Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing All-New Hawkeye 1, originally released March 4th, 2015.
Spencer: It’s hard to escape the fact that our pasts, and especially our childhoods, play a defining role in our lives. That doesn’t mean that people can’t recover from troubled pasts, but simply that what we experience when we’re young tends to shape our personalities and color our perceptions of the world in significant ways. This is certainly true for Clint Barton, one of the two titular stars of Jeff Lemire, Ramón Pérez and Ian Herring’s All-New Hawkeye 1. Clint’s transformed from a troubled, abused child and thief to one of the world’s mightiest heroes, but there are still plenty of parallels between his past and his present, showing that, as much as things change, they still stay the same.
All-New Hawkeye 1 features two storylines running in parallel. The first is a tale of Clint’s childhood, chronicling how Clint and his older brother Barney escaped an abusive foster home by running away to join the circus. In the present, Clint and his protégé (his words, not hers), Kate Bishop, raid a Hydra facility in search of a secret weapons cache known as “Project Communion,” which seems to involve turning kids into some sort of living weapons.
Jeff Lemire has two brand new series debuting this week (the other being Descender 1), and in many ways, both are defined by their absolutely stellar artists. Ramón Pérez, working with Ian Herring on colors, depicts this issue’s two stories with such drastically different styles that it’s hard to believe the same artists worked on both. Clint and Kate’s present-day story is the more conventional of the two, but that isn’t a complaint at all — the scenes feature strong storytelling, and the bold colors are a joy to behold.
Still, it’s the flashbacks that are particularly dazzling.
I could be wrong, but it looks like Pérez is skipping inks in these segments entirely, with he and Herring coloring his pencils directly. The limited color choice here feels particularly nostalgic, evoking the kind of sepia-tone palette of classic cinema, but my favorite part of these sequences are the layouts.
In the present day scenes, if Kate is in a room in one panel and then in a different room in the next panel, the gutter between them gives us permission to assume that Kate walked from one room to the other in-between panels. The flashback scenes, though, don’t have gutters, with each moment merging seamlessly into the next. In a way, that’s how our memories work; we don’t remember the boring, everyday details of how we got from Point-A to Point-B, we just remember the parts that are fun, or significant, or even terrifying. Nostalgia has a way of weeding out the mundane, and Perez captures that feeling perfectly in these segments.
Of course, these scenes appear to be straight-up flashbacks as opposed to anything Clint might be remembering in the present, especially since, when the flashbacks start merging with the present day scenes, they’re just as likely to pop up around Kate as they are around Clint.
This scene is my favorite in the issue, a bravura sequence that expertly builds tension. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything quite like it in comics before, so I had to include it, even if just to gawk at how good it is. If this is the kind of stuff Lemire and Pérez are going to come up with together, then sign me up for All-New Hawkeye for as long as they’re on the title.
Still, comparing and contrasting the two storylines produces more than just tension and innovative storytelling. There’s an obvious theme of abused children running throughout both stories. Clint and Barney faced abuse from their foster father (and, as longtime Hawkeye fans remember, from their birth father, as well), and now Hydra is also abusing these children that they’ve seemingly turned into weapons. All-New Captain America recently had an ingenious twist where an innocent boy was kidnapped by Hydra to be used as a human weapon but ended up being neither innocent nor kidnapped, but in the case of these kids, Lemire and Pérez are making it clear that they’re victims; from their mutilated forms to their sad posture to the one kid with his hand to the glass, reaching for Kate, there’s no doubt that we’re supposed to pity these kids.
Clint as a child is still a victim, but as an adult he’s survived his abuse and even became a hero, so it should be interesting to see what role Clint will end up playing in the lives of the kids from Project Communion.
Of course, Clint’s past also ends up shedding plenty of light on himself as well.
Clint has grown a lot from where he is in that flashback; young Clint is clearly Barney’s sidekick, but now he’s the senior partner of the Hawkeyes (although Kate may disagree). Still, Clint will always need someone to support him and worry about him, and Barney and Kate both play that role to the point where they have identical worries even decades apart (this also helps to characterize Kate as the more level-headed of the two). Clint’s grown a lot, sure, but some things never change.
I was really curious to see how this issue would turn out, especially fresh on the heels of Matt Fraction’s still concluding but sure-to-be-classic Hawkeye run. Lemire is smart to distance his series from that run by focusing on the superheroic side of Team Hawkeye as opposed to Fraction’s more street-level approach, but he clearly understands these characters, and as slight as the plot may be in the present-day sequence, Clint and Kate’s relationship is dead on and makes it well worth reading. Taylor, were you pleased with Lemire and Perez’s take on Clint and Kate? What do you think of the dual narrative structure? Do you think we’re gonna see Pizza Dog soon?
Taylor: With bated breath we all await Pizza Dog to make his cameo appearance.
While we all want more Pizza Dog in our life, the question of his possible roll in this series raises broader questions about Lemire’s take on Hawkeye. Sure, we all want Pizza Dog, but do we want him to appear outside of Fraction’s universe? Similarly, do we as readers want this Hawkeye title to mirror its predecessor? It seems like that would be a dangerous road to travel as the aspiration to attain great heights also means you can fall incredibly far.
Luckily, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that in this case. The tone of title, while similar in many ways to Fractions, is clearly different. As you mentioned, Spencer, Lemire’s take on the adventures of Hawkeye and Kate is much more international. Instead of worrying about crimes of the streets, they’re worrying about crime on a global level.
This isn’t to say the Fraaction’s Hawkeye wasn’t concerned about Hydra, but within the opening pages it becomes clear that they are going to be the main antagonist of this series. While some of the goofy tone of Fraction’s Hawkeye are preserved here, with henchman taking selfies and eating hamburgers, there is no outright silliness on display from either of our main characters. Hawkeye is catty, true, but that’s just who he is, and at no point does it become the focus of the issue.
As for the dual narrative structure, I’m not totally sold on it yet. I have a couple of reservations about this structure, the first of which being whether it will be part of the series perpetually and if so, whether its power can be sustained. Don’t get me wrong — its great here, and it works to create powerful and emotive scenes which feed off one another. But, at some point, the emotion is going to wear off and I wonder if the dual structure will become more of a distraction than anything else. The second reason I can’t fully endorse the two story mode just yet is that leaves Kate Bishop out in the cold. She’s obviously just as important a character in this issue as Clint, so it seems questionable to leave her backstory untold.
But reservations about the future do not keep me from enjoying the present, at least in the case of Lemire and Pérez’s take on these characters. Spencer, you rightly pointed the amazing juxtaposition (both narratively and artistically) of the past and present stories being told. I also enjoyed that greatly, but also loved the pace and layout of the issue. At one point, as Kate and Hawkeye are trying to escape the Hydra base, Hawkeye loses Kate, not realizing that she isn’t right behind him.
The first time I read this sequence I myself didn’t even notice that Kate wasn’t with Clint. Maybe’s it’s his talking on and on but I just totally missed, just like out hero. Part of what makes this work is that we have a pretty tight focus on Clint here which leads us to assume he must be talking to someone even though he isn’t. It’s a trick that fools the reader and puts us in the same shoes as Clint, which is both clever and emotionally unsettling.
So yeah, I feel good about this series. So far, it’s hitting all of the right notes and while those might not last, this issue is great. This series, like ourselves, takes many of its cues from a past version of itself but has already matured into having its own tone. I’m excited to see where it goes next.
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?