Waiting for the Trade – Hawkeye

Waiting for the Trade

 

by Bill Miller

 

Hawkeye: Blindspot

By James McCann and
Paco Diaz

Collects Hawkeye
Blindspot 1-4 plus Hawkeye: Earth’s Mightiest Marksman.

Why I Bought This: We’ve
long established Hawkeye is my second favorite member of the Avengers, and
considering he doesn’t get a whole lot of solo series/trades I tend to pick up
anything he’s given top billing in sooner or later.

 

The Plot: Hawkeye
learns he is going blind just as a mysterious super villain begins plotting
against him.

Chapter 1 – The Avengers are battling the “Lethal Legion”
(although the membership is much more reminiscent of the Zemo’s Masters of Evil
from Under Siege) when Hawkeye misses
a shot. We cut away from the battle to its aftermath where Hawkeye gets some
medical tests courtesy of Tony and Hank. The diagnosis is Clint is going blind
due to head trauma from the Widow Maker
trade (I actually just started that one last week); it’s a degenerative
condition that the science guys can’t stop. We then get a series of flashbacks:
Clint’s father being alcoholic and beating him as a boy, the day his parents
died in a drunk driving accident caused by his father, Clint and his brother
Barney running away from the orphanage as teens to join the circus, and teen
Clint being chosen to be Swordsman’s apprentice while Barney is left mucking up
after the elephants. Back in the present Tony gives Clint hi-tech VR vision
through lenses in his mask and sunglasses for civilian life that will let him
compensate until his vision totally fails. More flashbacks show Clint in the
hospital after Swordsman tried to kill him when he wouldn’t join him in a life
of crime and Barney criticizing that decision followed by Trickshot arriving
and taking Hawkeye under his wing, and then yet again Hawkeye is offered a life
of crime and turns it down, this time getting both himself and Barney riddled
with arrows. Next we see Hawkeye working as a circus archer when he sees Iron
Man for the first time and decides to become a superhero followed by Black
Widow finally luring him into a brief criminal career before they split up and
he reads an article about the Avengers as he ponders his next move. Back in the
present a severely wounded Trickshot arrives at Avengers Tower,
apparently he had cancer and was held prisoner without treatment for over a
year. He warns Hawkeye that he was forced to train someone new in archery who
hates Hawkeye but dies before he can reveal anymore. We cut to Coney Island where we meet the new Trickshot, who is
working for Baron Zemo.

Chapter 2 – We see Hawkeye taking down some arms dealers as
he tests his new eyes. Cap finds Clint and wants him to return to the mansion
for medical tests. We get a flashback of Hawkeye meeting Jarvis for the first
time, followed by the day he joined the Avengers and his early friction with
Cap in the Kooky Quartet days. Cap and Hawkeye fight and we cut back and forth
between the current fight and them earning each other’s respect in the Quartet
days. Clint wins the fight in the present and convinces Steve that avenging
Trickshot’s murder is something he needs to do on his own. We flashback to
Clint becoming Goliath v2.0, and then to the death of his brother after Barney
got involved with the mob. In the present Clint gets a CSI report that leads
him to Coney Island, where he meets the new
Trickshot and they have an arrow fight. The new Trickshot unmasks and reveals
himself as Clint’s long dead brother Barney.

Chapter 3 – We open in Flashback to Clint being forced to
take down Moonstone over Zemo’s protestations in the pages of Thunderbolts and we learn this is Zemo’s
motivation for going after Hawkeye now. We then see how Zemo found one of
Egghead’s old labs and within it the frozen Barney Barton and how Zemo
subsequently revived him. In the present Trickshot wins the fight. Hawkeye
awakens tied into a rollercoaster death trap but of course escapes. Trickshot
keeps Clint on the defensive, so he whips out the Goliath change but then his
brain problems kick in before he can finish the fight. Hawkeye has his final
set of flashbacks tracing his evolution as hero into team leader and his
marriage to Mockingbird; when Zemo arrives to gloat. He plans to force Hawkeye
and Trickshot to fight to the death (so that either way Hawkeye loses since to
win he has to kill his own brother) just as Hawkeye’s vision completely fades.

Chapter 4 – Hawkeye uses his most powerful gimmick arrows to
stay in the fight, but he still takes wounds from several of Trickshot’s
regular pointy arrows. Trickshot wants to finish Hawkeye by beating him to
death, but when Hawkeye mentions their father Trickshot hesitates enough for
Hawkeye to use his Cap training in hand to hand combat to regain the advantage.
And then in a scene that has to be seen in the book to do it justice Hawkeye uses
his last arrow to set Trickshot up and takes him down by catching an arrow out
of the air and return throwing it through Trickshot’s shoulder. Zemo gloats
until Hawkeye finds an opening to attack him too. Hawkeye is on the verge of
winning but Zemo teleports away. Cap and Iron Man later find Clint, who awakens
from his injuries with his eyesight back as Pym and Dr. Blake were able to do
some science fiction surgery and cure him by using Barney as a stem cell donor.
In the hospital we learn Barney consented to be a donor for Clint, but still
refuses to patch up their relationship. In the epilogue Clint has come into
money and decides to rededicate himself to a solo crime fighting career.

 

Bonus 1 – So this trade also collects a Hawkeye miniseries
by Tom Defalco set in the early days of Busiek’s legendary Avengers run. Hawkeye is training with new Avengers Justice and
Firestar. The mansion is visited by a woman who claims to be a computer
programmer who has developed a virus that if activated would go all Skynet and
is now receiving death threats for her research. Hawkeye agrees to investigate
and runs into Batroc’s Brigade (Batroc, Machete & Zaran – all highly
skilled assassins without superpowers). Batroc reveals the virus was a ruse,
and the mystery woman actually hired them to kill Hawkeye. Hawkeye wins the
fight but when he goes to check on the mystery woman he finds a discarded latex
mask of her face instead.

