Retro Reviews: Hawkeye #1-4 By Gruenwald & Others For Marvel Comics

Hawkeye #1-4, (September 1983 – December 1983)

Written by Mark Gruenwald

Pencilled by Mark Gruenwald

Background Assistance by Eliot Brown (#3-4)

Inked by Brett Breeding (#1-2), Danny Bulandi (#3-4), Ian Akin (#4), Brian Garvey (#4)

Colour by Bob Sharen (#1-2, 4), Christie Scheele (#3)

Spoilers (from thirty-seven years ago)

Hawkeye was, for years, defined by how difficult he was.  He was always giving Captain America a hard time, behaving like a petulant teen in his earliest days as an Avenger.  At some point, it must have become apparent that the character needed some work, so in the early 80s, as the miniseries began to take hold as an actual thing, legendary Marvel writer Mark Gruenwald took on the task of helping Clint grow up.  He paired him with Mockingbird, and worked to establish the characterization of him that endured up until Matt Fraction and David Aja’s seminal run in the last decade.

I remember really liking this series, but I don’t remember a lot about it now.  I’m curious to revisit it.

I’m looking forward to reading this, and hope it lives up to my expectations.

Let’s track who turned up in the title:

Villains

  • Sheila Danning (Cross Technological Enterprises; #1)
  • The Silencer (#2)
  • Oddball (#3-4)
  • Bombshell (#3-4)
  • Crossfire (#4)

Guest Stars

  • Captain America (Steve Rogers; #3)

