by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The conventional wisdom in improv is that transaction scenes — like those between a customer and a storekeeper — are inherently uninteresting. The relationship between the two characters is impersonal and perfunctory, and the transaction is void of any tension. Any of those elements can be changed to rescue a transaction scene, but beginners are encouraged to avoid those setups altogether in favor of those that have relationships and tension built in to the premise. (At least, this is my understanding, though I’m prepared to have our improv contingent correct me in the comments.) Interrogation scenes definitely have that tension built in, as one person wants information the other is reluctant to share, but the relationships are often still impersonal. Moreover, they’re scenes we’ve seen a million times, whether they’re taking place in a police station or as Batman dangles a crook from some rooftop. Which is to say, the tension isn’t quite enough to carry those scenes. Like a transaction scene, an interrogation can be rescued if complications are added in the right places. Unfortunately, those complications are largely absent from Old Man Hawkeye 2, leaving two of its its three interrogations feeling pretty limp.
Really, they’re just variations of the same scene — person who wants information threatens the person who has information — and neither reveals a great deal about our characters. Hawkeye is good at shooting arrows, and isn’t afraid to aim them at bad guys. Bullseye is good at killing people, and isn’t afraid to kill good guys. I appreciate the tension that’s supposed to exist in these scenes, but since we never get to know the characters being threatened enough to care about them, there’s never really any doubt that they’ll give up the information they’re being asked for. Which reduces this issue to “both Hawkeye and Bullseye want information and get it,” which is a middle chapter that simply could have been skipped entirely — if this issue picked up with them already having this information, I wouldn’t miss a page of it.
To his credit, Writer Ethan Sacks does try to characterize Bullseye a bit here, emphasizing his casualness as he interrogates Hammer.
But “casual with violence” (and indeed, “so casual with violence to get distracted with food”) is commonplace enough to have lost all meaning — especially when Clint doesn’t exactly struggle with violence in this issue. It’s a kind of halfhearted attempt to make Bullseye feel chilling, but it instead flattens him down to the archetype of a heartless villain.
It makes sense that Sacks would want to be explicit about Bullseye’s attitudes about and skills at killing — he is (one of) the big bad(s) of this series, after all — but the fact that he felt he needed to speaks to the weird place this series occupies. I mean, what’s the point of using characters with storied histories if you also have to introduce what they’re about? To illustrate what I mean, just look at how much more effective Bullseye’s menace can be when Sacks is able to let his history speak for itself.
This interrogation scene could play out like the others, but Sacks changes the equation here. Bullseye brandishing that sai is much more subtly menacing. Obviously, it means more if you understand his history with that specific weapon, but I think it’s effective even if you don’t. We all get that he’s threatening Ashley here — there’s no need to beat us over the head with it. But the other part that rescues this scene is Ashley’s reaction to it. Unlike the other interrogatees, she’s not afraid, forcing Bullseye to try a different tack. Artist Marco Checchetto captures this perfectly in that second panel, as Ashley rejects the threat Bullseye is making, literally asserting her identity over his weapon. It’s a great moment — I just wish Sacks and Checchetto had applied the same principles to the other interrogations in this issue.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?