Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Hawkeye 5, originally released April 5th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: A defining trait of Hawkeye is that they’re a bit of a “hot mess.” For all their skill as archers, both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop tend to be disheveled, disorganized, and often immature in pretty much all other aspects of their lives. This likewise applies to Kate’s new job as an L.A. P.I., a job she’s thus far succeeded at largely through luck and improvisation rather than skill. Thankfully for her, though, it turns out that this may actually make the job a perfect fit for her. Who better to teach that lesson than fellow P.I., and the “Queen of Hot Messes” herself, Jessica Jones?
Jessica’s come to L.A. searching for a missing woman named Rebecca Brown, who was last seen with Brad, the “asshat” Kate’s been investigating due to his ties to her father. Kate is overjoyed, and possibly a bit starstruck, to be working with the woman who not only previously mentored her during her first stint with the Young Avengers, but who she considers a “legend” amongst P.I.s. Interestingly enough, though, Jessica treats Kate like an equal partner rather than a protégée, never talking down to Kate and trusting her to have her back (sure, Jessica’s still bossy and combative, but hey, she wouldn’t be Jessica Jones if she wasn’t). Instead, it’s Kate who feels like she has a lot to learn, and while she’s never angsty or self-deprecating about it, her insecurities about her new job do eventually come to light.
Kate feels like she’s doing the job wrong all the time, but Jessica reassures her that, in her experience, there’s really no right or wrong way to be a P.I. Jessica’s experiences and technique backs-up her words. Throughout Hawkeye 5 it’s easy to see Kate’s P.I. style reflected in Jessica, the woman who bluffs her way into a fancy part and sneaks through the mansion after dark much like Kate did back in issue 3 (in fact, Kate even references her recent bad luck with parties in the issue). This is clearly a relief for Kate; in fact, now that writer Kelly Thompson’s more-or-less dismissed the idea of Kate being bad at her job, it’s become much easier to see the ways she excels at being a P.I.
First of all, Kate is eagle-eyed (Hawk-eyed?). This is a critical component of her archery prowess, but as her “anchor points” vision proves, that same keen observational skill serves her well as a P.I. Even with a slew of typical L.A. distractions crowding her vision, she’s still able to notice that Dhalia Dorian’s billboard is “too pretty,” a fact that eventually becomes central to their case (interestingly enough, while I initially assumed “too pretty” was referring to Photoshop or typical Hollywood attractiveness, it actually seems to be implying that Dorian has some sort of un/supernatural appearance, which we’ll discuss in a bit). This is what allows Kate to ID Dorian as their missing woman, Rebecca Brown, when Jessica couldn’t.
Likewise, Kate shows off some great instincts and initiative this month; while Jessica sort of poo poos Kate’s choice to bring along her Hawkeye gear, it ends up saving their bacon more than once. My favorite example, though, is the moment Kate takes to photograph the documents on Dorian’s desk while she’s distracted by Jessica. That’s some real solid P.I. thinking.
It seems likely Kate and Jessica will need all the deductive reasoning they’ve got to figure out Dhalia Dorian (plus powers — lady’s got dragons in her bedroom!). They discover that Dorian is actually Rebecca Brown easily, but the mysteries of why she left and changed herself so drastically, her connection to asshat Brad, all the broken mirrors in her house, and again, the frigging dragons, are still complex indeed.
I mentioned Dorian’s almost supernatural new appearance a few paragraphs back, and I think that could be the key to this whole thing. Could there be some danger to looking at her new face for too long — hence the smashed mirrors? Or perhaps she has a meaningful name, and underwent some sort of Dorian Gray-esque transformation (and, again, can’t bare to look at herself)?
Regardless of the reasons behind her appearance, Michael Walsh and Jordie Bellaire do a fantastic job of portraying its unusualness.
Kate and Jessica aren’t exactly dark-skinned characters, but they look remarkably tan next to the frighteningly pale Dorian. Most drastic here is Bellaire’s use of color holds, though. We mentioned in our review of America 1 how distracting some of its color holds were, and while that’s the case here too, I’m rather sure it’s a purposeful choice. Bellaire and Walsh don’t use these holds on Kate or Jessica (or even the old photos of Rebecca), just Dorian, and it makes her look almost ethereal and alien, setting her apart from every other character in this issue.
Drew, I look forward to hearing your take on Hawkeye 5, but before I go, I have a question for you: what do you make of its in media res opening? I’m rarely a fan of the technique, and while I don’t think it detracts from the issue, it doesn’t really add anything to it either. I can’t decide if Kate’s flippant reaction once the story catches up to the opening (“You think Jessica Jones is killed by a fall from a window? Pfft.”) is a fun way to poke fun at the fact that we know the in media res opening is always a fake-out, or just reinforces how little bearing it has on the story. What say you?
Drew: I think I’d agree that the opening feels pretty superfluous if it weren’t for its very explicit callback to Sunset Boulevard, which Kate’s opening narration actually name-checks:
I’m embarrassed to admit I’m in the category of people who “just, like, read about it on wikipedia or whatever,” but it’s such an iconic opening (with homages in everything from Tiny Toon Adventures to Archer), I think it still plays. The narration even follows the same structure, opening on this striking image, then flashing back to explain how we got there. That kind of flash-forward structure is a bit too common these days, but was downright innovative in 1950. In a vaccuum, a comic starting in medias res tends to feel tired, but the specificity of the reference gives it new life.
Moreover, it’s clear that Thompson didn’t insert the reference to show how knowledgable she is about classic movies, but to show how knowledgable Kate is about classic movies. Kate’s narration choses to pick up the story at this moment, acknowledging how it’s “all very Sunset Boulevard” — Kate is drawing these connections and presenting them to us. It’s a bit of characterization that I love, picking up on Kate’s ubiquitous Lolita poster from Fraction and Aja’s run. (Plus, we later learn that the scene is literally set on Sunset Boulevard, a detail I completely missed on my first read.)
A kind of tongue-in-cheek reference like that would be satisfying enough to me, but the noirish tone of Sunset Boulevard actually informs the rest of the issue. Just look at the way artist Walsh and Bellaire handle the lighting on the very next page as Kate and Jessica interrogate Brad the asshat:
I mean, that’s the way to light a scene in a P.I.’s office. They cleverly reuse the effect when Kate and Jessica are hiding out in Dorian’s bedroom, giving the closet door louvers to cast a similar shadow (see Spencer’s first image above).
Even when scenes are set out in the light of the L.A. sun, the art team manages to capture a ridiculous amount of atmosphere. I’ve praised Bellaire’s work on this series for that exact feat before, so I’ll just add that Walsh is doing a remarkable job, as well. I’m particularly enamored of the oscillating fan he crams into the background of Kate’s office (another P.I. office necessity), but he also gets a ton of mileage from the palm trees you can always make out through the haze.
(And yeah, those color holds really work to give Dorian an otherworldly quality. Walsh’s chunky lines are really well-suited to holds, as they won’t get lost, even when made as light as Dorian’s eyebrows. It’s a great effect.)
Spencer, I love where you’re going with your theories on Dorian. The one detail I’ll add is that Brad must be tied up with this, too. Kate notes mud (or something mud-like, anyway) on the side of Brad’s car, which feels like to specific of a detail to lump in with “classic hipster” or “delicious tacos”:
I can’t come up with any great theories about it, but what I love about this series is that I really don’t have to — the mysteries are intriguing, but only half of the fun. I’m sure we’ll get answers eventually, but in the meantime, I’m happy to just hang out with the salty veteran/enthusiastic newcomer P.I. team that is Jessica and Kate.
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