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
The second page of Hawkeye #13 directly recalls the opening to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run - back then, it was Clint Barton was heading towards the concrete of New York, but today it’s in a ritzier locale, as Kate Bishop falls headlong towards the pavement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. But what Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero are doing isn’t simply a visual callback, but it also a mission statement, heralding a playful kind of reunion for Marvel’s premiere pair of archers.
One of Thompson’s strengths as a writer is that she can bring other characters in for a guest spot without them dominating focus nor feeling underutilized. In the case of Hawkeye, we’ve had Kate team up with both Jessica Jones and Laura Kinney, and it remains true here with the return of her mentor Clint Barton, as they debate their next course of action over a slice of pizza. But in true Barton fashion, what looks bad is only about to get a whole lot worse, as they suddenly find themselves in a teleporting supervillain’s sights. As it turns out, Clint’s issue involves someone trying to kill them, which is certainly more pressing.
Seeing Bishop and Barton together is an absolute treasure, and Thompson nails their dynamic. Clint’s inability to ask for help runs up against Kate’s annoyance over his boneheadedness, their friction supercharging the issue’s dialogue. Snark whizzes back and forth as frequently as their arrows, if not more so, but the banter always comes from a place of love and so never gets too mean-spirited to harshen the vibe. Directly referencing Thompson’s work on the summer’s Generations: The Archers issue and on Secret Empire, this issue provides a stellar example of how connected universes and their continuity can craft a strong story that does not require extensive knowledge of prior events.
Despite being a two-hander between the pair, this is still ostensibly Kate’s book. Thompson leans off the plot involving Kate’s mother for most of the issue, but loops it back in before her page count ends, driving that narrative forward. As the series kicks off its second year, this is indicative of how Thompson’s long-term planning has given her the breathing room to mix things up and take diversions that can’t be considered filler or fluff. What also helps this is the consistent art-team of Romero and Bellaire, who proved themselves as a dynamite duo when the book launched and have somehow managed to level up since then.
Regardless of whether the pair are delivering high-octane action, witty conversation or purely moving around the scene, Romero and Bellaire’s work delivers an inherent sense of speed. It’s recognizable from the first page of the issue - as Kate tumbles towards the ground and seeks to line up a shot - there’s this rainbow quality whizzing by in the background, through Bellaire’s colors and Romero’s speed lines. This extra layer makes the page more than just a seemingly static body in freefall. Meanwhile, smaller beats in action scenes lock together to create simultaneous action on a single page. Take a moment after the arrows start flying - Kate makes a move around a corner in one panel and Clint follows close behind in the next. In transitioning from the first to the second, Romero cuts, smoothly shifting the perspective to the right in order to draw the alleyway the Hawkeyes are running down. And while he’s only in it briefly, Lucky the Pizza Dog is outright adorable in this issue, much as their depiction of Jonathan was last issue.
When the first issue of the series released back in December 2016, I deemed it “fully realized” right out of the gate - and perhaps even more miraculously, the creative team has only built it up further since then. Just as much as the team excels on a macro scale, there’s no shortage of impressive moments on a micro-level, like the way a knife thrown travels along a traceable arc across panels. Hawkeye bounds along, but cleanly enough that it’s easy to scour for these kinds of details, proving it an achievement of craft and joy in equal measure.