Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Hawkeye 3, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Taylor: Legend has it that carved upon the Ancient Greek Temple of Delphi are the words gnothi seauton — Know Thyself. For the Greeks, it was important to know who you were and your place in society. This maxim not only helped you achieve glory, but prevented you from overstepping your bounds, as so many ill-fated Greek characters learned all too late. In our modern culture, knowing yourself has taken on a completely new meaning. Because of social media, you’re not only yourself but also the brand you push out there on Facebook, Twitter, and comic blogs. Given this, it’s imperative not to only know thyself, but also know how thyself is viewed by others. Hawkeye 3, knows itself and how it comes off to its readers, and that makes it a smart, funny, and interesting read.
Kate is on the hunt for Mikka, a client who has mysteriously gone missing. Her sluthing runs her into Detective Rivera who begrudgingly tells Kate about mysterious patches that allow for mind control. This trail leads Kate to party where she finds Mikka and, predictably, more trouble.
What strikes me most about this issue is how self-conscious it is. Kate is a hero who knows her own history intimately and that lends her a certain power over the how events unfold in the narrative. For example, when Kate is at the party on the trail of Larry she discovers a secret passage by pulling a copy of “Through the Looking Glass” off the shelf.
Just as in adventures she and other superheroes have had before, pulling a select book from the shelf reveals a secret passage. What makes this sequence clever is how Kate pulls the book because of how obvious it is. As Kate points out, having Through the Looking Glass open a secret passage a mirror isn’t the most original play. In fact, it’s how she found the secret passage in the first place. That’s funny, but what makes me like this scene is that Kate knows she’s a superhero living a superhero’s life. This self knowledge informs her about the possibility of a secret passage and she acts accordingly.
What also makes this issue a success for me is that Kate’s self knowledge lends her a certain confidence and comfortableness that draws me to her. Creators Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero do a lot to show that Kate is just a normal person doing extraordinary things. The comfort that Thompson and Romero display in showing us Kate’s more natural side is refreshing because she seems so similar to the real people I see everyday. This normalness is shown in simple actions like grabbing her hero-costume which is casually flung over the bathroom door.
Whether they care to admit it or not, most people have done something like this with their own clothes. The sheer genericness of Kate’s actions show that she’s just like me, which makes me warm to her as a character. Knowing who Kate is, and how she relates to her readers, helps Thompson and Romero create a character who is both superhero and regular-jane at the same time. Not an easy task, but one that keeps this issue engaging.
There are perils that come with being aware of who and what you are, however. Just as Oedipus’ knowledge of his fate and subsequent actions doomed that very future happen, so too can self-consciousness comic ruin itself. Even though I appreciate how self-aware issue 3 is, at times that strains my enjoyment of the comic. When Kate is sluthing around the mansion the party is taking place in, she happens upon some party-goers who are partying pretty hard.
Somehow, one of these people knows who Kate is. The other quips that they thought Hawkeye was a guy. It’s supposed to be a fun little joke but it’s a little too self-aware to really be funny. How would these people know who Kate is? If she’s so well known, why does one of them only think of Hawkeye as a dude? Probably because these are actual conversations that have happened, but that’s a little to “meta” and self-conscious for my palate.
This misstep isn’t enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of this issue though. Kate is charming and engaging because she’s so conscious of who and what she is. Essentially, this is an endless well of entertainment and I would follow Hawkeye being Hawkeye almost indefinitely.
Drew, how’d you enjoy the issue? If I’m being self conscious myself, I’ll admit that my whole gnothi seuton theme is getting stretched pretty thin. What did you like about the issue? Do you find Kate as compelling or I do or does she grate?
Drew: No, Taylor, I think you’re right on the money. Indeed, I think there’s more to the the gnothi seuton theme than you’re giving yourself credit for. For me, this series is very much about Kate’s limits. She’s inarguably a fantastic superhero — last issue demonstrated how effectively she can kick ass when asses need kicking — but she’s a downright incompetent private eye, which is where much of the humor and charm of this series comes from. She’s trying, but much of her understanding of detective work seems to come from movies and TV, where clues are big and obvious, and bad guys have secret passageways opened by pulling books off of bookshelves.
Of course, she happens to live in a world where clues and passageways really are that obvious, but the self-awareness allows her to kind of be a doofus, even as she’s absolutely right. It’s a bit like the climax of Hot Fuzz — we get to enjoy the visceral pleasures of a sensationally fictional world, even as the ostensible groundedness of the narrative acknowledges how absurd they are.
Even so, Kate is a pretty clumsy detective. She finds the room with the secret passageway, for example, only by trying literally every other door first. Process of elimination works, but it seems like there are enough clues to make that door suspicious from the start.
Kate could have seen the statue suspiciously pointing at the correct door, or the even more suspicious heavy-duty lock on the door (a detail that she comments on only after trying all of the other doors first), but is too caught up in the notion that each of these doors could hide a “possible creepy dungeon” to focus on the actual clues. She still gets the job done, but she’s not exactly relying on her wits.
What’s funny is that, just two pages earlier, Kate zeroed in on a seemingly invisible “spatial disparity” in the living room, one that she deduces must be hiding something devious. She obviously can notice these things, but they aren’t exactly instincts yet, so instead she has to walk in on a few awkward situations before finding the room she’s actually looking for.
