Beyond Homage in Hawkeye 13

By Drew Baumgartner

Hawkeye 13

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

When it comes to franchised characters in comics, virtually every creative team owes a huge debt to those who came before. I think this might be particularly true for Kate Bishop, who was characterized so iconically (and recently) in two beloved series — Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers — that her past interpretations are all but inescapable. I don’t mean to sell short the contributions of Kelly Thompson and her collaborators on this series, but they clearly understand the importance of reconciling Kate with her past, which is arguably why “Kate’s past” has made for such a satisfying narrative motif. But issue 13 finds Thompson and Leonardo Romero fully addressing Kate’s metatextual past, crashing a bumbling Clint Barton back into Kate’s life.

I would normally hesitate to overstate the influence of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye on this series — its tone and style clearly influenced a ton of superhero comics — but Thompson and Romero make the connection explicit from page two of this issue.

Kate and Clint

It’s a great, exciting page that works beautifully without any context, but I think picks up a lot of meaning when we see it as a response of sorts to the first page of Fraction and Aja’s run:

Just Clint

This is the page I immediately thought of when I saw the spread in Hawkeye 13, but importantly, the callback is far more than homage. The most obvious difference is Kate, who isn’t just present in the new image, but is foregrounded in it. There are obvious narrative reasons for that — this is her series, after all — but I’m enamored of the thematic ones — while Fraction and Aja ultimately took Clint on a journey from loner to team player, Kate is much further along on that journey, having already built out her cast (and fresh off a fun team-up with Wolverine and Gabby).

Moreover, Kate is the one that has it more together in that shot — she’s already gotten her arrow knocked and drawn, while Clint has his bow in the wrong damn hand. It effectively reverses the mentor/protégé (and gender politics) other writers often struggle with when these two team up. Heck, the simple fact that Clint is an interloper sets the two on a much more equal footing than the other way around — he’s “other Hawkeye” in this series, a monicker that’s usually reserved for Kate. She may still have to tell him not to call her “Katie,” but she never has to tell anyone that she’s Hawkeye.

I suppose that illustrates just how different Thompson and Romero’s Hawkeye is from what has come before, even as it pays loving tribute to those predecessors. Their Hawkeye isn’t locked in to some misguided fidelity to a beloved run, but instead builds upon the themes and ideas of that run, allowing their characters to develop and evolve beyond the situations we’ve already seen them in. It’s a feat that’s always remarkable in superhero comics, but especially when it’s handled so well. When the issue eventually pits Kate’s biggest goal against her growth — that is, the embrace of teamwork — there’s some real tension, built by these cues that Kate actually has made a lot of progress. Will she trade that in to see her mother one last time? That’s a resolution I need to see.

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

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One comment on “Beyond Homage in Hawkeye 13

  1. Honestly, I would say that Heinberg’s original Young Avengers run is more influential to THompson’s Hawkeye than Gillen’s Young Avengers. I’m not entirely sure how much of Gillen’s Kate I see in this run, while the use of Kate’s mother, Jessica Jones, the strong themes of abuse towards women etc all feel very close to Heinberg’s original work.

    And I will admit that I didn’t think to link either of those pages, largely because I feel that it takes that very first page out of context. To me, that very first page was a direct reference to the Avengers movie, to probably the most iconic shot of Clint in the movie, so that Fraction and Aja could reject that style of storytelling for their own vision of Hawkeye. That, in context, the page acts as ‘this is the iconic Hawkeye, we aren’t showign that’.

    So I ended up reading both pages as engagements in the iconography of Hawkeye. Fraction and Aja’s is showing the version of Hawkeye they exist in contrast to, while Thompson is empowering Kate by giving her the iconic moment while Clint struggles. Making clear who is truly central in the narrative (which, interestingly, foreshadows the events of the story. What looks to be a Clint focused story all about Clint’s problems suddenly takes a swerve at the end and recentres Kate at the core of the Hawkeye universe. Despite the superficial appearances of ‘Eden is trying to kill Clint’, the story is best demonstrated by that first image. THis is a Kate story, not a Clint story. In this story, Kate is THE Hawkeye, adn CLint is A Hawkeye. Kate gets the Avengers reference.

    Also, the use of Eden is weird, in that I don’t know why the Generations link exists. Ignoring the fact that Generations was not supposed to have actually happened so Clint shouldn’t remember Kate even though Kate remembers the events, Eden is so completely different in this story that it feels meaningless. Ignoring the fact that Eden has a character now, the Eden in this comic doesn’t feel like a natural evolution of the Eden in the Generations issue.
    The new Eden is a great character. But I don’t think she had to be the same character as Generations

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