Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing All-New Hawkeye 3, originally released May 27th, 2015.
Spencer: Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye got a lot of mileage out of a deceptively simple mission statement: “Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, became the greatest sharpshooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger.” What Clint does when not being an Avenger is an insanely broad concept, but in Fraction’s run it quickly narrowed into a focus on how Clint handled loss. When tasked with the duty of following up on a run as iconic as Fraction’s, it’s no surprise that Jeff Lemire flipped everything on its head, changing the mission statement to “This is what [Clint Barton and Kate Bishop] do when they do what they do best.” Lemire’s concept of focusing on Clint as a super-hero is even broader than Fraction’s, and as I’ve pored over the last few issues of All-New Hawkeye, I’ve been waiting for his story to similarly build some kind of deeper overarching theme. This month’s issue in particular is almost screaming that it has some sort of deeper meaning or underlying message, yet I’m struggling to come up with one. I’m starting to think that I’ve been approaching this title all wrong. If this is a book about what Clint and Kate do when they do what they do best, then maybe what’s most important are the actual details of what they’re doing. Fortunately, those details are pretty charming.
It’s easy to see why a reader might get swept up looking for deeper meanings, though — Lemire’s parallel storylines, for example, pretty much beg to be compared and contrasted, as we’ve done in our discussions of the first two issues. This month’s flashback finds Barney and Clint threatened by the Swordsman for skipping out on their work to watch his act, while the present-day story focuses on Clint and Kate freeing the children of Project Communion from S.H.I.E.L.D. and taking them back to their apartment. I suppose there’s a decent contrast between how Clint and Barney have been treated by their savior and how Clint and Kate treat the Communion Tykes, but even that comparison is a bit off — Clint and Barney have been at the circus for a while now, while the Communion Tykes just now arrived at Casa Hawkeye. If anything, their plot this month is closer to the flashback last month, where the Swordsman whisked the boys away from their foster father. Yet, as dissimilar as these two storylines may seem, Lemire and artist Ramon Perez go out of their way to connect them, be it by using Clint’s knife in both stories or by methods far more obvious.
I mean, this is about as explicit as it gets, right? Perez and Lemire pull this trick a few times, actually; the very next page ends with Kate aiming an arrow at a man’s head, juxtaposed against the circus performer lying on a giant target, getting shot at with arrows. Two pages later we get the Communion Tykes’ grateful faces after being rescued played against the wonder on the faces of Clint and Barney as they watch the circus. I actually had a theory for a while that every page featured a similar parallel, but that’s a reading that just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, no matter how much I hoped it would.
Indeed, this issue bucks every attempt I make to find some sort of grand unifying statement about it, which is why I think the whole “point” may simply be to sit back and bask in the loving little details that make this book such a delight, much in the same way that Clint and Barney marvel at the circus in the flashbacks. There’s certainly plenty to enjoy, from the playful sparring between Clint and Kate on the recap page to the Communion Tykes’ general dislike of Clint to the always jaw-dropping spectacle of Perez and Ian Herring’s flashback art. Actually, the art this month even seems particuarily focused on the details of how Clint and Kate do what they do.
This casual discussion of tactics — followed up by what’s essentially a diagram of Clint firing an arrow — is pretty much the definition of detail-oriented, and the very next page goes into even greater detail as it depicts Kate’s victory over the agents holding the Tykes.
Honestly, this sequence alone is enough to make this a stand-out issue. The work Perez puts into the choreography and how the camera follows Kate could probably fuel an entire article all on their own (and Taylor, if you want to tackle any of that, I’d love to read it). Maybe that’s the article I should have written, because this sequence — and Lemire, Perez, and Herring’s focus on nailing the details in general — is what makes All-New Hawkeye worth reading. And I do want to reiterate that this is a rather fantastic title that absolutely is worth reading. It’s also just a title that always throws me off a bit. It’s a book that’s best read one way, yet seems to be actively trying to get you to read it a totally different way. Even the book’s focus on details, while advantageous in so many ways, slows the story down to a snail’s pace — this is the second issue in a row featuring Clint and Kate rescuing the Communion Tykes from somebody, after all.
So as much as I enjoy All-New Hawkeye 3 — and as fantastic an issue as it is in so many ways — it also seems like an issue strangely divided against itself. Is Lemire trying to say something I’m just not grasping? Or are all the parallels simply a fun gimmick that may just be drawing a little too much attention to itself? I could see it going either way — Taylor, how did you interpret it?
Taylor: Spencer, you make a good case for this being an issue steeped in detail and that playing against more macro level concepts. However, isn’t it possible that the details and the macro are somehow all related? The issue does focus a great deal on what Kate and Clint do best. But like most people, I believe Kate and Clint probably do best when it comes to things they care about. Sure, Clint maybe really good at witty remarks, but it’s not what he does best. What he does best is being Hawkeye.
To demonstrate what I mean more clearly, let’s look at a couple frames from the issue. First up we have the moment when the children of Project Communion realize that the Hawkeyes have come back for them.
This story is paired with a frame from Clint’s childhood, as is every page of this issue. There are are a lot of things that connect this particular frame with its flashback frame and while there are a lot of obviously ones (smiles) I think it’s interesting to look at this through the lens of Clint. Looking at the details in these frames gives us some insight into Clint’s character. In both cases we have children who have been rescued from a nasty situation. In both, they encounter adults who inspire them and those who wish them harm. Most importantly, in both we have children who are in a state of wonder. For childhood Clint it’s about seeing an amazing acrobat. For the children of Project Communion it’s the awe they feel when they realize someone actually cares for their well being.
Later Clint and Kate bring the kids home to Clint’s place. Waiting there to greet them is Lucky, who’s more than excited to meet his new friends.
Similarly, when visiting new parts of the circus a random dog comes up to introduce itself to Clint and his brother. In both cases we have children meeting a dog offering unconditional enthusiasm and happiness to the project children and Clint. Given this parallel and the one above among others in this issue, I can’t help but think there is a deeper connection between the two stories. In particular, I think all of these details come together to give a good idea of just who Hawkeye is and what motivates him.
Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say given that he’s had his own series for a long while now. However, do we really ever get tired about learning more about our favorite characters? Here, Lemire seems to be hinting at some of things which have had a huge influence on Clint in his life. This may seem obvious as childhood flashbacks are an easy way of building a character, I think it’s unique to see them presented along with something that is happening to the character in the modern day. Clint sees himself in the children that Hydra have experimented on and this motivates him to protect them.
All of this is to say that Clint is doing what he does best here and that means being Hawkeye — the guy who helps those who need it most. It might be a little hard to suss that out from the details in this issue, but it sure makes it an issue worth reading and pondering.
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