Hawkeye 1

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.

click-hawkeye

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.

She needs a win, too. We get a glimpse of her daily work life and Thompson and Romero reinforce Kate’s increasing frustration. a-long-day

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.target-circlesWe 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.

whos-kate

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.

violence

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.

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?

Advertisements

5 comments on “Hawkeye 1

  1. Sunny California noir, humorous detective lead, an almost slapstick style approach to story… This was more of a Christmas story to me than last week’s Christmas special, though this may be because I think nothing is more Christmasy than a Shane Black movie.

    Before I discuss my view of this issue, I’d like to make some disagreements with some of the points raised. I didn’t see Kate’s ‘archery vision’ as a ‘Kate sees everything as a need to shoot’. I completely agree that archery vision is a sign of Kate’s fantastic powers of observation, but instead of being an indictment of her singular approach to situations, I saw it as the opposite. The big idea of Fraction’s Hawkeye was that Hawkeye was great at archery, and that was what made up for the fact that they were terrible at pretty much everything else. And I felt that Archer Vision was the same. Kate is a mess, with no money, no carpark, no license and a half a dozen other flaws, but at least she has her Archery talents. Which include a very keen sense of observation that makes up for everything else in her struggles as a private detective.

    Secondly, I disagree that this Kate is notably different to how she was in Fraction’s Hawkeye as Clint’s foil. This is different to the sensible Kate of Young Avengers, but Fraction had already diverged from that character. When with Clint, Kate like to project an above-it-all, ‘I’ve actually got my shit together’ appearance, but Fraction’s Kate was the person who caved into revealing Clint’s apartment just by an appeal to her need to be seen as an Avenger. And that is before she went off the LA, and we truly got into Kate’s head, where it was clear that she was nowhere near as put together or sensible as she tried to make herself look. In fact, she was frequently downright goofy (I still remember the little Kates in the captions of the annual. Loved those). Since Fraction, Kate has always been a woman who hides quirk and neurosis under an image of total confidence, and now that we get an ongoing based around Kate Bishop, it is no surprise that this element of her is more prominent.

    Onto my thoughts of the comic itself. I was actually a bit wary about this. I did not enjoy Kelly Thompson’s writing in Jem and the Holograms, which is so bland that it killed my love of the astonishing art. And I was wary of the choice to send her back to LA – it felt too much like riffing off Fraction’s run and doing that iconography over character thing. But Kate Bishop is one of my favourite characters, I admire the balls to give the main Hawkeye book to Kate, while having Clint in a c-list Avengers title and Marvel, unlike DC, have given me reason to give them a benefit of the doubt. So I wanted to give it a go. And I really liked it.

    One interesting thing I find about the idea of Kate Bishop in LA is that I find her one of those characters that is truly connected to New York. This is mostly from Fraction’s work, but Kate’s identity is tied to her being a New Yorker in a way that many heroes aren’t. Spiderman and Daredevil have her beat, but compared to your Captain Americas or Iron Men, Kate feels like a New Yorker. Which is a strength of putting her in LA. Hawkeye in LA isn’t a story, but New Yorker in LA is. Which is also why I love that she spends half the issue dressed in an ‘I love NY’ hoodie. The comic neglects to give a reason for Kate to be in LA that isn’t ‘because Fraction’ (urgh), but it understands the appeal of why Kate is great there.

    And it also gets how tied up Kate’s relationship with LA is to her lack of anchors. It understands that Kate currently has lost a lot of her anchors. Most of her important relationships are gone (Thompson seems to have retconned away Lemire’s stupid retcon that Kate always knew her father was bad) and Kate is trying to find herself again (I also like how it is explored dramatically with Kate’s car. By turning her back on her wealth, she now has to struggle with the costs of a large expensive car, including finding parking in LA). And that is ignoring the obvious stuff like Kate’s issues with both Clint Barton himself and Clint’s shadow over her, which Ryan so wonderfully discussed.

    And sending Kate up against toxic masculinity is a great choice. Kate is a character who, if you are willing to take the path and done correctly, could have this topic discussed in powerful, mature directions. But at this moment, it works for two reasons. One: it is satisfying to see Kate do that. Two: it is sufficiently low key. While I remain critical of some of the ways this book approaches the Fraction run without evolving the ideas, Kate v toxic masculinity is a great example of actually evolving from Fraction. It gives Kate that same ‘ordinary villainy’ that made Fraction’s run so great, but is something so different that it is also charting a new course. Between that and the emphasis on Kate as a PI (as opposed to the stories of Clint’s days off), and we get a good evolution.

