The Use of Flashback in Hawkeye 8

by Taylor Anderson

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

You see it a lot in movies and TV shows nowadays, the flashback or flashforward in time. Its popularity with artists is understandable, though — when you only have so much time to devote toward character development, why not take a shortcut and use a flashback to show what motivates a character? Just because this is an easier way to develop a character doesn’t mean it’s easy, however. In Hawkeye 8, the use of flashback isn’t damning, but it also adds relatively little to the story at the same time.

This issue cuts back and fourth between Kate confronting her father (who’s now a full time super villain) and the events that happen immediately after their “talk.” The latter is informed by the former and the whole conceit of the issue is that we discover why Kate is so out of sorts in the present day story because of what happened in the past with her dad. This is great idea but the execution of this narrative device doesn’t quite stick the landing. For example, here’s the beginning one flashback with the cut to the present day right after it.

Despite these two scenes being right next to each other, they have relatively little in common. In the past, Kate’s dad tells her why he upgraded to a new body (yes, it’s as weird as it sounds). In the present, Kate is on her way to a fightclub and trying to persuade her friends not to help her. That these two scenes aren’t related isn’t terrible — there are hard cuts all the time in comics — but given the use of a flashback, the story would benefit if they were. True, these scenes are building towards the overarching idea of the issue that Kate’s actions are informed by her past, but that doesn’t present any special reason why flashbacks need to be used. In this case, a straightforward linear issue would have been just as effective as what is presented here.

Ultimately, though, this doesn’t harm the issue all that much. It’s distracting, sure, but more than anything I can appreciate the attempt to do something a little different for an issue.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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One comment on “The Use of Flashback in Hawkeye 8

  1. I thought the flashbacks were done very well. In fact, I thought that this was one of the strongest issues yet, and combined with Wasp made this am amazing week of comics.

    The flashbacks are a fantastic tool on this issue, used perfectly to engage the reader. As the cover shows, Kate is falling. Losing control, totally unhooked. And the reader also loses control. Kate’s chaos is reflected in the way we lose both a chronological narrative and full context. Meanwhile, Kate’s pain is reflected by targeted use of flashbacks. The fact that we have literally just read the latest section of the flashbacks makes us feel the pain more keenly, feel it as Kate does it and we empathise with her, as she marches on a path of self destruction.

    You are right that the two scenes you showed have little in common, Taylor, but the point isn’t the fact that they are similar. The point is that Kate’s actions are happening as a consequence of what just happened. Each flashback contains a reveal that rocks Kate’s world. Her father didn’t put effort into keeping her safe from Greg. Her father was deathly ill AND now has superpowers he is abusing. Kate believes that her father could die from the new body. Her father abusively used his powers from her and almost stole her memories. Each of these would rattle her, and the combination of all of them inform her actions. That’s why the health crisis/superpowers scene takes place before the scene where Kate pushes her friends away (remember, Kate didn’t tell her friends not help her. She literally sabotaged their ability to do so). So we feel the exact pain that causes her to do that to her friends.
    This is a story about Kate disoriented, hurt and losing control, and the structure perfectly reflects this by controlling information so we lack full context and structuring the reveals so that we are constantly being hit, again and again, by Kate’s pain instead of being given the time to process it. Masterful.

    This issue almost hurt to read, and that fact made us understand Kate in the truly visceral way, as she utterly over reacts to every situation, causes nothing but problems and generally self destructs. And it does this while expanding the story of Hawkeye is many interesting directions, both with Madame Made us and with Mikka’s investigations. Any other week, this would have been the best issue on the stands, easily. Just unlucky enough to be on the same week as the best issue of Wasp

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