Review: Hawkeye #1
Hawkeye #1 did something that I never thought would happen: it filled the Veronica Mars sized West Coast P.I. hole in my heart. The comic follows the misadventures of former Young Avenger and current unlicensed private eye Kate Bishop as she helps the helpless folks of Venice Beach with archery skills, her keen insight, and loads of sass when she isn’t dodging questions about the “real Hawkeye”, Clint Barton. Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire produce a comic that is easy on the eyes, easy to follow yet full of detail, and also deals with some real world issues as her first case involves taking down a social media harasser.
The first thing that struck me about Hawkeye #1 is how well-constructed the pages were at both a spatial and a color palette level in a similar manner to David Aja, Annie Wu, and Matt Hollingsworth’s seminal Hawkeye run. For example, Kate is following around a suspicious surfer dude when she sees the signs of an even more suspicious bank robbery. Romero orders the page in a linear way to help readers piece together what Kate is observing. For example, the opening setpiece featuring Kate stopping a bunch of masked bank robbers isn’t just speed lines and pin-up poses. Romero has a great sense of economy with layouts using a double page spread full of small panels and pointing out the both the bad guys and the innocent bystanders before unleashing Kate’s kicks, punches, trick arrows, and bow whipping. (It’s the Medieval version of pistol whipping.) He and Thompson use this action scene to show that when Kate is in archer superhero mode, she’s precise and unstoppable. P.I. Kate, however, is feeling the struggle as she accidentally parked in the wrong spot by her apartment/office. And it’s nice to see a piece of fiction that understands how small big city apartments are other than Broad City and Spaced back in the day.
In the bank robber scene among others, Kate’s line of sight is emphasized by Bellaire’s colors, but she uses a sultry SoCal pink instead of the sterile infrared of “detective vision” in the Batman Arkham games. (Those games are super fun though.) Bellaire continues to be the master of matching color to mood with a well-placed shade, like a pleasing purple, when Kate gets her bow and is ready to kick some president mask wearing robber butt, or a high pitched orange when she is chasing creepy Internet stalker guy later in the comic.
Just like the beaches of Southern California are generally prettier than Marvel’s version of Hell’s Kitchen, Hawkeye #1 has a brighter and broader sense of humor than its East Coast superhero/P.I. sister title Jessica Jones. Kate Bishop is a bottomless pit of sass, snark, and timely pop culture references, and I could honestly read an entire comic of her bantering with her surf shop owner neighbor or fighting off clients that want a piece of Clint Barton after that whole killing the Hulk thing in Civil War II. (Or a piece of him in a sexier sense.) It’s also super hilarious when she randomly points out attractive humans’ abs while doing serious P.I. things. Distraction is everywhere. This heavy dose of visual and verbal comedy makes Kate Bishop even more of an endearing character and keeps the comic from doing too much navel gazing as Kate is trying to find an identity of her own as Hawkeye out in Venice Beach.
Even though it squarely fits in the action comedy genre, Hawkeye #1 touches on a very important problem: the online harassment of women. It even mentions things like proxy servers and VPNS, which allow harassers to be anonymous and use multiple accounts and IP addresses after they are blocked or banned from various forms of social media along with the authorities’ apathy or ignorance towards victims of harassment. Except they’re not match for a superhero with parkour and archery skills, and Kate easily finds the harasser and scares him into not sending creepy emails to the talented student blogger, Mikka in a couple powerful moments. Kate’s first case wraps up in a single issue, but Hawkeye #1 does have a bit of a downer ending. That’s 2016 for you, and the creepy conspiracy plotline creates a throughline between Hawkeye and All-New Hawkeye where Kate and Clint chased down some frightening SHIELD/HYDRA espionage and genetic mutation business.
Hawkeye #1 is as beautiful as a sunset on Zuma Beach (Aka you should visit there on your next trip to Southern California.) and also satisfies on the wit, superhero action, and P.I. mystery fronts too thanks to some creative synergy from Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire. Intrigue, sass, and complex, yet simple to follow page layouts create a winning comic book combination.
Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Leonardo Romero Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review