Supporting Characters

  • Jorge Latham (#1-2)
  • Mockingbird (Bobbi Morse; #1-4)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • Hawkeye is taking his new skycycle for a test drive, deciding it was worth the three months’ salary he paid for it.  He is flying around Cross Technological Enterprises, where he is the head of security (I guess he’d quit the Avengers at this point), and spots three men lurking around.  He manages to fire three arrows at once that capture them.  It turns out, these are the men who built the skycycle, and this was a practice exercise.  It’s interrupted when Sheila Danning, who works in public relations at CTE, comes by for her and Hawkeye’s date.  He flies her to his home, thinking about how lucky he is to be dating a woman like her, especially after all the female Avengers ignored his advances for years.  He takes a shower, and uses that time to bring the reader up to speed on his job, before coming out to embrace Sheila.  She asks about his past, so we are given a recap of his origin (orphan, circus, Swordsman, betrayal, more circus, Iron Man, villany, Avenger).  Their date is cut short when he receives an emergency call from CTE and heads off to investigate.  We see a shadowy female enter a warehouse.  Inside, she finds Hawkeye waiting for her, and they fight for a bit.  The woman gets him on his back and holds her battle staves to his neck.  She identifies herself as Mockingbird, an ex-SHIELD agent who is looking for some kind of mind control device she believes Cross is building.  She fights Clint some more, and they are surrounded by his guards, even though he told them to stay out of it.  He hands Mockingbird over to them, and flies home, where Sheila has fallen asleep.  He tells her to go home, because he wants to go back to work to investigate.  He returns to the warehouse, and finds that things have been moved around.  A bunch of his guards approach him, and it’s clear they want to take him into custody.  He takes out the lights with an arrow and starts taking down the guards.  One of them has Sheila, and threatens to hurt her if Hawkeye doesn’t surrender, so he does.  He gets tossed into a large tank, where Mockingbird is also being held.  He asks to speak to Sheila, and she reveals that she has been playing him to keep him from noticing what Cross has been up to.  Clint doesn’t take this betrayal well, and sits dejectedly as they start pumping toxic sludge into the tank to kill them.  Mockingbird has to shake Clint out of his funk, but then he is able to use a rocket arrow tip in his tunic, and a cord he keeps in his boot to snag a ride on the skycycle he calls in over remote control.  He and Mockingbird escape the tank.  Clint, whose costume is disintegrating, drops Mockingbird off on a water tower, and flies back to Cross to confront Sheila.  He’s angry, but says that if she gives him back his bow and quiver, he’ll leave.  She gives it to him, and as he leaves, Sheila threatens him.  He flies past Mockingbird, who has to jump onto the cycle.  Clint cries as he blames Mockingbird for ruining his good set-up.
  • Clint has been standing in an abandoned tunnel under the west side highway, firing arrows at a concrete pillar for forty-two hours, trying to process what happened to him.  He’s still in his tattered costume, and finally collapses from exhaustion.  A group of five oddly-dressed thugs find him and want to beat on him for a bit before killing him, but Clint comes to, and takes them out.  He gets on his skycycle and flies back to his apartment, which CTE has emptied out of all his possessions.  Mockingbird turns up there and offers to buy him breakfast.  He leaves with her, and we see a figure in black and brown, holding a gun, standing on Clint’s patio.  They head to Mockingbird’s loft in Soho, where she introduces herself as Bobbi Morse, and talks him through her past (scientist, SHIELD agent, Ka-zar, Huntress, Mockingbird, shot, now a solo hero).  Clint falls asleep, so she takes his costume to mend it and leaves.  A little later, the same gunman from before enters the apartment silently, and puts his gun to Clint’s forehead.  This wakes him up and he reacts.  He notices that the assassin’s gun and bullets make no noise.  Clint makes for his bow, but the Silencer stands over him, about to shoot him in the head.  Just then, Bobbi returns and attacks the Silencer.  He makes a break for it, jumping out the window.  Clint examines his gun, and finds it makes noise when he fires it.  Bobbi gives him a new costume – it has full sleeves and is a little different from the classic look.  Later, they head out on the skycycle so Clint can go see his one friend at Cross – Jorge Latham, the guy that built the skycycle.  Jorge tells Clint that they were all told he was fired for incompetence, and since then, there is a reward for turning him in if he shows up at work.  Jorge doesn’t know anything about the contract that Bobbi was investigating, but speculates that it would be on the 17th floor.  Clint suggests that Jorge start working on his resume, since Cross might not be around for long.  The two heroes fly to CTE, where Clint uses a Stark Tech device to neutralize the alarms on the windows of the 17th floor.  They enter the room where special projects are worked on, and break into some files.  The Silencer turns up, and while Bobbi continues to dig, Clint fights him.  They end up going out the window, but luckily the skycycle is beneath them.  Clint almost falls off, but is able to use the remote control bracelet to save himself.  Both men fall off the cycle, but while the Silencer is able to grab the side of a large smokestack, Clint falls into it.  He’s able to save himself with some suction cup arrows though, and climbs up.  He knocks the Silencer into the smokestack.  He flies his skycycle back to the room where Bobbi was, and she joins him, explaining that she got the blueprints and name and address of the client they are investigating.  She says she had no trouble, but we see that she took out almost a dozen guards.
