Today, Drew and Jack are discussing Hawkeye 4, originally released November 21st, 2012.
Drew: Back in issue 2, Clint assured us that “work’s work.” The very notion of considering the Avengers a day job says a lot about his character, but the notion that he could separate his personal life from his professional one is laughable. Hell, my mom can’t even do that, and her job doesn’t involve killing people, saving the world, or supervillains bent on exacting revenge (at least, I don’t think her job involves those things). The first three issues of Hawkeye have brilliantly explored what a guy like Clint might get up to when he has nothing better to do — fighting local crime and righting small wrongs just for the hell of it — but issue 4 brings reality back to Clint’s doorstep. It just so happens that, for Clint, reality comes in the form of a floating aircraft-carrier filled with superheroes.
It turns out, a videotape of Clint assassinating “the world’s most wanted criminal terrorist” — an item that could be used to blackmail essentially the entire US Government — is going up for auction in a swanky, foreign casino/hotel. This seems like the perfect mission for James Bond, but instead, they inexplicably send in Clint, armed with only a limit-free credit card. Some hijinx ensue on the way to the auction, but Clint arrives just in time to be abducted by Madame Masque. He convinces Masque that he’s just there to bid on the tape like everybody else, but she confiscates S.H.I.E.L.D.’s credit card for security (that is, in addition to leaving him tied up). The next morning, the auction commences without Clint, and Masque outbids everyone with a hefty one billion dollars. After securing the tape, Masque returns to her room, where it’s revealed that it’s actually Kate in disguise — the real Masque is tied up in her room, with the mouth of her mask hilariously taped shut.
That final panel also foregrounds some other information — namely that Clint had actually stolen a cab from Kate back when he first arrived in Madripoor. Ultimately, it’s not a super important bit of information, but it does demonstrate that Kate was on Clint’s trail long before he needed help, suggesting that she either cares about him or doesn’t trust him to not need her help (or both). I’m not totally invested in the ‘shippiness of this title (though I suspect others might be), but the surprise reveal is pretty exciting. Exactly when Kate stepped into the mask may play a big role in what happens next issue, but for now, it’s good to know somebody has Clint’s back.
I mentioned James Bond, but between all of the disguises and tuxedo-filled casinos, this really does feel out of Clint’s comfort zone. Clint certainly has a calm coolness about it, but writer Matt Fraction has been very deliberate in making it distinct from the kind of calm coolness we expect from 007. That is, it’s totally believable that Clint would be abducted by S.H.I.E.L.D. immediately after denying he’s an Avenger, but we also buy that he could pull off something like this:
Fraction maintains that balance throughout Clint’s misadventures in finding the auction: he takes down three guys, but still has his wallet stolen, he comes up with the great plan to impersonate a cabbie, but realizes he couldn’t find his way around Madripoor to save his life. Clint’s occasional ineptitude makes his occasional SUPER COMPETENCE a little more believable. The two-act structure of this arc means we hit the ineptitude note a little more firmly in this issue, but I suspect Clint will pull it together in part two (though who knows? Maybe this arc is Kate’s time to shine).
It’s a fun issue, and a great little foray into serialized structure for a title that has hung its hat on its episodic nature (the credits page is even cheekier this time out). I do miss David Aja’s pencils, though it looks like he’ll be back for the next arc. Javier Pulido — who will be trading pencilling duties going forward — does well enough at matching Aja’s linework and pacing, but lacks the flair for design-inspired layouts that made the first few issues so distinctive. It’s far from an ugly issue, but I suspect that the throwback plot would have been a great match for Aja’s sensibilities.
I thought it was a blast. I don’t know entirely what to make of Kate’s interest in Clint’s secrets, or Clint’s interest in keeping secrets from Kate, for that matter, but I’m excited to find out next month. What about you, Jack? Do you find yourself invested in their relationship at all? Besides that, were you as satisfied with this shaggy dog intrigue here as I was?
Jack: Am I satisfied with the intrigue? Well, Drew, sometimes when a story takes us through a round of very common tropes, it stops mattering whether or not any part of those tropes was ever believable in the first place, and you just focus on whether or not you’re having a good time in that familiar room. That is certainly the case with this Bond-style sequence of disappearing into a foreign metropolis, impersonating locals, getting kidnapped, committing fraud at a nail-biter of an auction, and ultimately getting rescued by the surprise super-competence of your busy-body friends. It is about as surprising and perplexing as Julia Roberts.
But you know what? I am satisfied with the time I’m spending is this familiar room, because I’m spending it with Clint, and I’ll be damned if this guy isn’t the cat’s pajamas. Every time I read an issue of Hawkeye, I feel like I am spending a day with an awesome friend who is so genuinely humble that he doesn’t realize he is way too cool to hang out with me. He is witty without being debonair. He is clever without being overwrought. He is profoundly decent without being puritanical or self-aggrandizing. And somehow, against all rhyme or reason, he is persistently, unfailingly casual in all situations. Even being scooped up by superheroes in a spaceship essentially just inconveniences him by interrupting his beer and cook-out.
And yes, as Drew points out, he is at once super-competent and super-fallible. He knows that impersonating a cabbie is the sort of thing you’re supposed to do if you ever essentially find yourself in a spy movie, but that doesn’t mean he’s got the foggiest idea of how to go about it. This issue is a particularly good demonstration of our hero’s charming imperfections. It makes me feel as though I’ve selected an excellent travel companion with whom to tour a strange foreign city, which is somebody who is simultaneously very world-wise and just as clueless as I am. Left the phrasebook in the cab? That’s fine, Clint remembers how to say a couple of non-obscene pleasantries. Feel like that exchange-rate might be phony? Well, he’s not sure, either, but what can you do? You’ll muddle through it together.
All this fun bonding might explain why, like Drew, I’m not totally there yet with Clint and Kate. Their exchanges are unfailingly funny, but I don’t trust them, in part because they do not seem to trust one another. I get that they are sort of in awe of one another’s abilities, but that sort of renders their mentor-Padawan relationship inexplicable. Also, I’m afraid I’m not convinced of the platonic nature of either party’s intentions. I’m sorry to say it, because I like these characters too well to want to watch the comic cobble together a love interest out of sheer convenience and convention. But come on; Clint’s invitation to take Kate on as a side-kick “because I don’t want to sleep with you” is not only bizarre, it’s weirdly offensive. If vigilante sidekick were a real job, Clint would be under investigation by the local Better Business Bureau for his highly suspect hiring decisions.
But they’ll figure it out, and so will we. There will be criminals and gangs and Robin Hood-style corrections of urban injustices. Superheroes will put in an appearance from time to time, and we will hang out with our buddies over burgers and beer on a rooftop in New York. If you’ve got a better plan for the evening, I’d like to hear it.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?