires in comics history when they stuck a guy with a noxious history of politically divisive social media posts and sexual harassment of female fans at conventions on it as writer. The result was a book that couldn’t gin up much support and met an unsurprisingly quick end, but hey — it left the character at loose ends just in time for this “damn, that’s a natural” team-up. Sure, at its core this is basically Marvel’s 21st-century answer to Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ legendary “Hard-Traveling Heroes” storyline in the pages of Green Lantern/Green Arrow, but given that we’re still talking about that historic run some four-plus decades later, it’s only natural that someone would go back to that well at some point. In fact, you’ve honestly gotta wonder what took so long.
For my part, I found this first installment to be a pretty solid table-setter that lays out the basics quickly and efficiently and doesn’t waste a lot of time before sticking you right in the middle of the action — and I admit that I’m always a sucker for little-guy-vs.-the-big-bad-greedy-corporate-monsters stories. I can’t imagine this introductory arc lasting beyond three, maybe four issues, but they should be pretty darn good issues based on what we see here, and I’ll be very curious indeed to see what happens when this duo takes their “justice for the people” act on the road — the one question I have here, though, is who, exactly, is going to fit into the Hal Jordan role, if either of them. One of the reasons “Hard-Traveling Heroes” was such a success is that you had the juxtaposition of Ollie Queen’s “with-it,” socially-conscious character with Hal’s “square” persona, but both Hawkeye and Red Wolf are pretty cool cats who know the score, so essentially we’ve got a pair of Ollies here. I’m not sure how that sort of “two peas in the same pod” chemistry is going to work, but what the heck — I’m game to find out, given that Walker seems to have a more than solid grasp on what makes both of his chief protagonists tick. As far as the art goes, Pacheco and Fonteriz do especially well with the action sequences, and have a good eye for panel layouts and composition, and every character has a unique and individualistic look, even if they’re all cut from rather standard “good guy” and “bad guy” molds. I admit there’s nothing particularly visually spectacular happening here, but it all looks and feels reasonably believable and there are no obvious or glaring flaws as far as “Drawing 101” fundamentals go. The pages are easy to look at and motion is fluid and reasonably dynamic, and that’s primarily what you’re looking for in a high-octane series that doesn’t pause to catch its breath too terribly often like this.
I’m somewhat concerned that this series isn’t getting much of a promotional push and that it might get a bit lost in the midst of the whole “Marvel Now!” circus — especially given that the first issue shipped the same week that Mark Waid and Mike Del Mundo’s much-ballyhooed (and frankly pretty fucking lousy) new Avengers title, one of the definite cornerstones of the entire re-launch, made its debut — but at least Marvel does seem to be willing to make a little more space for “offbeat” books such as this, which is more than you can say for DC’s whole “Rebirth” thing, which is entirely concentrated on proven big sellers. So I guess it’s all up to us readers. This is an interesting concept, executed well, and deserves our support, so why not give her a shot? Like Clint Barton himself, David Walker is a guy who rarely misses the mark, and Occupy Avengers seems like a natural fit for both its characters and creators. Our heroes may be following a road previously (hard) traveled, but I’m still plenty eager to see where it leads.