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Shot through the heart: Why I have a thing for Hawkeye

5 Aug

Kate Bishop in Hawkeye #9
(Fraction, Aja)

This is pretty much old news – forgive me. Being on vacation and weeks of confounding problems with my home WiFi have prevented me from debriefing San Diego Comic Con a couple of weeks ago.

But, to quote Ruby Rod in The Fifth Element, OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!

Master producer Kevin Feige’s announcements regarding the MCU’s future are beyond incredible. First on the docket are a number of series extending the stories of several Avengers secondary characters as Disney launches its streaming service, Disney+, this fall. Loki isn’t dead! Winter Soldier will have some time to pal around with Falcon before the latter takes up Cap’s shield! Scarlet Witch and her AI-driven boyfriend Vision will happily co-exist in the 1950s (I think)!

But the best news was about Jeremy Renner’s next gig – starting with the logo:

I have to confess, I am a comics newbie (bordering on poseur). I didn’t grow up reading comic books. The few times I’d get my hands on an odd title, I read it too quickly to appreciate the art and got frustrated for entering in the middle of a story line with no context. I only got interested in Marvel because Robert Downey Jr. knocked the genre sideways in the first Iron Man film in 2008. As the MCU saga continued, I got more and more intrigued, until finally this year, I dipped my toe in the broad, deep pool of source material with the 2012-2015 Hawkeye series written by Matt Fraction and illustrated (mostly) by David Aja.

The lettering of Marvel’s announcement card matches Aja’s distinctive graphic design – and I knew that! (Call me cool or what?)

Created by Stan Lee and Don Heck in 1964, Hawkeye began his career as a reluctant villain but soon became an Avenger, replete with mask and tights. Fraction and Aja brilliantly bring the character into the 21st century by focusing on the daily life of Clint Barton, who is all too human in an industry dominated by super soldiers, aliens and gods. When he jumps off buildings, he breaks bones and ends up in the hospital; in most panels, he’s sporting bandages and bruises from the action a few pages back. He spends a chunk of his ample Avengers salary to keep creeps away from his neighbors in their Bed-Stuy apartment building. He is literally a guy folks want to have a beer with.

Unlike the movie incarnation, here Clint is divorced and has a history with a number of super-women, including Black Widow. One exception is his mentee Kate Bishop, who has filled in for Clint as Hawkeye upon occasion. Young and ambitious, she is probably the most important woman in his life – all the more reason to keep their relationship professional despite an occasional sidelong glance.

The new series will introduce Kate – no word yet on who will play her. Given this photo of Renner exalting before her image from the Fraction/Aja series, it looks like they’ll build in a lot of the comics’ aesthetic and personality – whoo hoo!

What I love about the modern era’s Clint Barton, in print and on the screen, is this: Hawkeye is in on the joke and fully appreciates the ridiculousness of his being an Avenger. Clint states on the first page of the comic, as he falls a dozen stories and hurtles toward a hard landing on a parked car: “I’m an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Paleolithic era.” Or, as Hawkeye told Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron: “The city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”

It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to be awesome. And this is so, so awesome!

See you on the flip side …

P.S. As anyone who’s seen a Jeep commercial lately knows, Jeremy Renner has a side gig as a musician. Not my genre at all, but hey, you gotta admit the guy looks happier than he does in most of the Avengers movies.

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