Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Hawkeye Annual 1, originally released July 24th, 2013.
Patrick: My favorite comedic bit in any issue of any comic I’ve ever read is conversation Clint Barton has with his buddy Grills about his superhero identity. “Hawkguy?” “Hawkeye.” It’s so endearing that most of us just call the character Hawkguy now and smile on the inside. So, when this issue sees a nervous Kate Bishop accidentally introduce herself as “Kate Hawkguy, Bishop,” it’s hard not to draw immediate comparisons to the very mentor she’s trying to distance herself from. Lucky for Kate (and for us), she’s only inherited his most charming character traits.
After cutting ties with her mentor for being emotionally inaccessible and irresponsibly mopey, Kate Bishop tries to reconnect with her father and the stepmother she refuses to call “mom.” When her father suggests that the whole “family” goes on a yacht trip, Kate bails and hauls ass to Los Angeles with Pizza Dog in tow. Kate tries to use her father’s considerable wealth to book a room at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, but there seems to be a problem with her credit card. No matter. While she’s lounging by the pool — waiting for that whole credit card problem to sort itself out, evidently — she’s approached by an unsettlingly familiar face, but a friendly-for-the-time-being face nonetheless. Eventually, the card is rejected and a host of henchmen dressed as bell
boysmen make off with Kate’s belongings. It’s even weirder than it sounds.
Left with eighty-some dollars in cash, Kate takes the striking stranger up on her offer to stay at her place. It is right about this time that Kate knows why the woman is so familiar — it’s Madame Masque, one of the villains that was bidding on the tape of Hawkeye murdering someone in issues 4 and 5. Turns out that Madame Masque engineered this whole charity act to lure Kate into her palatial hillside mansion for poisoning and torture. Kate uses her characteristic mix of resourcefulness and luck to escape her captor. Madame Masque vows to finish what she started (someday), and Kate finds a new home cat-sitting for a pair of old hippies. Which is basically how all of our first experiences in California shape up.
There’s a certain aimlessness to the Hawkeye series that I find endlessly charming. Most of the series has been composed of single-issue adventures, and the last four issues have all been about a single event from the perspectives of four different people (well… three people and a dog). It hadn’t occurred to me that that same aimlessness is also a common characteristic of those that bear the Hawkeye name. Kate’s admonishment of Clint in the first couple pages is exactly as harsh as it is true: he lacks the responsibility and follow-through to do what needs to be done for the good of the people in his building. Similarly, Kate gleefully burns her bridges in New York, coming out to California without the first thought for how she’s going to make a go of anything. Neither Clint nor Kate has any idea what to do next — Clint’s defense mechanism is to do nothing, where Kate’s defense is to try anything.
This is sort of a new characterization of Kate Bishop. But then again, I’ve never read this character outside of the context of other broken characters. She rags on Clint for being a mess and is seen as “the grown up one” in Young Avengers. This issue suggests that Kate is one of those girls that holds it together because everyone around her is falling apart. Literally the second she’s on her own, Kate’s lost all of her money and belongings and is targeted by a supervillain with a grudge.
Javier Pulido is back on art duties — I guess Editorial saw fit to bring back the artist who introduced Madame Masque to this series. I like Pulido’s art a lot when it shows up to the game, but so much of the character work is done in silhouette. At first I was wracking my brain to justify this decision: like maybe Kate is supposed to be shown lacking definition once she leaves Clint. No, everyone gets the silhouette treatment, not just Kate. Not only does it stop being dynamic after the second page, but it starts to become distracting — as if a weird little reminder that Pulido didn’t want to spent too much time on any given page. Which is a damn shame, because his layouts are innovative and include a lot of interesting camera angles, staging and perspectives. Here’s a good example of Pulido’s good and bad habits wrestling with each other on one page.
I love having that big red neon sign established in the first two panels — it forever orients these two static characters in space. And there’s even the cool consistent detail of this dude walking by in the green jacket. It conveys both space and the passage of time. I even love that that are two panels where kate is doing nothing but sipping her coffee — nothing’s happening, just time passing quietly. But why the fuck didn’t Pulido draw their faces?
Drew! I know you love Clint as much as the next guy, but I also know that you’ve been an outspoken supporter of the discursive nature of Matt Fraction’s storytelling of late. Is it at all frustrating to you that we find yet another Hawkeye installment in our hands and we’re nowhere nearer a resolution regarding Grills? And if this issue is serving as a kind of pilot of the Lady Hawkeye issues of this series, do you see a lot of promise in this premise?
Drew: Oh, I’ve always thought the hypothetical premise of this series — that it follows both Hawkeyes equally — was a good one, even if Fraction has yet to fully deliver on it. Sure, there have been some great Kate features, but it’s always felt like Clint’s title. Hawkeye is often written off as a dork with a bow, so there’s something funny to me about the idea of there being two Hawkeyes in this title. Clint says it best: “the west coast totally needs a Hawkeye,” as if anywhere else could possibly need a Hawkeye. Ultimately, this series isn’t really about “Hawkeye” — it’s about Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, and this issue sets out to answer (as is pointedly asked early in the issue) “who is Kate Bishop?”
Of course, Kate is going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. Without her friends, family, or earthly belongings, Fraction has stripped her down to her actions. Being a young person, many of those actions are reactionary, responding to circumstances that are beyond her control. Fraction very systematically removes her agency throughout the issue — she can’t motivate Clint, she can’t make her father understand what she wants, she can’t even control when she has to deal with bad guys — forcing her to earn every piece of it back. That makes for a particularly rousing victory, but the real fist-pumping moment comes in Kate’s interview for the cat-sitting gig — a speech so anthemic, Fraction saw fit to have her repeat it verbatim two pages later.
That’s about as clear a statement of purpose as you can hope to get from a character — especially on a title where “this is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger” counts as a statement of purpose. That narrative of Kate figuring out who she is is incredibly relatable to young adults, and I think offers a more well-adjusted reflection of Clint’s own arrested development.
In many ways, Pulido was a great choice for a west coast story — there’s a clarity to his linework that seems to fit the stereotypically laid-back attitude of California. I’m sure David Aja’s noirish grit would have worked just as well in LA as it does in New York, but I think the art change effectively reflected the change in tone here. Of course, the bright linework goes out the window when everybody is shown in silhouette. It’s an effective tool when employed sparingly, but is overused — and seemingly deployed at random — in this issue. The example above could theoretically be justified as representing Kate’s discovery and assertion of her own identity, but then Pulido blacks out all of the characters again for an incredibly awkward conclusion to that scene:
Characters and objects both in front of and behind these “silhouettes” are shown in full light — this image only makes sense if those characters are actually pitch-black. It’s an unusual affect that unfortunately doesn’t cohere in any way to justify itself.
As far as patience with this series, I barely count Annuals as part of the series proper. Sure, this one happens to fit with the wandering camera of the series in general, but I’ve always thought Annuals should serve as fun one-offs rather than necessary pieces of a larger whole. This issue happens to serve both purposes equally well, but in either case, I’m happy to wait two more weeks for progress on the Grills’ murder.
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?