Today, Patrick and Jack are discussing Hawkeye 7, originally released January 30th, 2012.
Patrick: Last time we were hanging out in fuzzy pants as discussing Hawkeye, we were reflecting on the Christmas issue (complete with Clint in a Santa hat). This month, we’ve got in our hands another Very Special Issue of Hawkeye, one that should feel a little less celebratory. Yes, it’s the end of October 2012 on the eastern seaboard, and the subject of our latest Hawkeye adventure is Super Storm Sandy. Never one to rest on a gimmick, Matt Fraction builds two tales for two Hawkeyes, one fun and the other touching, while staying emotionally and factually true to the event that inspired him. Clint and Katie are always easy to identify with, and their reactions to the storm echo our own in a dazzling display of artistic empathy.
STORY THE FIRST: Clint helps his friend — the dude that always mans the grill during their roof-top cookouts — prepare his elderly father’s house for the storm. The old man lives alone in Queens — it’s unclear how long its been since his wife died, but he’s one of those probably-too-crotchety-to-be-lonely types. When the water rushes in and floods the basement, Clint’s friend is down there, trying to save some of his mother’s old things. Clint realizes he doesn’t know his friend’s real name — he’s just been calling him “Grills” the whole time — and rushes to his rescue. Eventually, father and son are reunited, and Clint digs an old rowboat out of their attic and they row their way to safety.
And in my inelegant plot summarizering, I glossed right one of the most sincerely sweet moments I’ve ever read. Grills (whose real name turns out to be Gil, but the way) is unable to liberate any of his mother’s belongings from the basement, and when he reports as much when he sees is father. Clint suggests that maybe Gil didn’t lose everything that belonged to his mother, abstractly hinting that the belligerent old man is just the something worth saving. But it’s more than that.
It’s a subtler idea: Gil and his father share the same missing piece. And they’re together in the scariest situation imaginable. In that moment, the house doesn’t matter, the belongings don’t matter, even the fact that they have a hard time communicating doesn’t matter.
Such a pure idea would certainly seem ham-fisted if not for Matt Fraction’s relentless good-natured humor. Carrying over one of our favorite jokes from the previous issue, Gil never once refers to our hero as anything but “Hawkguy.” There’s also a pretty good set of jokes about the Ramones song “Rockaway Beach” as that’s the name of the town Gil’s father lives in. Which naturally names Gil think of “that singer who died… Joey somethin’….” All of these jokes are born out of simple little miscommunications, a result of the difference in Clint and Gil’s cultural and language bases. It doesn’t hinder their relationship at all — in fact, that sort of acts as a key for part of what’s so charming about this series in the first place. Under the style and the heart, Hawkeye is an honest (if flippant) expression of what its like to live in a multicultural city. Hawkeye’s NYC is immediately more real and more engaging than those that are weirdly homogeneous (like on Girls* or Friends or something).
Also the art in this half of the issue is incredible. Look at how this panel threatens to swallow up the whole page as the waters rush over the sandbags.
Artist Steve Lieber did one hell of a job making the scary moments scary and keeping the honest moments quiet enough to read the emotion.
STORY THE SECOND: Katie’s heading to an egagement party in New Jersey on the even of the hurricane. The wedding is at the Stable in Atlantic City. Katie is given the utmost assurances that the Stable will never lose power, moments before everything goes black. Naturally, the police and ambulances are tied up and no one’s able to get through to 911 — that becomes a problem when the bride-to-be’s mother needs her meds LIKE RIGHT NOW. Katie springs into action, braving the storm and some looting in search of medication. Some thugs get the jump on her, knock her out cold and take her shit. Luckily, the citizens of Jersey have rallied in this time and band of concerned citizens come to Katie’s rescue.
This story marks the Hawkeye debut of artist Jesse Hamm. Hamm’s art retains that graphic quality that Hawkeye demands, but plays with a slightly cartoonier, expressive quality. It means the characters are occasionally a little too elastic for my liking, but the acting is just stellar. Plus, whenever he’s given the chance to have a little extra fun with the art, Hamm excels. The invitation to the engagement party is particularly hilarious, complete with nonsense extra lettering.
Look at those names!
I didn’t really get into the substance of Katie’s story, which robs her of a little agency, but it also vindicates her by making her earlier assertion about the awesomeness of New Jersey correct. What’d you think of that Jack? And just generally, how did setting the Hawkeyes in a real-world disaster (one that happened pretty recently too) sit with you?
* I don’t mean to unneccessarily pile on Girls. I actually really like the show.
Jack: Oh, Patrick, you know I had to love it. As we learned a few issues back when Clint elected to protect the Special Forces guys who covertly assassinated a third-world politician, Hawkeye is not afraid to address ugly, painful real-world issues bundled in controversy, and it does so not by taking a position on anything, but by telling a few short, profoundly human stories. You’ve done great justice to Clint’s story, so I’ll just make a few observations and then move on to Kate’s.
This is what we all love about disaster-media, isn’t it? The world is crashing down around them, and they’re chatting pleasantly. The Ferris wheel in the background is a particularly ingenious detail. Everything is fine, and nothing is fine. But also:
Clint, I’m taking your security clearance away. Sergeants get busted back down to private for less.
Right. Kate’s story. Kate elects to go to an engagement party in Atlantic City, a decision that is beyond rash and deeply frustrating. Like, I’m actually angry with her as I read, but Clint knows better: you can’t talk people out of this kind of recklessness. You just have to trust that between you, you’ll figure out a way to deal with the consequences. She’s also just kind of senselessly bitchy — to Clint, to the hotel manager, to the very notion of taking precautions against a seriously epic hurricane. I have decided to forgive her, in part because she looks just ravishing in her bridesmaid-to-be dress —
— and in part because I think she probably saw this coming and knew that the only way to protect her stupid, reckless friends in New Jersey was by being as stupid and reckless as they were and going to New Jersey.
At the pharmacy, Kate is accosted by looters, because a bow and arrow does not confer a great comparative advantage at point-blank range. She is decked in the temple with a can of beans, which, to my way of thinking, means that she probably won’t be able to add and subtract fractions for a while. But when she comes to, both she and her gear have been rescued by the totally-non-vigilante, everyday heroes of the neighborhood. I can’t decide if that’s more sweet or embarrassing, but I guess that’s the point. We are all so vulnerable and deeply interdependent that you can never become such an expert that you permanently banish helplessness from your life — not even if you go by “Hawkeye” or “Hawkman Lady.”
Also, indulge me in a real-world connection for a moment (which is not a stretch, dealing with a real-world storm that was exacerbated by real-world warming phenomena). I once listened to an environmental historian lecture on what the word, “sustainability” had come to mean in its very short few decades in our vernacular. He said it begged pressing questions about what sort of resources we’d want to sustain. The man’s a silver-tongued prince, so I won’t be able to convey the gooseflesh of his message properly, but he closed on the note that, apart from forests and rare-earth-minerals and petroleum and spotted owls, we were going to want to take care to sustain our values, because the forecast says we’re going to need them, so that we are as sensitive, thoughtful, fraternal, and awesome as we possibly can be. Remember after the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan in 2011, when there was essentially no looting or rioting, only tales upon tales of heroic self-sacrifice? Everyone who knew Japanese culture was unsurprised, but the rest of the world was shocked. Sustaining values — perhaps not such a soft science after all.
Clint, Kate, and their friends and neighbors are sustaining their values in a world of poverty, urban-core violence, and epic super-storms. Apart from the Avengers, their world differs from ours in very few ways. This is a goodness we can aspire to, although I seriously doubt that the real world will ever be so damn cute as this:
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 Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?