Solo Avengers #2-5 (Hawkeye)
Issue(s): Solo Avengers #2, Solo Avengers #3, Solo Avengers #4, Solo Avengers #5 (Hawkeye stories only)
These issues continue the story introduced with issue #1, which revealed that we didn't really know the full story behind Hawkeye's origins. Issue #2 opens with Hakweye pushing himself hard in the West Coast Avengers' off-brand Danger Room...
...and when Mockingbird questions him about it, he goes into an origin retelling the takes up the majority of (his half of) the issue. His father was a butcher and a drunk that eventually killed himself and his wife in a drunk driving accident, and Clint (Hawkeye) and his older brother Barney were sent to an orphanage. Too old to be seriously considered for adoption, they eventually ran away to a circus. It was there that they met the Swordsman, and Clint became his assistant.
But the Swordsman is upstaged by Trick Shot.
It's actually the Swordsman that arranges for Hawkeye to learn archery from Trick Shot, part of what would have been a scheme to get back at the guy that replaced him in the top spot at the carnival. But Hawkeye still seems to consider Swordsman his real mentor (at least in part because these scenes are repeated from previous Hawkeye origins).
And whatever the Swordsman's vengeance scheme was, he also had gambling debts, and one day Hawkeye walks in on him counting the money he stole from the carnival's own paymaster.
They fight, Hawkeye loses, and the Swordsman leaves. Barney berates Clint for not agreeing to take half the stolen money, and he leaves too. That left Clint with Trick Shot, who offers to make him a truly great archer (Clint already had "natural flair") in return for an unspecified payment. And so the training began, including the introduction of trick arrows, until one day Trick Shot took Clint along on a visit to the mobster that Swordsman owed money to, named Marko. Trick Shot intended to extort money from the guy, but he winds up killing him. And one of Marko's enforcers turns out to be Barney, who Hawkeye unknowingly injures with an arrow. When Trick Shot says it's time to leave, Clint refuses to go without taking Barney to a hospital, so Clint and Trick fight, and Hawkeye loses.
Trick Shot doesn't kill him but says he'll return to do it some time in the future.
A repeated theme was Hawkeye's instinct to try to resolve conflicts by working harder to please people: his father, his older brother, the Swordsman, and he at least looks the other way at first when Trick Shot keeps mysteriously disappearing. Hawkeye's change in attitude by the Kooky Quartet period isn't specifically addressed but i guess you could say it's because all his previous father figures had let him down.
This is the third shameful past that has been inserted into Hawkeye's origin. The first was the fact that the Swordsman trained him. Then the revelation that his brother was a mobster. And now Trick Shot. I find that Trick Shot just complicates an origin that already had everything it needed; as it stands there was a heck of a lot of intrigue going on at a carnival at a time when the players were small enough that, for example, the Swordsman was knocking off his own place of employment. And the idea that Trick Shot's part in all of this wouldn't have come up in Hawkeye's past tellings of the origin is difficult to accept as well. All this to address what i think is a non-issue of Hawkeye having learned archery from a sword expert; these guys were carnies and the original idea was that the Swordsman taught him the basics but Hawkeye had a natural inclination for the bow.
Of course the other purpose is to give Hawkeye an arch-enemy (that's a pun, people!) now that he has his own series.
And in any event, as Hawkeye expected after seeing Trick Shot's arrows in issue #1, after telling his revised origin to Mockingbird, he reveals that he's been sent a plane ticket to Paris. It's Trick Shot's "death challenge".
Issue #3 opens up with a battle between Hawkeye and Batroc's gang in Paris already in progress. After last issue's origin story, this is much more like it.
Interspersed with that fight, we learn that Hawkeye was considering knocking out his wife so that he could accept Trick Shot's challenge despite the promise he made to her in issue #1.
I didn't realize you could get out of a promise if the person you made the promise to was unconscious.
But back to Batroc and his buddies Zaran and Machete.
These guys were sent by Trick Shot, and frankly, that's kind of an insult. I know Batroc gets laughs, but he's a perfect opponent for Hawkeye. Add in two more weapon masters and Hawkeye should be considering this to be the fight of his life, not a warm up act. Nevertheless:
When the fight is over, Hawkeye is apprehended by Silver Sable.
Here's Ron Lim's first pencils at Marvel (i think, depending on when this year's annuals came out; he drew some of the back-up features).
Hawkeye is looking a little super-deformed.
Sable is supposedly arresting Hawkeye for the death of Trick Shot on behalf of the French government. She actually knows that she has no legal right to detain him, but she "know[s] men" and knows that he won't try to call the Avengers or anything like that. She should have never left him in a cell with a bed though. The man can build a bow and arrow set out of one, as we learned in Defenders #7.
Sadly, this time he just throws pieces of the bed at Sable's guards.
I have to think DeFalco knew about that Defenders scene and was just teasing us.
Sable actually expects Hawkeye to escape. Her real target is the international assassin Trick Shot, and by accusing Hawkeye of killing him, she knows that he'll track him down and produce him to prove his innocence. She doesn't make things too easy on him, though.
And Hawkeye doesn't have to look very hard for Trick Shot: he's right outside Silver Sable's castle walls.
