Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing Hawkeye 1, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M.: Los Angeles is a mainstay of detective fiction. There is something about the contrast between the sunshine and the darkness within the worst of humanity. Modern noir is rife with the stories of private investigators getting entangled in what starts as a simple case but turns into a much bigger problem, all the while surrounded by the superficial beauty of the city. In Hawkeye 1, Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero not only establish the series’ specific version of Los Angeles but also give us a spin on Kate Bishop that feels fresh, while still acknowledging her history.
Kate is living in Venice Beach and working as an unlicensed private eye out of her home office without much success. She is still ready to go full Hawkeye whenever a super hero is needed, but otherwise spends her days dealing with potential clients who expect Clint. Mikka, a college student receiving threatening messages, enlists her help, and Kate dives into the case. She finds the perp and is patting herself on the back for a job well done when Mikka is kidnapped.
Romero establishes a visual language from the first page that reaffirms Kate’s role as PI but also distances her from the action of the scene.
The large black border that changes the ratio of the image becomes a shorthand for the reader. When we see this shot, we know that Kate is in PI mode and taking photographs. The significance of the borders is reinforced by the “CLICK” placed between them. By underlining the meaning of the style, Romero effectively adds a new element to the language of the story. It’s Hawkeye‘s take on the established view-finder lens.
The black border also signals that Kate is holding a camera and not her bow. There is a simmering conflict in the issue between Kate’s trained skill and proficiency as a hero and her struggles with her new business. We see her transition from a boring stakeout that will result in a talk with her mark to foiling a bank robbery with ease. There is a moral imperative to choosing to stop a bank robbery with many innocent bystanders rather than confront Brad the surfer, but Kate seems more natural in that context. Thompson keeps up Kate’s narration throughout. The narration’s attitude and cadence doesn’t change even as visually we see what seems to be a difference in competence and confidence. Thompson also sets up a bit of emotional backstory as Kate suits up. Kate’s references to losing her metaphorical anchor points inform her desire to believe in the final pages that she has finally won.
We see Kate the PI as she deals with a series of confused and sometimes rude clients in a series of seventeen panels of the same size. It’s not until we get a look at Mikka that the panel is larger, giving her an importance to the page. It also offers a relief from the increasingly moody images as the sun sets, casting Kate’s face with a red pallor.
Kate’s duality is underlined by the way she sits back in her chair while listening to her visitors and how she goes on high alrt when anticipating a crime. Romero employs a target motif that lets us know when Kate is engaged while also giving us some insight into her mind.We see here that Kate has deduced the plans of three bank robbers with little more than her instincts and keen observation. Thomspon also makes sure we don’t forget that Kate is also keenly aware of the hot abs and donuts in the vicinity. The page above both informs the reader of Kate’s skills and personality and teaches the reader how to process the information through the use of the targets. There is the literal read of the imagery which implies that archery is so key to Kate that she looks at everything as something to shoot. This aligns with her behavior when she catches Mikka’s stalker. She grabs the bad guy, throws him to the ground and sends him away. A PI might be more curious as to his motives. It’s this kind of near naiveté that puts Kate’s client in danger, but it’s likely Hawkeye that will save her.
Taylor, what did you think? How well did this function as a first issue for you? The story kept pretty close to Kate. What do you think of the choice not to explore any other characters? Also, we see the first investigation of the series. Would you want to come back for more Kate in undercover glasses shenanigans?
Taylor: As a first issue, this introduction to the series is pretty good. I like how, for the most part, it sticks to only investigating Kate’s character. There are so many first issues (looking at you Ghost Rider) that try to do too much in the first the issue, whether it’s the amount of characters, the plot, the setting, whatever. Here, we stick with Kate for the duration and by the end I feel like I know who she is for the most part.
That being said, there are some aspects of Kate’s development in this issue which I find perplexing. Throughout the issue it’s clear that Kelly Thompson wants to portray Kate as being quirky and likable. These Zooey Deschanelisms mostly manifest themselves in ways that don’t necessarily seem congruent with most aspects of Kate’s character. In multiple examples throughout the issue Thompson reminds us that Kate cares about two things: food and hot guys. Nowhere is this more clear than when she’s surveilling Mikka’s college campus.
In this one frame Kate sees two hot guys and a good looking sandwich before she sees her client. Panels like these confuse the issue of Kate’s character. On the one hand she’s and Avenger who can take out criminals with ease. On the other, she’s kind of a weirdo who lusts after food and hotties. There’s nothing wrong with either of those, however it’s a bit difficult to reconcile the two.
Part of this difficulty comes from what I expect of Kate’s character. Usually she’s portrayed as the foil to Clint’s (the other Hawkeye) c’est la vie attitude. With her previously having been established as the more grounded of the two Hawkeyes, it’s a bit of a shock to the system to see her developed otherwise. And while that’s a bit weird at first, it totally grows on you as you read. Kate is a bit strange and scattered, but she also kicks ass and is good at her job. In other words, in this issue she is shown as being more like Clint than ever before – and not just because of their shared penchant for the bow. Ultimately that seems right though. It shows that ladies can be just as good of heroes as men and also similarly caviler in their attitude.
It’s fitting, then, that Kate should take on a case for a woman who is being unfairly harassed online by a lurking male. While Kate easily takes care of the initial threat to Mikka, she isn’t able to protect her from later threats, as the closing panels depict.
It’s a disturbing end to an otherwise fun issue. Kate thinks she has saved the day and stopped an innocent woman from being threatened online only to have her kidnapped later. That it appeared Mikka was safe makes this ending a real punch in the gut and it makes me wonder if the issue of violence against women – whether verbal or physical – will be a central theme to this series. If so, it will be interesting to see how Kate deals with this matter compared to other female private eyes in the Marvel universe who also happen to be super heroes (yes I’m talking about Jessica Jones, whose was name dropped on the inner page of the cover).
So Ryan, you asked how I liked this first issue and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. There are some areas of concern, like just who exactly is Kate’s character, but there is plenty of time later to develop her fully. That being said I think this series has plenty of room to grow but has already established solid ground on which to do just that.
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