Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing All-New Hawkeye 5, originally released September 16th , 2015.
Taylor: Often times I wonder what my life would be like had I made an important choice, differently. When I try to make this abstract thought game more concrete, I think about the decision I made of where to go to college. My life would be incomparably changed if I had attended a different university. Different friends, maybe a different major, and most likely living in a different city for the past eight years of my life. Hawkeye 5 at first has us thinking big choices never affect the totality of our lives, but as events unfold, it becomes clear a single choice can affect your life greatly.
In the present, the Hawkeyes have just survived an attack by Hydra in which they attempted to reclaim the Communion Children. The children liquidated the Hydra soldiers, which if of course horrifying. A fight breaks out between the Hawkeyes about what to do with the children. Eventually they decide to let Hydra return them to the lab. In the past, Clint faces up to his brother, Barney, about his growing penchant for stealing and the like.
This issue is effectively all about choices and how some end up changing our lives forever. This idea is played out in both the present and the past story lines. Of course at first Clint doesn’t think this to be the case. As he says in the opening pages, “most people’s lives are a series of millions of messy little moments strung together adding up to a messy little life.” This sentiment is something Clint embodies down to the core. He’s never been one for plans, big or small, and it stands to reason that he would view life as being similarly without a plan.
We see Clint’s reason for this line of thinking in the flashbacks to his childhood. One day, while snooping around the Swordsman’s trailer Clint finds some nefarious paraphernalia hidden away in a box. Naturally, this calls into question the goodness of the Swordsman and Clint feels the urge to run away from the circus. But this isn’t some easy choice for young Clint.
Leaving would mean yet another home for Clint and another point of starting his life over from scratch. The decision he makes to stay with the circus is actually a non-decision in that sense. He feels conflicted about staying with people he doesn’t trust, but also knows that leaving means more hardship. Clint views this as just another “messy little moment” in his life and seems to consider the fact that it has impacted his life greatly. Writer Jeff Lemire does a great job of creating dramatic irony here. By splicing this scene together with the present-day scene of the Hawkeyes in the warehouse, he shows us how this event is actually influencing Clint’s life many years later. The thing is, Clint doesn’t realize this. It’s only later that that happens.
Mirroring the decision Clint has to make in the flashback is his decision of what to do with the Communion Children. Kate wants to try and protect them but Clint wants to hand them back over to S.H.I.E.L.D. or Hydra since they are incredibly powerful and therefore dangerous. The two Hawkeyes break out into an argument over this and the scene is colored wonderfully by colorist Ian Herring.
As the intensity of the conversion gets hotter, the background colors match the mood. It’s an effective trick of making the tension seem palpable and is used just as effectively later in the issue during the argument between Clint and Barney. The similar change in background color helps me understand that these are the two most important parts of the issue. They happen when Clint has to make a choice, both of which will affect his life for years to come.
The kicker, of course, is that Clint doesn’t realize these choices have had a big impact on his life until years later when Kate shows up at his door claiming they made a big mistake. What that mistake is, is yet to be revealed, but it shows us that Clint’s belief about certain choices not impacting his life are dead wrong.
Spencer, what did you think of this issue? I found the idea of choice to be interesting but a lot of this issue also fell kind of flat for me. Not a whole lot actually happens in this issue but perhaps the payoff is coming next month. What are your thoughts?
Spencer: I was more frustrated by Clint’s decision to give the Communion Children back to Hydra than anything, Taylor. I suppose what I’m wondering is how much I’m supposed to be frustrated by that decision.
I mean, Clint is clearly right about the fact that their current situation isn’t sustainable. As cute as it may be to see Kate and the Communion Kids play house, it can’t last forever; the kids are too unstable.
This scene comes only a few pages after the ghastly reveal of the Hydra agents the kids liquified. Herring bathes the background of that scene in the same sickly green as he does the second and fourth panels here, leaving us with no doubt as to what these kids are thinking of doing to Clint. The contrast between their emotions and Kate’s is clear; Kate feels guilty for hurting Clint, but the kids blame Clint for the incident with the same kind of misguided zeal any child might have for a beloved parent. The only difference is that most kids don’t have phenomenally destructive psychic powers.
