Today, Jack and Shelby are discussing Hawkeye 5, originally released December 5th, 2012.
Jack: Not for the first time, we begin an issue of Hawkeye with Clint Barton falling headlong out of a freshly smashed umpteenth-story window, privately conceding that this situation is, perhaps, suboptimal.
He is predictably rescued in mid-air, briefly reconsiders his lifestyle of high-risk philanthropy, and circles back around in time to save Kate from Madam Masque. Kate watches the tape purchased at auction in the previous issue and discovers that Clint is responsible for the assassination of a dictator, which major news sources have attributed to United States Special Forces. Together, Kate and Clint retrieve the tape, and their escape looks like a sure thing right up until the moment Madam Masque shoots Clint at point-blank range, center of mass. Like any well-disciplined super-hero, Clint is wearing the sort of miracle-chest-plate that can apparently mitigate this sort of thing. As he comes to under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s expert care, we learn that the tape was an elaborate fake. Clint agreed to produce evidence of having assassinated the dictator himself in order to help S.H.I.E.L.D. trap a mole within its ranks and protect the identities of the Navy Seals who did the deed in reality.
This episode is even less plot-heavy than normal, in the sense that our heroes incur some minor injuries while escaping from a bind that is too predictable to seriously threaten such interesting people as Clint and Kate. Again, the gold here is just in getting to spend time with them. I think there’s been a long-standing effort to create the kind of super-heroes that we would all enjoy hanging out with, but I can’t think of any example that comes closer to the mark. Most other such endeavors I can think of only succeed in producing incorrigible smart-asses and posturing and snarky tough guys – and gals – with secret, tender, long-suffering hearts. But Clint and Kate are genuinely, authentically calm. They crack jokes in inappropriate situations, as superheroes do, but when they do it, they are not asserting the mastery over a chaotic situation. They are just expressing the same incredulous, nervous amusement that real humans exhibit in less intense situations.
The only thing that’s impossible about them is that I have never known any real humans to put on so few airs. In real life, just about everyone who does something important has to have a grossly exaggerated sense of their own utility to mankind in order to keep building their lives around it. That is easiest for me to say as part of Uncle Sam’s War Machine, which is one of the more uniquely self-congratulating institutions in modern times, but I think it’s a valid criticism that applies to all those professions which risk bodily harm (firefighters, police officers) and many of those that don’t (non-profits, politicians, journalists, artists, teachers, etc.). Please alert me, dear reader, the moment you find a genuinely humble public servant. There are a lot of wonderful people out there doing wonderful things with their lives, but I’ve yet to meet anyone whose heroics are quite so earnest and unassuming as Clint’s.
God, what a sweetheart.
Sorry, lost my train of thought – I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to address the fact that Hawkeye is unmistakably commenting on covert assassinations in foreign countries. We do not get a read on whether this is good or bad policy, whether organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D. should be involved in such things or not, or even what sort of trouble the late dictator was causing before Special Forces capped him. But we do establish that a) the summary execution of foreign nationals is a big deal, and b) the people who conduct those summary executions are human, vulnerable, and probably full of conviction. This issue elects not to get any deeper into the mud here, and that’s probably wise. The Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically states that I won’t either, so I will leave it there until next time, gentle reader, responsible citizen, lover of great comics and great justice.
Your thoughts, Shelby? Do our delightful heroes continue to render plot developments unnecessary? Can we aspire to be so awesome and so down-to-earth at once? And just what is up with Clint and Kate, in any case?
Shelby: My crush on these two continues to grow. Their humbleness is astounding, especially Clint’s. Any other hero with the “it was the right thing to do, so I did it,” attitude, no matter how sincere, always seems a little…put on. Even Superman, the Platonic idea of good, can come off as a little bit fake, a little bit overdone-for-the-sake-of-appearances at times. But never with Clint. I think the difference is in execution; Clint may get things right in the end, but no one is going to say Clint does things the best way. He goes into things with a plan (or not, remember when he went after the Russians for hurting the dog?), and then has to sort of work it out when things inevitably go bad.
You can’t really accuse a guy of putting on airs when so many of his plans end up with him falling out of buildings. I’m not really sure what black magic Matt Fraction uses to craft this character, but he is dead on the money. It may be disingenuous to find a human being in reality who’s so down-to-earth, but honestly I like Clint (Kate, too) so much that I don’t care.
So what is going on between these two? I know last time we talked about the will they/won’t they vibe and our different thoughts on that, but I am sensing something much deeper between these two than a simple potential romance. There is, on Clint’s side anyway, a deep sense of trust and respect. When Kate confronts him about what she saw on the tape, and says he told her he never killed anyone, his answer isn’t a simple denial. He replies, “I will never lie to you, Kate…otherwise, what’s the point?” Clint trusts her so completely, so implicitly, that it has become a core element of their relationship. You’ll notice he didn’t bat an eye at seeing her in Madripoor; she’s there, she’s got her own motivations, that’s all he needs to know. There is something both delightful and kind of nerve-wracking in that much trust. It’s delightful because it…well, it just is! Sometimes you just want to read about a Good Person: someone who is just simply a nice guy. Clint is an open book, and it’s refreshing to read about. Plus, you know, the whole “crush on a fictional character” thing. On the other hand, though, it’s something I fear for. I’m not worried about Clint or Kate succumbing to some sort of corruption, I worry about them being taken advantage of. Clint’s motives seem so clean and straightforward; his relationship with Kate may be poorly defined to us readers, but no one can say there’s anything nefarious involved. I think about that, and I think about how terrible the world is in reality, and I wonder how long it will last before it comes crashing down. Until that point, I will happily read this title and worry about Clint and wonder at what he and Kate are up to.
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I must say, the twist about the Tape being fake really floored me. Maybe I’m just still a tad too accustomed to SHIELD agent Hawkeye from the Avengers movie, but I guess I never considered that Clint didn’t assassinate that dictator. The actual scheme was really cool, though.
Did any of you read the Letter Column? Matt Fraction himself took over answering the letters, and it was as amusing as the issue itself to me. Highlights:
Fraction’s 5 year old son calls Clint “Hawkguy”, and it has become a common nickname among Marvel HQ.
Lucky, Clint’s dog, will supposedly be the star of Issue #10 (and the letter column has unanimously taken to calling him “Pizza Dog”). That’s got my interest piqued.
As always, this is such a great book. I can’t wait until next month’s adventure of Hawkguy, Arrow Girl, and Pizza Dog!
Me too. Even though it seemed out of character for Clint to have assassinated someone, I never once considered that it had been faked. Does that make Clint an even better covert operative than we thought? Probably not. 🙂
The “Clint is a decent guy” theme Fraction has going really snuck up on me. Maybe I’ve just seen so many morally ambiguous heroes over the years that I’m just assuming bad stuff that’s not there, but I somehow didn’t notice that Clint is a straight shoo– well, you know what I mean. It makes me uncomfortable somehow, but I don’t really understand why.
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