  • Hawkeye and Mockingbird return to Bobbi’s place, parking the sky-mobile (it has a lot of different names) on the roof, not noticing that they are being watched by two oddly-dressed villains.  As soon as they enter Bobbi’s place, there is a massive explosion, taking out the whole unit and the roof.  Oddball, one of the villains, congratulates Bombshell, the other, who planted the explosives.  Bombshell points out that Clint and Bobbi are in the crowd on the street.  Clint comments that they noticed footprints in the dust outside Bobbi’s place, so he sent in his “thermite-tipped bomb-sniffing arrow,” which saved them.  The villains leave, thinking they’ll have to take a second shot at the heroes later.  Clint is a little surprised to see that Bobbi is so upset, despite the fact that she just lost her home and possessions.  They go to eat, and return to the wreckage later, after it’s cooled (and apparently the authorities have all left).    Clint finds the wreckage of his sky-mobile.  Bobbi throws herself at Clint, and he acts a little funny.  He finds an 8-ball in the debris, but she claims it’s not hers.  They go to get some cash, but Bobbi only has $97 in the bank for some reason (and I guess Clint has nothing).  They go to a sporting goods store so Clint can buy some regular arrows, claiming that his arrowheads will fit on them.  He also claims to be down to his last arrow, so I guess it’s lucky that his bomb-sniffing arrow was the second last (also, he’s wearing a brand new costume after his other one was shredded, so I’m not sure where all these modular arrowheads are coming from).  They realize they need to preserve their money, so they have to take the subway to get to the address they want to investigate.  On the train, they run into Steve Rogers, and Clint reacts oddly to his offer of help (as Captain America, of course).  After Bobbi makes a big deal about how good looking Steve is, Clint realizes how much he has resented Cap’s presence.  As they walk through the train station, Oddball rolls an 8-ball at Clint, and he gives chase, with Bobbi behind him.  They have to make their way through a barrage of Oddball’s weighted billiard balls, and they run past a nun.  The nun is actually Bombshell, who shoots Bobbi in the back with an incendiary charge before changing into her usual outfit.  Bobbi is not dead or unconscious though, and they fight briefly before Bombshell fires another charge into her face.  Clint tries to stop Oddball on a platform, but his shot is off (one of the billiard balls hurt him before).  Oddball jumps onto a departing train, and Clint has to grab the back of the train to get onboard.  He’s enjoying himself, but when he sees Oddball knock out his hostage, Clint realizes that he’s not right in the head.  Oddball gets off the train at the next station, and Clint chases him again.  They end up in the rafters above the platforms, and eventually Clint manages to tie Oddball to a beam.  He has him drop all of his balls, and is about to interrogate him when a small putty ball hits him in the side of the head.  It explodes, and Clint falls unconscious into Bombshell’s arms (I’m not sure how she’d know what station they’d be at).  Bombshell explains that their boss called to say he wants both Clint and Bobbi alive now, so they head off, carrying the two unconscious heroes.
  • Hawkeye and Mockingbird wake to find themselves trussed up in the basement of a funeral home.  They’ve been there for a long time, unconscious, but shortly after waking, the villain who has captured them enters the room, with Oddball and Bombshell.  Crossfire introduces himself and launches into a long chunk of exposition, acknowledging that he’s telling them more than they need to know.  Crossfire was CIA, but quit to form his own mercenary army.  He got shut down by the Thing and Moon Knight before, but now wants to start over, using a device he calls an “undertaker machine”, which will make people go mad and attack one another.  His plan is to kill Hawkeye, and leave his body in Central Park.  He intends to manipulate things so that once his friends identify his body, they’ll hold his funeral in Crossfire’s funeral home.  Once all the heroes have gathered, Crossfire will use his undertaker machine to get the heroes to turn on one another, and kill each other, leaving no opposition to stop Crossfire’s plans.  He wants to kill Hawkeye, because he believes he’s the weakest Avenger.  Crossfire decides to test his machine on Clint and Bobbi, and has Oddball and Bombshell drag them into a test room.  Once they are locked in, they begin to recover from being tied up for so long.  They realize they can’t easily escape, so they talk quietly in an attempt to strategize.  They kiss just as the machine is turned on, and they start to fight one another against their will.  Their fight is pretty brutal, and lasts for a few pages, during which Clint swings Bobbi so she knocks out one of Crossfire’s three cameras.  Oddball wonders how long the effects of the machine last after it’s turned off, so Crossfire pauses it for a little bit.  Clint and Bobbi recover, and Clint tries to figure out a way to offset the effects of the machine.  He finds in his tunic a hypersonic arrowhead (again, he’s not wearing his usual gear, so why would that be there?), and puts it in his mouth, hoping that it will rattle his skull enough to block the undertaker machine, even though he knows it might damage his hearing.  As the machine comes back on, he sets off the arrowhead, and manages to maintain self-control.  Bobbi attacks him again, and he starts by trying to minimize any damage to her while protecting himself, but realizes he has to put her down if he wants to escape.  He throws her into another camera and then collapses.  Crossfire figures he must be badly hurt, and turns off the machine.  He sends his flunkies to get Clint and Bobbi.  As they carry them somewhere, Clint grabs one of Oddball’s balls and knocks him out with it.  He tosses it at Bombshell and manages to knock her out too.  He rushes through the complex (the basements of funeral homes are more elaborate than I thought), and finds a bunker.  Crossfire is inside, but he’s ready for him.  Crossfire notches an arrow on Clint’s own bow, and aims at him, but isn’t strong enough to pull back the string.  The arrow falls to the floor, and being a concussive arrow, knocks Crossfire out.  Clint ties him up, and then heads out to check on Bobbi.  He’s worried that the beating he gave her killed her, but she stirs, and they embrace.  Later, Bobbi talks to some police as they take the villains away.  Clint is unable to hear anything at all, but doesn’t want to get any pity from Bobbi, so when she tries to talk to him, he mutters stuff, and then walks away from her, not realizing that she is telling him that she has feelings for him.  She’s stunned.  The series ends a week later, after Bobbi chased Clint down and forced him to explain himself.  Now, they’ve eloped and are sharing a heart-shaped tub in a little cottage in the Poconos.  We learn that Bobbi got Clint a hearing aid, and they feel their future looks bright.

