Waiting for the Trade – Hawkeye

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 

Hawkeye: My Life as a
Weapon

By Matt Fraction,
David Aja and Javier Pulido

Collects Hawkeye # 1 –
5 and Young Avengers Presents #6

 

Why I Bought This: I
like Hawkeye. I buy most Hawkeye solo titles sooner or later and with this one
getting rave reviews I opted for sooner.

 

The Plot: Hawkeye
takes Kate Bishop (The Young Avenger that used the Hawkeye name while Clint was
dead and/or being Ronin) on as a sidekick and attempts to take down organized
crime and perform missions for SHIELD.

Warning Spoilers ahead, particularly the final sentence of
the chapter 5 recap is a major spoiler you should avoid if you intend to read
this.

Chapter 1 – In the opening page Hawkeye falls out of a
building and is hospitalized. Six weeks later he goes home to a slum building
in NYC owned by some Russian Dude who is in the process of evicting one of the
tenants. Clint sees the guy is within his legal rights to do it. Later Clint
hangs out with all his neighbors for a barbecue and we see Russian Dude wants
to evict everyone by ridiculously raising the rent. Clint seeks out Russian Dude
in an illegal casino and gives him a duffel bag full of money to pay everyone’s
rent. Russian Dude doesn’t actually want the money as he needs the building
vacated for presumably nefarious purposes so a fight breaks out. Clint, who is
in his civilian identity—ergo sans arrows, gets thrown through a window and
shot in the arm. He’s about to be shot again when Russian Dude’s dog–whom
Clint had given a slice of pizza earlier–bites its master to save Clint. This
gives Clint the opportunity to punch everyone out although the dog gets hit by
a car in the melee. Clint takes the dog to the vet where Russian Dude tracks
him down. Clint wins another brawl and then buys the building outright from
Russian Dude. Clint’s dog pulls through surgery.

Chapter 2 – Clint has Kate over at his house and he shows
her a conspiracy he has stumbled onto courtesy of “hobo code.” They then dress
up James Bond style to attend an underworld circus cruise that includes Owl,
Hammer Head, Tombstone,
Madame Masque and Kingpin as attendees. The cruise is hosted by Ringmaster of
the Circus of Crime and he uses his hat to hypnotize and rob the audience,
including the criminals. Hawkeye and Kate are immune due to spy sunglasses and
go off to investigate. Hawkeye gets ambushed and captured by generic thugs led
by a student of the Swordsman. Kate arrives and makes the save. The commotion
causes Ringmaster to arrive and he’s got an Uzi so Kate shoots his eyes out
with arrows, which Hawkeye thinks is taking things a little too far.
Swordsman’s student challenges Hawk to a fight, and Clint takes him down fairly
hard with a regular arrow as well. And then Hawkeye and Kate take the motorboat
Ringmaster had loaded up with everyone’s money. When the hypnotism wears off we
see Kingpin is not happy with this development. Hawkeye then officially invites
Kate to be his sidekick and she accepts.

Chapter 3 – Hawkeye shows all of his old school trick arrows
to Kate, who mocks some of them. Later Clint meets some chick in a red car and
they fall into bed together. The next morning guys with Uzi’s attack and kidnap
her. Clint gets Kate to pick him up in a Volkswagen and we get a long car chase
scene in which Clint has to use every one of his trick arrows in a story that
ends up being really fun and clever in a way a play by play recap can’t do
justice to. In the end Clint saves the girl and they part with a kiss.

Chapter 4 – A tape of Clint assassinating a terrorist has
fallen into the hands of a black market auction in Madripoor so SHIELD sends
Clint there undercover with an unlimited credit card to buy it back. He gets
made by Madame Masque and her goons tie him up and steal his credit card. At
the auction we see Kingpin, the Maggia, the Mandarin, the Crimson Cowl and
Hydra are among the other bidders. Masque wins the bidding, but when she gets
back to her until room we find out she is Kate Bishop in disguise.