Kate calms the kids down on the next page and makes them promise never to hurt anyone again, and the kids seem to genuinely mean it, but it doesn’t change the fact that Clint and, as much as she’d hate to admit it, even Kate are scared of the kids on some level; they don’t know what these kids could wind up doing in the heat of the moment.
So again, Clint isn’t wrong about the fact that they can’t keep the kids. What gets me riled up is that Clint hands the kids over to Hydra of all people. Kate makes the perfectly reasonable suggestion of taking them to the Avengers or the Fantastic Four; even S.H.I.E.L.D. would have been a better choice to take in the kids than the super-villainous Nazi organization seeking world domination!
It’s aggravating to see Clint make such a boneheaded move, even if Lemire does justify it well enough within the context of the issue. The opening monologue of All-New Hawkeye 5 paints Clint as a bit of a fatalist — “I was born to be a thief” — and his decision seems to be made less out of a desire to give the kids to Hydra specifically and more out of a belief that he has absolutely no choice in the matter. As Taylor pointed out, Lemire has presented this moment as an explicit parallel to Clint’s decision to remain with the circus, and the most significant part of that decision is that it was never really a decision at all.
When we discussed issue 2, I identified frogs as a symbol of freedom for young Clint — the fact that we see a frog left behind as Clint rides off with Barney and the rest of their circus “family” shows that the moment he hooked up with the circus, Clint lost the freedom to go anywhere else. Likewise, Clint feels that he has no choice when it comes to dealing with the Communion Children. It’s not that he specifically wants to hand them over to Hydra; it’s just, what else is he going to do? He feels like his hands are tied.
As I said, Lemire does a fantastic job building up to that moment throughout the issue, but it just doesn’t feel like something the Hawkguy I know and love would do. Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye was so obstinate and stubborn that he continued to defy the Tracksuit Mafia long after it stopped serving any purpose. Pre-Fraction, Hawkeye was specifically known as the Avengers’ rebel — in fact, the main reason Kate was given the mantle in the first place was because she was the “only Avenger who ever stood up to Captain America the way Clint did.” Out of all the Avengers, I never would have thought of Clint as a fatalist — if anything, he’s the guy who’d spit in the face of fate, who’d fight against being told what to do no matter how absurd the odds.
I suppose that’s why I find this issue’s story so frustrating. On the one hand, Lemire makes some smart points about the way Clint relates to his past, sets up some clever parallels between the two plots, and brings them to a sound, logical conclusion, but on the other, that conclusion is also more than a little upsetting, and clashes against Clint’s prior characterization. Taylor’s also not wrong to point out how slowly the story moves, but that’s been an issue throughout the entire run of All-New Hawkeye. Lemire is content to let each issue linger on just a significant moment or two, and while it slows the narrative to a crawl, it lets the emotions of each scene shine through loud and clear.
It also leaves plenty of room for Perez and Herring to steal the show. As always, they way they differ the art between the past and present is astounding, as are the techniques they use even within the two halves of the story — such as depicting panels featuring Barney in grayscale and Clint in color during the opening flashback scene — but perhaps my favorite part of their work in All-New Hawkeye 5 is the new style they put together to depict a third era: the future.
While Perez and Herring depict the present with firm lines and rich colors, and the past as hazier, with more abstract color choices, the future is brought to life with sketchier, less certain lines and panel borders (perhaps because the future isn’t set in stone?), and colored with bleak, washed out hues (perhaps to represent the sad state of Clint’s future?). Even in this bleak new future, though, Herring can’t resist playing around with color. Look at the way Kate casts a purple shadow as Clint opens the door. There’s no reason for the shadow to be purple other than the fact that it’s Kate’s color; Hawkeye is back, and therefore, so is the purple that’s been missing from the scene (and seemingly from Clint’s life as well).
It’s that kind of immersive, experimental art that keeps me coming back even when the plot stalls; likewise, it’s the clever touches Lemire peppers throughout the issue (such as pairing Clint with a dog in each of the three timelines) that keep my interest piqued even when he seems to miss some of the more basic foundations of his characters. All-New Hawkeye feels unique even amongst my vast, over-stuffed pull-list, and at least for the moment, that’s enough to keep me coming back even when its not quite at its best.
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