This was a pretty solid miniseries.  Sure, there are a few things that don’t make a lot of sense, like the way in which Clint’s costume was destroyed, and then replaced with a new one that still had his specialized arrowheads in it, while other specialized arrowheads (like the concussive one that took down Crossfire) were attached to the sporting good store arrows in his quiver.  

I’m also not sure why the connection between Crossfire and Cross Technological Enterprises wasn’t explored more explicitly; later on, we’d see that Crossfire ran that company, and that his last name was Cross.  I also found it odd that Clint never followed up with the evil company that fired him, especially if they were working on behalf of Crossfire as a client.  

Why would the company hire him as their head of security, and then hire someone else to distract him so he wouldn’t notice that they were doing something illegal?  Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to just not hire him in the first place?  I’d have thought that Clint would have liked to confront Sheila, the woman that broke his heart, but he seems pretty okay with moving on to Bobbi.

Mockingbird is one of the best things about this comic.  She’s an interesting character for the time – she’s not dressed in a particularly revealing or sexy outfit, and she holds her ground as an independent woman, but she also throws herself at Clint pretty quickly.  I like that she has some fringe history around the Marvel Universe, but is for all intents and purposes, a blank slate here.  The relationship between her and Clint is interesting from the beginning, as she comes across as the more accomplished hero, and we aren’t privy to her insecurities the way we are his.  The romance does seem to come a little bit out of nowhere though, and I thought that their wedding seemed a little premature.

I suspect that this title was first used to test the water for an ongoing Hawkeye series, which, had Gruenwald written it, I’d have been all over.  Gruenwald is one of the best writers of this era at Marvel (I reread his Captain America not that long ago), and he had a good handle on Clint.  He’s not portrayed as being as brash and reactive as we’ve seen elsewhere, but he is pretty emotional, and quick to make decisions.  Clint was always more of an everyman hero, and I thought it was interesting that Gruenwald would work in the Captain America cameo that makes Clint think about how much resentment he’s carried towards Cap, which largely appears to come from a place of jealousy and insecurity.

I also really like that Clint came out of this series with hearing loss (despite the fact that few subsequent writers have remembered to do anything with it, with the notable exception of Matt Fraction’s brilliant run).  There are few heroes that deal with physical handicaps or disabilities, and that Gruenwald decided to do this to Clint back when he did is remarkable.  

I often forget that Gruenwald was also an artist.  He didn’t draw all that many books, and that’s a shame.  He has a nice clean approach to the art here, and delivers some very fine Marvel house-style art.  I’m not a huge fan of the new look of Hawkeye’s uniform, mostly because the asymmetrical purple sleeve on his left arm bugs me, but I also like costume changes that are just minor tweaks.  

I’m not sure how or when the decision to move from this series to the West Coast Avengers miniseries took place, but that’s where we’re headed next, when Clint and Bobbi (who have both lost everything in this series) head to LA to set up shop.  I remember loving that book, so let’s see how it stands up.

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read this series, follow this link:

Avengers: Hawkeye

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