An Off-Color Kate in Hawkeye 10

By Spencer Irwin

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

When I first opened Hawkeye 10 I did a double-take, and had to go back to recheck the credits. I would have sworn it was Francesco Francavilla illustrating the issue, but instead, it was regular colorist and artist Jordie Bellaire and Leonardo Romero doing their best impression, bathing those first few pages in the deep, rich shades of red that have come to be Francavilla’s trademark. It’s our first sign that something is seriously wrong with Kate, and not just because thinking of Francavilla brings to mind the villain spotlight issue of Fraction’s Hawkeye; it’s because red is not Kate’s color.

So really, it’s obvious that something is off from the very first page.

As much as this looks like Kate Bishop, this just doesn’t look like Kate Bishop. Despite the purple, the colors are all off, and that devious smirk in panel four isn’t exactly an expression we see Kate wear very often. We know Kate can glam up with the very best of them, but she rarely does so, and adding a *bling* sound effect especially makes this feel like a ritual that Kate wouldn’t normally undertake. Something is very off, the only question is, what?

Kelly Thompson’s writing makes it fairly obvious even before the big reveal that Madame Masque has captured Kate and is running around town in a clone-Kate body, what with her carrying a concealed gun, putting the moves on her friends, trying to abandon helpless civilians and even going as far as to call them “sheep.” Still, it’s the art that gives us our first major clue that something’s wrong with Kate, and the tension of that off-kilter coloring carries through the entire issue, until we finally return to our Kate.

The fact that we get internal narration makes it immediately clear that this is the real Kate, but the colors reinforce that point. It’s not just that the saturation returns to normal, but that the page is bathed in the signature color scheme Bellaire has established for Kate throughout this series (purple and green). Hawkeye 10 is an impressive entry all around, but it especially highlights the talent of Bellaire and Romero, and all they bring to this series.

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


One comment on “An Off-Color Kate in Hawkeye 10

  1. I was so worried that you weren’t going to talk about this issue, because I have a lot to say.

    Before I discuss this issue, I think it is important to look at the context of this issue with respect to the arc. Which is to say, this arc is fucking insane with what it is doing. It has pulled out the two biggest characters in Kate’s rogue’s gallery, her arch nemeses, and started a three way war that also has time for intense character work as Kate spirals. And a big part of it comes with this issue, managing to combine all of that stuff in clever ways.

    Which means, I have to disagree with you pretty seriously, Spencer. The idea that Kate rarely glams up, or that the bling sound effect isn’t particularly Kate is very wrong. Back when Kate had money, she loved this stuff. Throughout Fraction’s Hawkeye, she was constantly going to parties. And while the villain issue you mention was the sort she didn’t enjoy, Kate was consistently shown to be in her element glammed up. Hell, in issue 7, she prays to the fashion gods for forgiveness when she rips up her Haute Couture dress. In fact, the primary challenge these days to her love of glamming up comes from the fact that it is a consequence of cutting herself off from her father’s fortune (hell, a big part of what made that choice of Kate’s so powerful was that Fraction spent a lot of time in the first half of his run making clear how much Kate enjoys money). In fact, I’d assumed that Kate had an entire cupboard in her bedroom full of her old designer dresses, kept safe until the moment she’d finally get the opportunity to enjoy them again. I feel this is very important, because what is happening here is deeper than just an impostor. This is a metaphor.

    Kate has been spiralling out of control. And by the end of last issue, her self destructive rush into another case had not led to her learning a lesson. Instead, she just spiralled further, pushing and pushing things back and retreating further back. Previously, it was violent superheroism, but here, she is pushing back into her other thrill. The one that she had to give up for the sake of her own moral compass. The fact that she’s going back to this is worrying. But it is also the logical consequence of Kate’s spiraling. Just go out and party. Pretend life is like it was before everything that got in the way.

    Of course, it isn’t actually Kate. Between the Francavilla style colouring and the fact that her nail polish is literally labelled Masque, the hints are there. And it is revealed that this isn’t Kate, but Madame Masque! Except, I don’t think that changes anything. Literally, we may have been following Masque, but we never read superhero comics literally. We read them metaphorically. Everything in superhero comics is a metaphor for something. When Batman fights the Joker, it isn’t about two grown men in embarrassing outfits brawling, it is a representation of the conflict between Order and Chaos. Secret Empire is about the threat of fascism, not the importance of careful management of Cosmic Cubes. SO why does the fact that this isn’t Kate change the fact that, metaphorically, she is Kate?

    The fact that the logical consequence of the previous issues is Kate is nearly indistinguishable to her own worst enemy is the entire point. As is the idea of the ‘real’ Kate trapped inside Madame Masque’s head(quarters), essentially alone with her father, the one person responsible for her being in this (psychological) state in the first place. Hell, is there any better example of how much of a psychological metaphor this issue is, than the fact that Madame Masque is the only person in the history of pulp storytelling whose’s colour of alarm isn’t red? Instead, it is green. The colour of Kate’s detective/intellectual half. The moment that Kate makes effort to leave her emotional spiral, create solutions and make a point to learn, the world is drapped in green. The moment Kate starts to try and pull herself out of her problems Thompson, Romero and (especially) Bellaire want us to suspect, want us to understand the wrongness. Want us to suspect something is wrong, that this is Madame Masque. And yet, despite being Masque, it is still Kate.

    And this is how this, insane, complex arc works. We have two arch enemies, a mystery of Kate’s mother and psychological assault on Kate that she struggles to properly manage. But careful use of metaphor lets Thompson layer all of these layers on top of each other, in an issue that honestly feels like one of the most metaphorical and psychological issues of the year, while maintaining the visage of pulp realism that is key to the many genres and aesthetics that Hawkeye exists in the intersection of.

    On the other hand, as great as this issue is, I have no idea how to resolve this is one issue. It feels like there really needs to be a real hero moment for Kate’s friends to save her and some important confrontations (her friends deserve a real opportunity to be real characters. Unfortunately, the next arc seems to be all about Clint visiting, which is unlikely to give them the space necessary to define themselves)

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