I’ve got some things to say about The Avenging Archer’s streaming series.
As has likely been previously stated on multiple occasions, I’m a long-standing old-school fan of Hawkeye, having made my comic-collecting bones with the original West Coast Avengers series.
So, despite never really loving Jeremy Renner’s take on the character in the MCU (outside of a handful of small moments), I was still excited when Marvel Studios announced Hawkeye would get a streaming series on Disney+. And I was even more excited when it came out Hailee Steinfeld would play Kate Bishop, who in the comics adopted the Hawkeye name when Clint Barton was killed during the “Avengers Disassembled” storyline.
As such I have a number of thoughts now that the series finale has aired. Spoilers after the all-time great cover art.
Still with me? OK, let’s dive in.
It’s a very enjoyable show. I still have my issues with Renner’s performance, especially since he spends half the show apologizing to someone, largely for things that were outside of his control. But Steinfeld’s exuberance, Florence Pugh’s return as Yelena Belova and more make up for it in a lot of ways. It’s a nice mash-up of elements from the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye comics series that essentially rebooted the character as well as the previous MCU films. There are plenty of surprises, lots of action and some great dialogue. And hey, we get to see Pizza Dog on screen, so it can’t be all bad.
My main issue with the show is that it is premised around Avengers: Endgame existing, which isn’t a great place to start.
Renner finally has someone to play off, which improves things dramatically. In the movies to date he’s usually relegated to group scenes, which means he gets lost in the clutter because he’s not as dynamic a personality as some of his costars. If the show had doubled down on putting Clint and Kate into something even more Running Scared-esque it would have been even better.
On the topic of some supporting characters:
- Knowing the comics history, I’m surprised we didn’t get a bigger payoff for Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne. As the series went on I imagined two or three different ways that could go but it just kind of fizzled out.
- On the other end of the spectrum, thank the maker Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton finally got some backstory and character development. The underuse of Cardellini to date has been criminally negligent, and if she is who I (and many others online) think she is, I couldn’t be happier.
Florence Pugh for the win in all of her scenes. Give me a six-part series of her and Steinfeld just talking about places to visit in New York City.
We still haven’t seen Clint’s MCU origin story. Every other Avenger has had one, often in their own standalone movie. Even Natasha’s beginnings have been shown via flashback in a handful of movies. But we still don’t know how Clint got to the point where we meet him in Thor or The Avengers.
Now you can say that watching someone learn how to shoot an arrow really well isn’t that interesting, but in the comics his story is much more complex than that (and involves a character from the show). And without it we don’t know what his motivations are. Why did he join SHIELD? Where did he hone his skills?
The lack of backstory is one of the reasons I’ve never been fully on board with MCU Clint Barton. Comics Clint is not only a bit of a hothead but also kind of a flim-flam man, scamming himself out of as many situations as he shoots himself out of.
Recommended Hawkeye Reading
- Avengers West Coast Epic Collection: How The West Was Won – Get the original mini-series, the start of the ongoing and more in a collection of stories that are as much about overcoming self-doubt and imposter syndrome as they are about super heroics. Roger Stern and Steve Engleheart write some fantastic comics here.
- Avengers: Hawkeye – This edition collects Hawkeye’s first solo series, a mini from 1983, that includes the story of how he met the SHIELD agent known as Mockingbird and how he lost partial hearing, something that’s finally integrated into the on-screen character.
- West Coast Avengers Vol. 1: Best Coast – Kelly Thompson’s 2018 WCA series is lots of fun, paying homage to the original while featuring the Kate/Clint dynamic that’s introduced by Fraction/Aja. Speaking of which…
- Hawkeye by Fraction & Aja: The Saga of Barton and Bishop – This edition collects the whole of that series, which sets up much of what comes later and heavily influenced the style of the show.
- Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain – You can’t understand Clint Barton without also understanding Bobbi Morse, so pick up Chelsea Cain’s excellent Mockingbird solo book while you’re at it.
Of course if you want to be a completist, don’t miss out on the additional volumes that come after what’s listed below. There are also a number of other great Hawkeye – either Clint or Kate – collections of other mini-series and solo outings, but the list here should give you a good starting point.