Bonus 2 – Hawkeye runs security footage taken of mystery
chick when she was at the mansion through the Avengers database to see if it
can ID her–although if her face was a latex mask I don’t see how that’s
possible. When that proves fruitless he takes Justice with him to question
Batroc in prison for leads. The mystery woman, now going by the moniker of the
Albino, breaks Batroc out just before Hawkeye arrives. When he gets there all
the cell doors are open and his old foe Odd Ball is waiting for him. Hawkeye
and Justice win after a few pages of fighting. In the cliffhanger we learn the
Albino is working for the Taskmaster.
 
Bonus 3 – Firestar has identified the Albino, and she’s just
some geneticist who doesn’t have a costumed identity that specializes in
studying mutants. Albino actually calls the mansion and arranges a meeting with
Hawkeye. Firestar is concerned it is a trap, to which Hawkeye is like, ‘of
course it is but so what?’ He also prevents her from calling in the rest of the
team for backup feeling nothing about this case so far shows he can’t handle
this on his own. The three heroes make their way to the usual abandoned
warehouse where after disposing of some generic thugs they are gassed into
unconsciousness. Taskmaster then uses Pym Particles to shrink the heroes and
trap them in a miniature maze where they have to fight robot duplicates of
various other heroes. We learn the endgame is that Albino in her study of
mutation is trying to enhance Taskmaster’s mutant power to mimic human athletic
ability so that he can also mimic mutant superpowers—the maze is designed to
make Justice and Firestar use their powers a lot so he can copy them. The
heroes escape the maze earlier then planned by having Firestar burn through the
walls. They resume their full size and Taskmaster has their powers but only temporarily
because of the early escape. Taskmaster has the heroes on the defensive for a
bit but ultimately Justice and Firestar use their experience with their powers
to beat him, while Hawkeye apprehends the Albino. Afterwards we learn Firestar
had the New Warriors waiting as backup since Hawkeye only forbade her to
contact the Avengers on this case. Hawkeye is mad for a second before he laughs
it off and lauds her initiative for following her gut instinct despite orders
ala himself and Cap back in the day.

 
Critical Thoughts: This
may be the greatest Hawkeye story ever told. It is certainly for me the
definitive version of his origin, which I don’t think has ever been told
chronologically in one place before. Trickshot was a retcon added in Solo Avengers decades after the
Swordsman stuff, Barney died in the 70s and hadn’t been referenced since, while
I’m not sure we’ve ever seen how Clint’s parents died or that his father beat
him. This is also a perfect example of how “continuity” does not have to be a
dirty word in a modern comic, but in fact can enrich an already good story. What
also makes this a perfect example is I’ve never read the original
Barney-Egghead stuff from the 70s or the original Thunderbolt series that serves as Zemo’s entire motivation in this
story, and yet with the flashback everything was still crystal clear and as a
result the story was even more compelling than if Zemo was just your typical
super villain of the month taking on Hawkeye.

One other positive of seeing various points of Clint’s
origin presented in chronological order is it makes seem Clint was destined for
a life of crime and thus his rising up to become not just hero but one of the
all time great Avengers’ team leaders makes his hero’s journey character arc
all the more impressive. Look at this story: his first mentor Swordsman offers
teen Clint a life of crime and Clint turns him down and is hospitalized for his
nobility. Then his second mentor Trickshot offers slightly older teen Clint a
life of crime and he again turns him down too, and he is again hospitalized and
this time loses the love of his brother as well. Then young adult Clint tries
to become a hero and the police mistake him for a villain anyway, until he
meets a girl and yet again she entices Clint into a life of crime and this time
after all the disappointments he finally waivers. And that could easily be the
end of his story except we get the whole second act where he happens to save
Jarvis from some muggers and the next thing you know he gets a chance at
redemption with the Avengers. This is just fantastic storytelling using mostly
existing plot elements to illuminate Clint’s character in a new way just as
he’s facing this latest challenge of going blind.

I’d also say McCann captures the dynamic between Clint and
Cap perfectly. I love the shout out to Cap’s “Fighting Chance” when Cap tries
to convince Clint to take it easy for health reasons and Clint responds by
calling him a hypocrite for having done the same thing back then.

Furthermore the action scenes in this are also fantastic.
Again the idea of Clint goes blind and yet manages to fight off both his evil
double (which is what Barney is serving as in this story) as well as Zemo (who
is for all intents and purposes Cap’s #2 bad guy) should be absurd. But damn,
the thought balloons explaining Clint’s strategy and illustrations combine to
make this fight not just credible but thrilling.

As for the back-up story by Defalco it is really not that
good, which is shame because I like Defalco in general and Defalco wrote the
story that made Clint my second favorite Avenger (the one where he cheats the
Grandmaster in the realm of death to save the universe). It’s not terrible. I
like the dynamic between Clint and the two rookie Avengers; and overall Clint’s
voice with not wanting to call in the other Avengers and being proud of
Firestar finding a loophole in his orders feels right. But having Taskmaster
looking to power upgrade so he can duplicate mutant powers doesn’t feel right
to his character, who has long eschewed direct confrontation with the heroes in
favor of making money behind the scenes. Still at the end of the day this is a
back-up and so it’s not going to effect the main story grade.

 

Grade: A+. If you
like Hawkeye you will love this story. McCann also wrote the very good Hawkeye & Mockingbird limited series
so he clearly gets this character. I often complain about how Bendis portrays
Clint, well this is the opposite of that as McCann writes Clint 100% perfectly
in my view. I might go so far as to say he is the best writer of Hawkeye ever.
HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECCOMENDATION.