Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hawkeye (Ltd. 1993) [COMICS]

After a stint in the late 1980s and early 1990s headling Avengers Spotlight and West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye was an established, fairly popular character who had never had an on-going, standalone series. Hawkeye was always quick with a quip, but had also developed into a dependable leader and Avengers mainstay.  When West Coast Avengers ended with the "death" of his wife Mockingbird, Hawkeye was given a second limited series in 1993.

The first issue of the series picks up with the Battling Bowman in the remote Canadian Rockies, mourning his wife's death and living off the land.  Hawkeye is hunting caribou when some hunters on snowmobiles, wielding shotguns, go after the same prey.  Apparently this is unfair to the caribou and enrages Hawkeye, so he responds by shooting arrows at them!  One arrow lands in the barrel of a shotgun and it explodes, while another grazes a hunter's ear.  This might be my vegetarian bias, but I'm not 100% convinced the moral difference between bow-hunting caribou and shotgun-hunting caribou is sufficient enough to risk human life; but then I don't run around in purple spandex, so what do I know?  Anyway, after dealing with the hunters, Hawkeye stumbles upon a secret installation of the super-secret organization known only as the Secret Empire!  The Secret Empire is using the base to create lycanthrope-like "constructs" for some nefarious purpose, and one of them escapes and is rescued by Hawkeye (he names it "Rover").  The base is being run by a great villain, The Viper, and her hench-people are the man who taught Hawkeye everything he knows (Trick Shot) and some random super-villainess I've never heard of and would happily never see again (Javelynn; can you guess what type of weapons she uses?).

Before moving forward, this issue came out during the month where the Bullpen Bulletins page contains my favorite line ever:  "The FF movie was delayed till January because of special effects reasons, but the FX are more complex than you think.  The FF movie has a two million budget, and you can bet every dollar of it will be up there on the screen!"  Those of you lucky enough to see the never-released 1994 Fantastic Four movie know just how awesome that statement is.

In issue # 2, Hawkeye takes Rover into a nearby village, during a blizzard, to get some medical help.  He meets up with a Dr. Avery, but the Secret Empire is searching for them.  Hawkeye and Rover decide to return to the Secret Empire's Secret Base to rescue Rover's kin, but they're all killed as the nefarious organization evacuates.  Hawkeye and Rover escape and return to the village, but find it has been levelled as well.  The theme developing here is that Hawkeye is a grizzled moody loner now (Rover aside) and wants to deal with problems himself instead of calling in the Avengers to solve all of his problems.

That's why issue # 3 starts out with Hawkeye calling in War Machine for help?  Well, Rhodey introduces Hawkeye to his tech guy, Mack Mendelson, so that the Aggrieved Archer can get a new costume and upgraded Sky-Cycle.  Hawkeye and Rover then track the Secret Empire to a new base in Baja, which explodes, but not before a new lead will take the two to South America.

"As you've never seen him!  'RAGE!'" proclaims the cover to issue # 4.  Hawkeye and Rover have reached Brasilia and attack another Secret Empire base.  Man, those bad guys just aren't living up to the name.  At the base, the Viper has made dozens of the constructs to sell, and she unleashes them on the hero and his furry partner.  Hawkeye and Rover make a run for it, so Viper sends Trick Shot and Javelynn out to catch them.  Trick Shot ends up saving Hawkeye's life, and mentions in passing that the terminal cancer that was a major theme in his past appearances apparently cleared up.  Nice.  Meanwhile, Javelynn is defeated in just three panels, so the Viper puts on a bog-standard combat suit and gets blown up.  But don't worry, she'll appear again.

Just for fun, look closely at what is described as a "stun arrow" that Hawkeye shoots on page 2; it looks like it results in a massive fireball to me.  Explosions are a way to stun people . . .

Bottom line is that this was a bog-standard, paint-by-numbers superhero story that every Marvel writer could do in their sleep.  The idea of making Hawkeye grim and gritty just didn't work, and lumped him into the trend that every super-hero was falling into during the 1990s.  I do like the idea of further developing Hawkeye's difficulty dealing with Mockingbird's death, but a limited series like this didn't do a good character any justice. Talk about getting shafted!

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