After Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s beloved run on Hawkeye, the new team, writer Jeff Lemire and artist Ramón Pérez, had a lot to live up to—and they have. The story they’re telling maybe isn’t quite as fun as their predecessors’, but it’s equally engaging.
Lemire (whose recent-ish run on DC’s archer book is also worth reading) takes the high-difficulty device of telling parallel stories in flashback and present day and pulls it off with ease. The flashbacks show Clint Barton and his brother Barney’s tough childhoods while the present day story shows Clint working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with his protégé/friend/partner, Kate Bishop, aka the other (I think better) Hawkeye. Lemire is doing strong work with the dialogue, but Pérez and colorist Ian Herring do much of the storytelling visually. The flashbacks are told with watercolor, the freeform, wall-less panels and blended colors giving the events the hazy feel of memory. The present story is told in the usual style, all thick, dark lines and solid colors.
While the interplay between the styles is usually impressive, it’s especially masterful in this issue. The art is always anticipating the words, subtly hinting to the reader what’s coming. The first few pages contain flashbacks with distinct color palettes: the one with monochromatic shades of blue shows Barney’s descent into crime while the one with greens, purples and yellows shows Clint’s attempts to stay good. When the two palettes begin to merge, the reader understands that these stories are going to collide and move toward a major change. The juxtaposition of the flashbacks and present day panels is even more complex and fascinating, with the action matching or opposing in ways that give both more meaning.
In the final few pages of this issue, the art is even used to introduce a whole new timeline: SPOILER the future. The book has always been about the act of reflecting on the past and the way decisions made then affect the future, but this seems like a bold–and potentially foolhardy–step. The tease for the next issue is a deliberate Old Man Logan joke (perhaps also a sly shoutout to Lemire’s former Green Arrow collaborator’s current book), but it begs the question of what exactly this development will mean for the overall story. Allow me to indulge in some rampant speculation and guess that the actions taken by the much older Clint and Kate will somehow change the course of their present day selves and eventually bring us back to that timeline. Marvel has been taking some risks lately, but it’s unlikely the older versions of these characters will become the new status quo. Neither Hawkeye has Wolverine’s history. Playing with time (if that’s indeed what’s about to happen) can really bring a work to a new level when done correctly. But it could also easily go wrong. However, Lemire and Pérez have already pulled off the flashback structure, maybe they’ll do just as well with this. We’ll just have to wait and see.
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.