(Actually, Taylor, it’s precisely because Kate is so out of her element that I actually liked that “She kinda looked like that Hawkeye chick” line. Kate’s a superhero — instantly recognizeable, but unlikely to be at some random party, hence the confusion. That the other person isn’t even familiar with Kate, but is vaguely aware of Clint Barton reflects not only the confusion around their sharing of that title, but also repeats one of my favorite running gags of the Marvel Universe: citizens are kind of disinterested in the literal superheroes that protect them. Some people know and love them, sure, but others just don’t care — just like athletes or whatever in our world.)
In spite of Kate’s clumsiness as a detective, her superhero skills give her a confidence that can only be described as swagger. She forges into that dungeon because of that swagger. She accesses that locked room via the window because of that swagger. And she rocks her superhero outfit because of that swagger.
Of course, flirting, like detective work, is a decidedly different skill from superheroing, so while Kate’s swagger lets her pull of a one-sleeved purple catsuit, it doesn’t necessarily make her great at accepting compliments regarding that catsuit. It’s a great little microcosm of what this series is: she’s an expert at some things, but an absolute klutz at others. I think that’s something we can all relate to, even if our area of expertise isn’t quite as badass as Kate’s.
Suffice it to say, I’m continuing to dig this series. I’d happily watch Kate blunder through a million cases, but I’m also excited to see how the relationships this issue touches on are developed. My favorite has to be the one between Kate and Detective Rivera, who has zero patience for Kate’s delusions of private investigation. You can bet we’re going to run into her again soon, though I doubt it will be to offer Kate a consultancy.
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This was much closer to the first issue than the second. I’ll be interested in how they conclude this arc, as at some point they have to address the fact that the second issue really weakened the theme, but this gets that perfect sense of movement.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop talking about colour in this series, because it is so important. Kate has two lives, and two colours. Superhero and detective. Purple and Green. You guys so wonderfully discuss the duality, and I love how it manifests this issue. Issue 2 was a disaster, in that Kate kept messing up. Kate tried to play private detective, and failed and ended up on the run, achieving little. I may not be happy with how those failures were shown (watch more Shane Black!), but issue 2 really hammered down Kate’s struggles, leading to her on the run. And in the end, she gets very little done. All she does is piss off Rivera (her undercover fixes a lot of the weirdness with her of last issue).
And then, she gets changed. Taylor, I too love Kate’s costume draped over the bathroom door. Feels wonderfully real, and a big part of rooting Kate’s world. She like a real person. But to me, the real great panel in that changing scene is the one before, as she removes her hoodie and reals her green top, while discussing the world’s most superheroey trope, mind control. THis costume change represents Kate shifting identities, and I love how subtly we are reminded both of Kate’s current identity with the green top and shown the transition by showing her getting undressed as she talks about superhero tropes.
And then she comes out of the bathroom and sees Johnny. It is actually important that he is there. I criticised his dialogue last time, and he is still boring, but the choice to have him suddenly reappear at that time is fantastic. As Kate goes from incompetent detective to badass superhero, Johnny is there is suddenly be impressed. It isn’t just that she looks hot, but that she ‘should always wear that’. She in her element, and for the first time all case, impressive because of it.
And now that she’s in her element, Kate’s competence skyrockets. Yeah, she makes mistakes and explores things she shouldn’t, but she makes progress. SHe instantly discovers a weird architectural trick, bypasses locked doors and finds secret passages. Yeah, she makes a couple of embarrassing mistakes, but they are minor in the scheme of things. She is both badass superhero and incompetent detective, so she will never be able to ignore the detective side of her identity, as frustrating as it is. But Kate is in her element. Quite simply, now that she is in purple, she can say things like ‘Boy, I hate being right all the time’ and get be justified.
Also meaningful, the crew she has been developing only truly gets together and becomes a team as she steps out of that bathroom. Team Hawkeye only truly forms when she is in purple. While they abandon her, we know they are going to be helpful. If the last issue showcased Kate’s weaknesses in green, this issue showcases Kate’s strengths in purple. And ultimately, this duality is going to be Kate’s great fight. What makes Kate such a compelling protagonist is we have such a clear duality among her. Character is conflict, and Thompson has done a fantastic job in creating a conflict between two Kates. She is so compelling, trying to cope with the fact that the life she is living is not the life she is accustomed to. Creates one of the most powerful central dramatic engines Marvel has at the moment, especially since Mighty Thor unfortunately doesn’t spend enough time with Jane when she isn’t holding the hammer.
Would still love some better dialogue in certain cases, and more interesting male characters so that Kate has love interests that are actually worth caring about, but this is what I wanted from the second issue. Unlike the unclear and plot driven mistakes last time, Kate’s mistakes this time are rooted in character, action and consequence. SO much better.
Also, Taylor, I think it makes perfect sense that Kate is recognised. I believe she was 16 when she started being Hawkeye, and therefore has been Hawkeye for five years. SHe has been in many high profile events, and been a figure in the news multiple times (most notably when she first appeared, and people asked about who this new Hawkeye was). In fact, in Civil War – Changing Sides, it was shown that her identity is public, and everyone was talking about Kate because the fact that she is Hawkeye made her a part of the story. She isn’t anonymous, just overshadowed by Clint.