An action-packed post-apocalyptic western.
Given the recent surge in post-apocalyptic stories across popular culture, it’s unsurprising that such themes and settings have been commonplace in comic books as of late. The most notable example of this from the last few years is probably Old Man Logan, and now Marvel has released a prequel series to that title: Old Man Hawkeye. Set five years before the aforementioned series, Old Man Hawkeye stars a roughed-up and exhausted version of Clint Barton. It’s been decades since Clint watched his fellow Avengers die, and now he’s out to get revenge on his ex-teammates from the Thunderbolts. This is an action and revenge-heavy story, the first six issues of which are recollected in Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 1: An Eye For an Eye. Does the series get off to a good start?
From the very first page onward, this series impresses with its artwork. Marco Checchetto crafts a well-thought-out and detailed world that’s easy to become immersed in. The line-work really shows how ragged and rundown both the characters and environments are, with wrinkles and scratches aplenty. There’s a sense of western adventure here as well as dynamic superhuman action, creating a unique flavor from the mixture of the two. Most of the volume’s action is very well-choreographed, thanks to excellent page compositions and flow of movement between panels. Checchetto captures battle from a variety of angles, which is especially effective in scenes where Clint takes on opponents who can fly or tower over him thanks to their gargantuan size.
The series’s visuals also owe some of their success to the coloration and lettering. Andres Mossa’s color palette is very down-to-earth and post-apocalyptic, furthering the sense that Clint (and the world around him) has gone to hell. With that said, there’s still enough variety to Mossa’s color choices that Old Man Hawkeye doesn’t fall into the common post-apocalyptic trap of just looking ugly with an overabundance of washed out grays and browns. This is partially thanks to the colors’ great saturation, as well as the variety of different landscapes Clint visits throughout. VC’s Joe Caramagna also does a good job with the volume’s lettering, which is always clean and well-placed. Each aspect of the issue’s visuals is strong individually while also effectively matching with the rest of the creative team’s work.
Thankfully, this series’s writing lives up to its impressive artwork. Ethan Sacks does a great job establishing a fairly sizable cast in a short period of time. Virtually none of the characters feel like bit parts. Even the ex-Thunderbolts, who are more or less villains of the week, get a solid amount of individuation before exiting the story. The most crucial antagonist is a version of Bullseye who would feel right at home in a classic western film if it weren’t for all his cybernetic enhancements. Pitting one marksman against another creates such a clear parallel that it’s surprising we haven’t seen Clint and Bullseye face off more in the 616. In addition to Bullseye and the Thunderbolts, Venom symbiotes play a pivotal role here. Their cosmic horror origins fit surprisingly well with the previously mentioned western-esque setting.
As far as the series’s characters go, the least interesting is probably Clint himself. In action scenes he’s fantastic to watch; there’s no doubt that his brutal shots and lust for revenge make for compelling battles. With that said, his actual motivations aren’t all that notable. We get more than enough hints regarding his past to effectively piece things together, but his history and personality aren’t all that unique. At the end of the day he is just another hardened and grizzled old man character whose family and friends have turned against him to varying degrees. None of this is to say that the character is straight-up unlikable, but the drama doesn’t owe much of its punch to his emotional turmoil.
Overall, Old Man Hawkeye Vol. 1: An Eye For an Eye is an impressive start to the series. The artwork is fantastic, with line-work and coloration that really sell how rundown the comic’s world has become. The action is also stellar, and this version of Hawkeye is brutal as all get-out. There are a number of intriguing supporting characters and villains, and elements of various genres are blended together very well. My main con with this volume is simply that Clint himself could use more fleshing out; he doesn’t stand out much from other hard-broiled male characters with lusts for vengeance. Nonetheless, this is a very good volume that I would recommend to anyone interested in action-heavy post-apocalyptic stories.