    Combine that with a great understanding of Kate as a character, and we have a really strong beginning. I love how Archer Vision shows Kate both as an experienced hero knowing what to look for and as a person with her own lusts. Presents a humanity to her that really fits a book about the struggles of Kate trying to make it on her own. Her missions also present that human side to her, by forcing her to deal with things like IDs, lack of IT knowledge and communication issues. Her saving the day, but missing the real threat feels right. The idea that what should have been a simple start getting more complciated fits pefectly with the fact that the unromantic struggles of LA doesn’t fit Kate’s vision of an easy success there.

    There is a major flaw, over than the parts of the occasionally overly referential treatment of Fraction’s run. The stuff with Quinn feels weirdly done. Structurally, it feels meaningless. Why make such a big point of getting into an argument with one, specific character around computer work if it is ultimately meaningless to the story itself. It feels that, structurally, the story would flow better if instead of creating a quasi alliance, Quinn throws Kate out, she’s in a rush, and then you get ‘I may be bad at the internet, and at sneaking into libraries, but I do have Archery Vision!’ moment.
    And if Quinn is supposed to be a recurring character, and this is his introduction, that is not a good way of doing it. All he does is slow down the story. He doesn’t influence the plot, he doesn’t even make enough of an impression that it will matter when he calls Kate later.

    Still, at the end of the day, this book actually reminds me of Mockingbird, which is high praise. There are many, many differences. But in the base DNA, they both share that idea of a book built around a richly characterised female perspective and their day to day life as a superhero. Whether it is glamorous spywork by a woman who refuses to be anything but completely in control or the goofy misadventures of private detective who wants to be seen as much more put together than she actually is, I love that link. And while Hawkeye has its flaws in a way that Mockingbird didn’t, this book feels just as much an evolution of Cain’s Mockingbird as it does of Fraction’s Hawkeye. Thompson’s book is setting itself up as the successor to two masterpieces, and honestly, it is doing a good enough job living up to them (even if it never hits those book’s peaks). I’m really happy with this book, even though I really didn’t think I would be.

    Also, I loved the recap page so much. So many great touches. Kate’s signiture, the post-t notes. The Qualifyign experience section discussing her Avengers credentials (including a reminder that Kate occassionally uses a sword!). America’s title simply being America. Jessica Jones as a referee (it seems like the obvious choice to place there, considering the book’s concept. Until you realise that Jessica actually was a mentor of Kate’s). Coffee stain. Reminder about Lucky (even if it is weird that neither Hawkeye actually has Lucky with them at the moment). Little drawings. A great recap page

    • Yeah, I gotta agree that this take on Kate is a pretty spot-on with the version Fraction created (only allowed to be a bit more competent in costume — I love Fraction’s Hawkeye, but by the end I was starting to wonder if Clint or Kate had ever won a fight in their life). Fraction’s Kate was competent and suave around others, or in comparison to Clint, but on her own she was just as much of a mess. This was especially clear in her LA spotlight issues, which this book is obviously a spiritual successor to.

      So yeah, I adored this book. Absolutely loved it.

      As for Lucky…he was just wandering around in the street in his guest appearance in this week’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. I hope that’s not a hint that both Hawkeyes think the other is caring for Lucky 😦

  2. What do people think of the fact that Kate wears so much green in this issue? Both her hoodie during Day One and here top on Day two are green, which feels deliberate. Is it to do with the fact that light greens like the greens Kate wears are opposite purple on the colour wheel? That the contrast between her greens and the purple that represents her identity reflect just how out of place she is as a private detective instead of a superhero?

    • Interestingly, someone wrote a piece about the purple and green I identified, and discussed it how it is a consistent piece of colouring throughout the entire issue

      http://comicsalliance.com/strip-panel-naked-bellaire-hawkeye-coloring/

      Great example of how much an effect colourists have. I didn’t realise the full extent of the purple and green when I wrote that comment, but after reading that, it allows to connect the dots on a couple of other things I was trying to find meaning in.

      Like how Mikka (who the article discusses wearing purple during her first meeting with Kate) wears also green during the climax, where Kate seriously messes up and gets kidnapped.

      The writer of the article makes a big point abotu how green and purple represent the two sides of Kate’s world. But I think it is more than that. Green represents the parts of Kate’s life that she isn’t doing right. Purple is the colour of Kate saving the day, whether it is stopping a bank robbery or the colour of her first client, thankful to finally have support. But green? That is something else. Green is Kate’s crappy apartment. Green is Kate’s not really working attempts to be a PI. Green is Kate’s struggles in the library. And Green is the colour of the woman that she fails to save.

      I’m interested in how Bellaire will develop the Green and Purple in future issues

What you got?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s