Chapter 5 – Hawkeye, while still tied to a chair, is
attacked by the Hand and thrown out a window, but is rescued in the nick of
time by Maria Hill on his old skycycle. The fight draws hotel security who uncover
Bishop’s ruse. The real Masque gathers Kingpin and Viper to discuss the
situation when Hawkeye flies in for the save. The heroes fight some AIM and
Hydra thugs and manage to steal the tape back. Afterwards Kate questions
Hawkeye about the tape’s contents but we learn it was faked by SHIELD to
uncover a mole in their organization.

Chapter 0 – Reprinted from Young Avengers a few years ago it is the story of how Kate and
Clint met. Kate goes on date with teammate Patriot but decides she wants to
just be friends. She is attacked by Ronin (Clint in a dumb ninja costume Bendis
put him in while the world at large still thinks he’s dead at this time.) Clint
in the brief fight decides she has some skills and invites her to meet him in
the obligatory abandoned warehouse. (His interest in her is because she took up
the Hawkeye mantle after he died). Once there he unmasks as Hawkeye. They have
an archery competition over the name and bow that Clint wins while getting to
know each other. After some personal drama with the other Young Avengers, Kate
gets Speed to help her break into New Avengers headquarters to steal the bow
back. This impresses Clint enough that he gives Kate his blessing to carry on
as Hawkeye.

 

Critical Thoughts:
This is a trade that got better each chapter. It’s funny because after the
first two chapters I was all set not to like this. Having Hawkeye using regular
non-trick arrows to stab people isn’t nearly as interesting as the character’s
classic interpretation and having Kate blind someone with regular arrows seemed
exceptionally hardcore and out of character from the little I’ve seen of her.
(I have one Young Avengers trade and the characters
appeared in Civil War.) And then chapter 3 came along and
it was all about the trick arrows and it was so fun and clever and it started
to turn my opinion on this around. Chapters four and five seal the deal, in
that it starts off looking like exactly the sort of take on Hawkeye I hate (him
as a remorseless killer or in this case a government assassin, which is kind of
the same thing) but in the closing panel we learn the exact opposite of that
supposition is true and I was like yea, okay Hawkeye is in good hands here. Plus
the ride from point A to point B in those two chapters is a lot of fun, with
Fraction making good use of the Madripoor underworld setting.

There are a lot of little things I like here as well. The
interaction between Kate and Hawkeye really clicks. I had read chapter 0 before
in the aforementioned Young Avengers trade
I own and really liked the dynamic between the two in that story, so this feels
like a natural outgrowth of that. I thought using Ringmaster as a Hawkeye
villain was a fairly inspired touch considering Hawkeye’s own background in the
circus; although I would have preferred a traditional Circus of Crime story to
fully explore those themes than what we ended up with. Finally, I think the
ongoing subplot of Hawkeye versus the entire criminal underworld shows
potential. Kingpin in particular seems like he’s getting annoyed by Hawkeye’s shenanigans
and that has the potential to become a major story down the line.

Ultimately, while I prefer what McCann recently did with
Hawkeye better than what Fraction is doing as that is just more inline with my
favorite memories of the character, I can see the validity of this
interpretation. It plays up that Hawkeye is a more morally ambiguous than
Captain America,
but that’s always been the case between those two. Ditto, the stressing of
Hawkeye as the most human of the all Avengers. These themes have always been part
of the character but rarely as out front as they are here; making this feel
like a different take yet one still in line with the character’s core.

 

Grade B-. A rocky
start to set the tone it wants to, but once it finds its footing the
storytelling is pretty remarkable in the ending chapters.

Waiting for the Trade #5 – Thor

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
The Mighty Thor
by Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel
Collects Mighty Thor 1 – 6.
Why I bought this: Actually this was another library rental, as opposed to purchase. It was a story arc (Galactus comes to eat Asgard) that I knew wanted to read because I love me some cosmic Marvel; but at the same time I was wary on purchasing it because I know I don’t like Thor’s solo title–I never have, and the last time I purchased a Thor trade it was awful despite having Thanos in it; so I was very happy to see this at my library and I picked it up instantly.

