Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Spend an extended period of time with me, and you’ll learn that I adore Veronica Mars. Spend some more time with me, and you’ll ask if I could stop bringing it up in situations where it’s not wholly relevant. Luckily, Hawkeye #1 gives me a prime opportunity to mention it as the core elements of the show can be found within this sharp, charming and richly-illustrated issue which feels fully realized right out of the gate.
Kate’s no stranger to Los Angeles, having spent some time here during Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu's tenure. While that stay intThe Golden State was more inspired by movies like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, this draws on Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. It’s fitting because there’s a through line of noir that takes you from Altman to Thomas, so you’d expect the same when going from Fraction’s take to Kelly Thompson’s. From the sunny filter obscuring some of the shadier behavior, to Kate’s demeanor, right down to the green jacket, the influence is clear, but it also has roots in other comic books like Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ Alias, evident when Kate screens clients for Hawkeye Investigations, her new agency. Thompson uses a nine-panel grid for a two-page splash and a subsequent page to rush through a multitude of clients, make a point or joke with each one and get out of the encounter early until Kate finds a case she’s willing to take on in which case the grid allows for an extended back and forth conversation between her and the client. This sequence proves Thompson to be the right pick for this series as throughout all of the exchanges, Kate’s voice is spot-on, with just enough bite to show she’s getting agitated, followed up by the genuine compassion and understanding she shows towards the character which legitimately needs her help.
It’s a fairly standard case and set-up, but made modern. The client, Mikka, may be in trouble, but she’s not presented as a damsel in distress and nothing more. The problem she’s faced with is a problem in today’s world and Thompson also includes representation which is always a plus. These elements are all keeping in line with Kate’s previous experiences in California and much like that time, the true charm and voice of the series shines through in the details outside of the case. From the outset, Kate’s voice is a guiding hand into the new status quo, although she does get to shoot an Aja-inspired arrow at one point, so still the Hawkeye you’ve known before. At others, Kate is presented with wide open spaces which Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire have made rich with texture. As Kate observes her surroundings, the book uses a reticule (the Hawkeye logo) to show what grabs her attention, be it the villain in the situation (Baddie) or an aroma (Delicious Sandwich).
Romero and Bellaire give the book a visual flair which serves the P.I. approach. Every good P.I. has their camera and when Kate uses her one, Romero sticks to panels that run the full width of the page, but as if we’re looking through a viewfinder - only a portion is available to see, the rest is black. Over the past year or so, the pair have collaborated on a number of projects and it’s exciting to see them gel so well on a more permanent gig. Romero’s line work isn’t hyper detailed, but it’s defined enough that character can be gleamed from every panel of the book. Whether it’s a character’s expression or a chart on the wall of a bank which shows the ups and downs of finance, these only help to bolster how fully-formed the book is right out of the gate, proven to be even more true with Bellaire’s colors layered on top. Under her watchful eye, L.A. is vibrant and bustling in the daytime with eye-popping graffiti lining the boardwalk, dourer when it comes to Kate’s apartment and a healthy mix between warm and cool as the sun begins to set.
Towards the end of the issue, Kate says that she can “actually make this whole P.I. thing work. Like work work.” This debut appears to be indicative that’s true. L.A. doesn’t feel like a single street where everything looks the same, Kate’s voice is as snarky as one would expect, the investigation isn’t as open and shut as initially perceived to be and this has all been achieved in twenty pages. From the evidence presented, this is certainly due to the synergy of the creative team who are already operating like a well-oiled machine. If anyone can make it work for longer than an arc, it’s these guys.