After the first Avengers movie came out, Marvel wisely promoted Hawkeye into a solo ongoing series. It’s not the first time this has been attempted, but the series that launched in 2012 is easily the most successful and critically acclaimed outing for a lone Clint Barton. Well, not entirely lone.
The series only lasts 22 issues before getting a reboot with a new creative team, and there’s nothing wrong with stopping while you’re still ahead. The place for readers to start, of course, is the first trade paperback, My Life as a Weapon, which collects Hawkeye #1-5, (plus a superfluous Young Avengers Presents #6, which is okay but we’ll just ignore it here).
These short stories show how delightfully entertaining comic books can be when they’re not muddled with intricate continuity or crossovers or big events.
As the intro says, “Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, became the greatest sharpshooter known to man. He then joined the Avengers. This is what he does when he’s not being an Avenger. That’s all you need to know.”
That’s a perfect set-up for a fun action book.
However, this is not exactly the Hawkeye moviegoers are currently watching in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Movie Clint, played by Jeremy Renner, is revealed to be a secret family man with a wife and children to return to after missions. Comic book Clint, though he used to be married to fellow Avenger Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird (played as a non-Avengers agent by Adrianne Palicki in the TV series Agents of SHIELD), has no such attachments—hardly any personal life to speak of—but he does have a dog and a scene-stealing partner.
The series actually features two Hawkeyes, the second being a young woman named Kate Bishop who had assumed the identity roughly a decade ago (our time) when Clint had been killed (which of course wasn’t going to last). She was a member of a team called the Young Avengers that started up after the Avengers disbanded in the wake of the Scarlet Witch going psycho in the Avengers Disassembled storyline. And here, she proves two Hawkeyes are better than one. Their banter is a thing of beauty.
It’s not a comic aimed at children. Writer Matt Fraction plays around with story structure, presenting some of the stories in non-linear but still clear fashion. One story is framed as a countdown of all the mistakes Clint made that day. You can tell Fraction is having a ball, and the art by David Aja and Javier Pulido brings it all to life. More comics should be like this.