The Plot: The Asgardians find a seed to the World Tree, Galactus believes the seed can cure his cosmic hunger. Odin refuses to relinquish it. A brouhaha ensues. That really sums up the whole story, but we’ll give the chapter by chapter recap anyway.
Chapter 1 – Citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma are worried about constantly being collateral damage since Asgard arrived in Oklahoma circa 2007 (don’t ask me how: didn’t read it and don’t care too). Meanwhile Galactus is eating a planet, while Silver Surfer assures us through narration that he only guides Galactus to unpopulated worlds. Meanwhile Thor and Sif are swimming in the pink energy that makes up the World Tree trying to fix its roots and are attacked by giant caterpillars, one of whom bites Thor. You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal, and the art makes it look he’s barely scratched, but his wound becomes a plot point throughout the story. Loki, now inexplicably 10-years-old or thereabouts, dives into the tree and saves Thor using a spear. They find the cosmic MacGuffin and turn the seed over to Odin. Apparently Thor and Sif are dating again and we get to see way more of them than we should in a children’s comic; and Thor is leaking energy from his side where the caterpillar bit him. Silver Surfer arrives on Earth.
Chapter 2 – Odin hides the seed inside the Destroyer, who is in a weapons vault from right out of the movie. Surfer informs the residents of Broxton they should depart because Galactus is coming for the seed. (Surfer’s cosmic senses apparently became instantly aware of it when it was plucked last chapter.) Surfer asks Odin for the seed, he says no and Thor attacks Surfer.
Chapter 3 – Volstagg goes to Broxton to get a beer and the residents led by the local preacher tell him the Asgardians they are not welcome anymore. Surfer and Thor fight until Odin intervenes and agrees to hear Surfer out. Surfer explains the seed can cure Galactus’ hunger, saving countless worlds but Odin refuses to turn it over without explaining why because that’s what Odin always does; so Surfer departs warning that when he returns Galactus will be with him. Meanwhile Volstagg tries to raise the guard because he’s an idiot and believes Broxton will attack Asgard soon; however all the Asgardian warriors of note have departed for space to take the fight to Galactus.
Chapter 4 – Loki goes to see the Weird Sisters (from Macbeth, who are apparently now part of Norse mythology) in hopes of finding a cure for Thor’s wound. We get a big battle in space, which breaks into three parts. Galactus sends purple energy tendrils to occupy the rank and file Asgardians, Thor and Surfer go at it physically—mostly hitting each with their hammer and surfboard, and Odin and Galactus battle on the mental plane by making each other relive bad memories. In the climax: The Oklahomans are standing outside Asgard asking them to leave via megaphone, Thor threatens to kill Surfer as their fight spills to Mars, and Loki gets what he wants from the Weird Sisters.
Chapter 5- The battle in space continues, and Odin, losing the mental battle, head-buts Galactus breaking his helmet and causing energy to leak out as he starts to dissipate; wounded both fall to Earth just in time to distract Volstagg and stop him from slaughtering the Oklahomans. Loki retrieves the seed from the Destroyer, accidentally reactivating it in the process. Spent by the battle Odin falls into the Odinsleep, while Galactus pulls himself together and now he’s pissed. Loki decides to put the seed back in the tree, while Pastor Mike thinks Galactus is God.
Chapter 6 – Pastor Mike asks Galactus to have mercy and he gives a definitive “no.” Surfer senses the seed is gone. Odin takes control of the Destroyer and arms himself with Thor’s hammer, he’s about to attack Galactus, who teleports into orbit. The Asgardians feel they have driven him off, but in truth he’s trying to locate the seed with Surfer’s cosmic senses. Odin returns to his body and awakes; and everyone is mad at Loki for putting the seed back even though in so doing he probably saved them all from Galactus. Surfer goes to visit Pastor Mike, and takes him to Asgard where he arranges a truce with the terms that Surfer will remain on Asgard to guard the seed, while Pastor Mike becomes the new Herald of Galactus. Galactus then makes Surfer human again and ties his power to proximity to the seed, the former of which seems to be counterproductive to watching the Asgardians; and we see life going on for the major players as we wrap things up.
