With this fourth issue, Kate Bishop’s new solo series comes to the end of its introductory arc. So, how are things shaping up for everyone’s favorite archer/superhero/unlicensed private eye?
Hawkeye #4 (Marvel Comics)
Throughout these first several issues, it’s been very clear that this series has a couple major assets going for it. One is the consistently appealing art from Leonardo Romero and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The team excels at capturing the Los Angeles setting and the breezy attitude of the lead. Their storytelling is fluid, featuring some great touches in the characters’ physical “acting.”
That strength is clearly on display on the first page of this issue, showing off Kate’s courage and smartass nature with a series of stark panels consisting of her head against a black background. The artists also continue do a lovely job with the occasional “archer’s-eye” views of the world–building off Matt Fraction and David Aja’s work in a past series with the same title–to put us briefly in the hero’s shoes. In addition, this issue represents Romero’s first chance to depict Hawkeye squaring off against a musclebound supervillain, and the resulting action is nicely dynamic.
Kelly Thompson’s perfect grasp of Kate’s voice continues to be the other standout quality of the series. As this issue makes abundantly clear, our hero has a lot in common with both her mentor, Clint Barton, and the prototypical young superhero, Spider-Man. Her unending supply of banter serves both to cajole her physically more powerful enemies into making mistakes and to mask her doubts and emotions. Even when she suffers from errors in judgment, Kate comes off as consistently charming, making it easy to believe she would be able to gather a Scooby gang of supporting characters as quickly as she does.
That said, some other aspects of the story feel a little rushed at this point. Aggregate, as the villain of this first arc is questionably dubbed, turns out to be a major physical threat. However, we never get much insight into his personality or motivations. He remains a cipher of male aggression and entitled bro culture, driven by some mysterious connection to larger forces that we’ll have to wait to learn more about. Of course, not every bad guy needs to be a deeply fascinating arch-criminal, but after Kate has spent three issues tracking this guy down, I’d prefer a more satisfying payoff.
On a similar note, the battle itself does not have the most impressive resolution. The way the confrontation wraps up ultimately seems a little too easy on Hawkeye and also comes off a tad corny. It’s apparent that one of the biggest challenges for the comic is going to be reconciling the clash between the Veronica Mars-inspired trappings and Kate’s superhero background. Based on this first boss fight, I feel like the stories will usually be at their best when concentrating on more down-to-earth mysteries and threats.
Despite these misgivings, the latest volume of Hawkeye is off to a very promising start. By the last page of this issue, the creators have established a likable supporting cast, hinted at a high-stakes central conflict, and brought in a well-chosen first guest star. This series has already demonstrated that Kate, a character who previously has always shared pages with the other members of the Young Avengers or her namesake, is more than capable of standing on her own. Now, she just needs an opponent worthy of her talents and wit.