Hawkeye is knocked out and taken to a Greek island where, stripped of his usual trick arrows and with only a bow and arrow set provided by Trick Shot, he has to fight his way through a series of traps.
As he's working his way through, he realizes something is wrong. Trick Shot is holding back or at least not fighting as well as he should be. And it turns out that the reason is that Trick Shot is dying, and he wants Hawkeye to be the one to kill him.
There's a nugget of a great idea in here. If Trick Shot were just an ordinary carnival archer who taught Hawkeye the ropes and spent a life jealous of his pupil's success and wanted to die in a blaze of glory that got him the success he felt he deserves, that would be pretty cool. Maybe with a high stakes archery contest that shows that Hawkeye really is better than him and earned his fame. But having Trick Shot be a criminal from the beginning ruins the moment for me (and again makes me feel like Trick Shot isn't adding anything to Hawkeye's backstory that Swordsman didn't already provide).
In terms of my personal preferences, the odds are stacked against this series. I'm not interested in Hawkeye as a solo character, i'm not happy with origin revisions for any character and i specifically don't like Trick Shot, and the very idea of a story told in 11 page increments by Tom DeFalco gives me shudders. But despite all that, there's some fun to be had along the way. DeFalco (and/or editor Mark Gruenwald) finds the right people to challenge Hawkeye with: Batroc, Zaran, Machete, Silver Sable and her Wild Pack. I'll also say that my worst fears about the split-format are allayed with these issues: DeFalco manages to keep decent pacing by jumping forward in time a little bit with each issue instead of having direct continuations with overt expository recaps. And decent art by M.D. Bright and early (at Marvel; he'd done work at Malibu and elsewhere prior) Ron Lim. So overall i give it a wholehearted "could be worse".
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The second stories in all of these issues are unrelated and take place at various different times, so they are all given their own entries. Issue #1 of the Hawkeye story took place "last week", and this arc takes place between West Coast Avengers #31-32. Hawkeye will go from Greece to Algeria for next issue; it and #7 also take place before WCA #32.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showBatroc, Hawkeye, Machete, Mockingbird, Silver Sable, Trick Shot (Buck Chisholm), Zaran
I think the concept of this series was sound, especially with how bloated the Avengers roster had become when you add in both teams as well as reserve members. There were more than enough characters to give a spotlight each month. Had it been about five years earlier, with talent like Stern, Simonson, or Byrne on it from time to time, it could have been gold. As it is, this beginning arc is probably the highlight of the series. Which is just sad considering it goes on for 3 years.
Posted by: Robert | June 2, 2014 11:37 PM
This series runs out of steam so quickly it's ridiculous. Once you're past this arc it seems like DeFalco's all out of ideas, so you just get a lot of generic, done-in-one stories with bland villains (Bobcat? Bullet Biker?), and they start feeling padded even at 11 pages. Howard Mackie's run isn't much better, but at least it feels like he's trying. It doesn't become even halfway interesting until Steve Gerber starts (#30, I think) and even then it's more interesting than good - there's way too many goofy moments, and not in an intentional 'quirky' style like you'd expect from Gerber, but at least there seems to be some ambition and an effort to give the book a distinct feel. Sadly, by that point it's being drawn by Al Milgrom and Don Heck, so the goofy parts are more readily apparent.
Posted by: James M | June 3, 2014 3:37 AM
I actually liked this arc. As you say, some good Hawk-eye level opponents and a few twists. I quite like the action in the Wild pack issue. However, as James M states, after this arc, he's out of ideas and we get too many one-shot issues.(Only the future plantman arc is ok). I also agree with Robert that with better writers this could have been a great showcase.
Posted by: kveto from prague | June 3, 2014 4:18 PM
DeFalco can be an enjoyable writer, but generally only when he inherits a title with an established supporting cast, rogue's gallery, and mythos. He needs the toys already in the sandbox. He needs to know what already works. So he does well with Spidey and Thor.
Despite Hawkeye being a long time established character, he has never had a solo title. Clint Barton is essentially a cipher outside his role as an Avenger. Even his wife is an Avenger.
The challenge for DeFalco is that as the lead story in Solo, he needs to treat this as if it were a new series. He needs to establish a supporting cast, a new rogue's gallery just for Hawkeye, a life outside of being a superhero. That's what you need to do to make a title long lasting as opposed to an enjoyable mini-series.
DeFalco doesn't really do any of this. He does what little archaeology he can on the existing Hawkeye elements and throws it up, but it is not enough.
To be perfectly honest, it isn't good of him to be writing ongoing series while he is EiC anyway. Certainly not this and Thor as well. How good is his Editor going to edit him if he's that Editor's boss?
Posted by: Chris | June 12, 2014 10:06 PM
How did no one think of Hawkeye fighting Batroc before this? It was so perfect - two wisecracking athletic people fighting each other. Made for a heck of a third issue, especially with us being dropped into the fight halfway through.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 1, 2015 9:35 AM
Agreed regarding Batroc. It was a fun fight and I think there's a few minor Cap villains of the time who look easy against Cap but could have been fun, close matchups for Hawkeye. (Also agree with Fnord that Clint should have more trouble with the gang than he should with Trick Shot.)
Posted by: Jonathan | August 2, 2015 5:40 AM
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