Critical Thoughts: Let’s start with the positive. I love the art. From the penciling to the coloring it is gorgeous. Galactus in particular is drawn as an awesome force–in reveal after reveal the art finds new ways to convey it from his eating a planet, to his arrival, to his recovery, to his interaction with Pastor Mike each time he looks more majestic than the time before and the bar starts high to begin with.
I also appreciated Surfer’s narration to start the story that he’s been leading Galactus to uninhabited worlds. As much as I loved Annihilation, the one thing in that story that rang false was Surfer rejoining Galactus, which was clearly shoehorned in to align the comics with the Fantastic Four-Silver Surfer movie that year. As a huge fan of Surfer’s 80-90s solo-title, which was all about his quest for redemption for the genocides he caused when serving Galactus the first time, I was glad to see this included because it mitigates his return to service considerably. Likewise I’m glad to see Surfer released from service at the end of this; and I liked that he was inspired by Pastor Mike’s courage to leave Galactus and try to recover his humanity as it definitely feels in-character and in some ways is a nice hallmark to how Alicia’s compassion won him over the first time. And while unnecessary, since we know his being human probably won’t last more than this writer’s run on Thor, I don’t have a major problem with it.
Unfortunately, I found the story as a whole weak. Part of this is I that I’ve never cared for the Asgardians. I like Thor in the Avengers, but his own book with its mystic mumbo jumbo nonsense has no appeal for me and never has no matter which writers I’ve sampled; and the Asgardians themselves are bunch of dull characters with interchangeable personalities.
But beyond that and specific to this story the fight scene between Galactus and Odin is lacking. The idea that they are metaphysical entities and we can’t see their battle is a cop-out—and patently not true: we’ve seen both have physical battles dozens of times. Plus there is no context given in the memory war they do have. As someone who doesn’t read Thor regularly, I have no idea what any of Odin’s flashbacks are about.
Which brings us to another point; there is a general lack of exposition throughout this trade. Most glaringly why is Loki 10-years-old? That is a fairly jarring status quo change, that should be explained somewhere in this book; especially when you consider not just that trade paperbacks should be self-contained but this collects a new issue #1 released to correspond with the movie in case casual fans wanted to sample the title. And it’s not just Loki is still himself but in 10-year-old body, like he when he was (also inexplicably) a chick a few years ago. No, he’s fully a kid now: in one scene he’s all agog at seeing Sif naked, in the climax he’s crying because no one likes him when he tried to do good. He also seems to no longer have magic as he has to go to the witches for help and uses a spear in his one fight scene. Plus he and Thor are all buddy-buddy, with Thor being all like he’s my beloved brother and defending him to the other Asgardians. So yea exposition definitely needed.
I’d also add the Volstagg-Pastor Mike subplot wasn’t to my liking at all, that Thor seems way too willing to attack and even try to kill the Surfer when they’ve been allies for years, and Surfer’s fighting tactics in general were a little off—since when is the board his primary offensive weapon as opposed to the power cosmic? Is it just to dumb down the fight to magic hammers vs. cosmic surfboard?  Either way it just compounds the lazy plotting of the main fight scene that drives the entire story.
Finally, I don’t see why Galactus would agree to this truce as he really gains nothing from it and he has the power take what he wants—the explanation given is he can wait the Asgardians out because he is more immortal than they are, but in the meantime he’s spending tens of thousands of years eating planets when the problem could be solved now. In fact why isn’t at least one Asgardian (preferably Thor since he’s the protagonist) questioning Odin on this? Thor has certainly defied his father in past stories and this is a chance to save millions of billions of innocent lives, while Odin isn’t even explaining why he wants the seed. That seems like a major lost opportunity for story-telling; at the very least Thor should be conflicted rather than unquestioningly trying to kill a longtime ally for the glory of Asgard.
Overall Grade: D+. The art is fabulous, but while the story had potential it never lived up to it with the fight scenes, subplots and climax all failing to deliver.