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Review: Occupy Avengers #1

occupyavengerscoverAlthough it’s super sad Nighthawk was canceled, writer David Walker has yet another socially conscious Marvel comic book. It’s called Occupy Avengers #1 and is extremely relevant in light of the Standing Rock/Dakota Access pipeline protests in North Dakota, and the ongoing Flint, Michigan water crisis. The comic features Hawkeye as a protagonist as he travels across the United States like some kind of purple and black T-shirt wearing Robin Hood and tries to comes to terms with his killing of Bruce Banner in Civil War II. The first stop on his guilt trip is Santa Rosa, New Mexico where 100% of the inhabitants live under the poverty line, and the water on the Native American reservation is poisoned, which was their main source of income. Hawkeye wants to help, but this is a different and more nuanced challenge that shooting aliens with arrows.

Occupy Avengers #1 features artwork from Carlos Pacheco with inks from Rafael Fonteriz. Pacheco is a veteran artist, and his credits include the time-spanning epic Avengers Forever, a couple Uncanny X-Men runs, and a stint on the weekly series Trinity. Except the final few pages, Occupy Avengers isn’t a traditional superhero comic, but Pacheco is up for the switch in style. The first half of the comic is a slow burn focused on facial expressions as Hawkeye tries to figure out what’s going on in Santa Rosa, and Red Wolf, the town’s deputy and a superhero in his own right, looks on in disdain. The second half is all action, and Pacheco gets to cut loose with a double page, canyon-hopping motorcycle chase as Hawkeye is on the run from men who bear a resemblance to the troopers at Standing Rock. (But some of them have skull bandannas because this is a Marvel comic after all.) Pacheco lays out pages like a stained glass window showing off Hawkeye’s precision as an archer before opting for a bigger panels as Red Wolf, who is more of a hand to hand brawler, gets involved. And colorist Sonia Oback adds filters and a brown meets occupyavengersinteriorpurple color palette to capture the tension of one guy with a bow and arrow fighting an entire group of men with machine guns.

Along with being a wonderful character study of Clint Barton and having some exciting fight scenes, David Walker explores the futility of the white savior narrative in dialogue, narration, and even in the action towards the end in Occupy Avengers #1. Granny Fireheart, a leader on the reservation, thinks he’s a journalist looking for a scoop or a “bleeding heart environmentalist” here to make himself feel good by going to Santa Rosa. The second is partially true even though he is more trained in the art of medieval-era violence. Hawkeye wants to help, but he doesn’t know where to start. He makes some ill-informed comments about the people of Santa Rosa moving away, but Red Wolf quickly educates him on the reality of this area’s poverty, and he kind of shuts up. Walker shows the importance of listening in activism and not barreling with a Messiah complex with a side of Instagram. He melds this listening with superhero action in the final third of the comic as Hawkeye lets Red Wolf take the lead against the soldiers watching the reservation.

Occupy Avengers #1 has a lot of narrative caption boxes for a comic book in 2016. However, Walker uses them to develop Hawkeye’s character, his feelings about killing the Hulk, and the situation on hand along with the occasional wry one-liner. Even though he murdered his friend, Hawkeye is just a regular guy from Iowa and currently Bed-Stuy that happens to be really good at shooting a bow and arrow and is an Avenger. Walker sets him up as the well-meaning, liberal white guy who needs to learn more about intersectionality and curing the roots of social problems and not just the symptoms but does it through quick, witty dialogue and an action narrative. And occasionally, the narration becomes pure poetry as Hawkeye describes why he uses a bow instead of a gun or a knife as Pacheco uses a nine-panel grid to show each creative hand to hand or archery move. (He is basically one of those writers, who still use typewriters instead of Word processors or CMSes.) It adds to the comic instead of just covering Pacheco and Fonteriz’s art.

David Walker’s ability to meld socially relevant themes with action-packed superhero narratives continues in Occupy Avengers #1. The inclusion of Hydro Man at the end seems a little on-the-nose and shoehorned to give the book a traditional “supervillain”, but it could be the beginning of a bold reimagining of the character. Carlos Pacheco and Rafael Fonteriz’s art gives the book an almost photorealistic style while Sonia Oback’s earth tones color palette sets the tone of Santa Rosa. The best parts of the comic are when Red Wolf cuts loose and Pacheco foregoes photorealism for bold moves and poses as he fights to protect his home and still doesn’t really trust Hawkeye for good reasons and not the usual “fight, then team up” cliches.

Basically, Occupy Avengers #1 is a 21st-century take on Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ “Hard Traveling Heroes” run of Green Arrow/Green Lantern, but with a lot more nuance and intersectionality thanks to its diverse creative team.

Story: David F. Walker Pencils: Carlos Pacheco Inks: Rafael Fonteriz Colors: Sonia Oback
Story: 9.5 Art: 8.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review