There's a new Ronin carving a bloody swath across New York City - and all eyes are pointing to Hawkeye. But it's not Clint - not this time at least. But with even his fellow Avengers not trusting him on this issue, Hawkeye must clear his name by unmasking - and stopping - the new Ronin.
This week's Hawkeye: Freefall #1 (of 5) by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Otto Schmidt set up this new chapter for Avengers' premiere archer, and with the issue on shelves Newsarama circled back with Rosenberg for context on the situation, where he's aiming this series to go, and we try to skip-to-the-end by asking him point-blank who the new Ronin goes.
(Spoilers: not so good.)
Nrama: Matthew, Hawkeye: Freefall #1 hit shelves this week - but I'm still wondering, why the subttitle "Freefall"?
Rosenberg: So yeah, the new Hawkeye book I'm doing with Otto Schmidt is something I'm really excited about. It's about Clint Barton as he fights supervillains and struggles to find that ever elusive work/life balance.
I'm kidding... Sort of. Basically Clint has a run in with the Hood that doesn't go the way he wants it to, and it sets him on this very dangerous path. He becomes sort of obsessed with stopping the Hood who is, frustratingly, a bit out of his weight class. So the normal hero vs. villain feud becomes something much more personal and more dangerous.
And while Clint heads full speed down this path, a new Ronin appears and begins to cut a bloody trail across the city. As everyone tries to figure out Clint's connection to the new Ronin, it brings unwanted attention to Clint while he is making bad and sketchy choices of his own.
It's sort of a perfect storm of past bad decisions and future bad decisions crashing into each other. But that idea of his past and his future, his personal life and professional, all those things tugging at him while he walks this tightrope... That's where the "freefall" comes in. Any mistake, any move in one direction too much makes it an inevitability. But also, if you can survive the fall it can be very liberating. So Clint might just take that step himself and embrace the freefall.
We're taking Clint to some troubling and dangerous places.
But also we've got some jokes and some sexy parts. So it's really the perfect comic.
Nrama: This bloodthirsty new Ronin debuted in the first issue, and they're not really trying to hide their actions.
Rosenberg: Right. The new Ronin isn't exactly operating in secret. He attacks government agents in the middle of New York. He is fighting with superheroes and villains. So it was only a matter of time before Clint realized that someone is wearing his old clothes and getting into trouble.
But how he actually finds out involves a couple of Avengers paying him a visit. It goes about as well as these things always do for Clint.
Nrama: Hawkeye is most known for his time as Ronin, but will the original Ronin - Maya Lopez (Echo) - be a part of this as well?
Rosenberg: With the mystery of who Ronin is being something that gets a lot of people talking, Maya is obviously a person of interest. But no, she doesn't play a big part in the book. Once she is eliminated as a suspect, along with the other Ronins, all eyes turn to Clint. So that's where our book is focussed.
Nrama: Speaking of other people taking up names, will Kate Bishop - the other Hawkeye - be in this series at all?
Rosenberg: We had a lot of discussions about this. I am a huge Kate fan and I love their relationship. But the excellent Hawkeye series as well as the recent West Coast Avengers were very Kate-centric books. She's set up out there on the worst coast, doing her own thing. We decided that if each time one of them appeared, the other did as well, it ends up detracting a bit from both of their own unique stories. So no Kate. She's learning to surf.
Nrama: We're here circling around the mystery of who this new Ronin is - so I'm just going to ask. Who is it? Any clues you can give us?
Rosenberg: [Laughs] I can't say just yet.
The new Ronin will not be who people suspect. But it is someone Clint knows and does not like. I keep thinking some eagle-eyed fan is going to figure it out, but so far all the guesses I've seen have been off. Some have been very fun, but wrong.
Nrama: As you mentioned earlier, this isn't just Hawkeye vs. Ronin - Clint has decided to take down the Hood.
Rosenberg: The Hood is a real source of frustration for Hawkeye. As you read in #1, their initial fight goes badly, and Clint can't get it out of his head. In very Clint fashion, his initial instinct is to make a joke of all of it. But the Hood is not someone you joke with and Clint won't admit that.
I love their dynamic because they really are two sides of the same coin. In the same way the Daredevil / Kingpin feud is a great balance of men who just can't see eye to eye, but are both in some ways driven by their commonality and driven by their crises of faith, Clint and Parker are very similar in ways that drive them crazy. Both turned to crime because they didn't see another choice.
But where Clint had someone reach out and set him right, Parker never did. Now Clint spends his life trying to atone for his past while The Hood still lives that life. And both men have a real sense that they have achieved a status they maybe didn't earn but they are setting out to prove themselves. So they are driven by their crises of confidence, and seeing these reflections of themselves in the other is infuriating.
Now tied into all that, somehow, is Ronin. He seems to have a problem with both of them and both of them with him. While the Hood and Hawkeye are headed on this very destructive path, Ronin is standing on the side making sure they don't stray.
Nrama: Drawing this is the returning Otto Schmidt, after time over at DC. He's a real star-in-the-making from my estimation. We've read issue #1, but you've probably seen much much more - how's he doing?
Rosenberg: If Otto isn't on the top of everyone's list for best artists in comics after this, people weren't paying attention.
Otto is the complete package. Explosive action, amazing atmosphere, cool but accessible style, great character acting, hilarious comedic chops. It really is "The Otto Show" and I'm lucky enough to dance around like an idiot nearby.
Nrama: Last question - you've got one issue out, and four issues to go. What are you aiming for?
Rosenberg: To make the best comic ever.