Go West takes Kate Bishop and Clint Barton for quite a trip, starting with Generations: Hawkeye & Hawkeye #1, which deposits Kate on an island at an unknown point in the past. She has to team up with a version of Clint who hasn’t met her yet, which leads to a whole new brand of shenanigans and introduces a brand new series antagonist in Eden Vale. This issue brilliantly opens with Kate being dropped into the story and just as confused as the reader, which makes for a fun time. Certain story beats feel a little bit rushed, including the defeat of a few of the other marksmen on the island and Eden’s decision to turn on Swordsman, but the character beats and fantastic action make it a strong way to kick off the collection.
Speaking of action, Stefano Raffaele draws the hell out of these sequences. While stylistically different from main Hawkeye Vol. 3 artist Leonardo Romero, Raffaele’s work acts as a splendid companion for the rest of the stories in the collection. I can’t imagine how tricky it must be to illustrate an issue where pretty much every combatant relies on ranged attacks while still managing to make the fights seem intense and almost too close to call. Raffaele and color artist Digikore make the island setting feel vibrant and lush, with Clint’s classic, loudly-colored costume hilariously standing out against the backgrounds.
The collection continues with the final issues of Hawkeye Vol. 3, #13-16. This story arc brings Eden Vale back on a mission of revenge against Clint Barton, but it also endeavors to tie up the many loose ends introduced in the preceding arcs. Is Kate’s mom alive? Why is Madame Masque traipsing around in a cloned body of Kate? How does Kate’s supervillain father figure into all of this? And why is it so hard to make rent when you’re a superhero with a detective agency?
These issues are a lot of fun, particularly during the chaotic battles between the Hawkeyes and Madame Masque’s seemingly endless supply of henchman. Romero’s illustrations and Jordie Bellaire’s colors absolutely pop, making even the most cluttered sequences easy to follow and entertaining as hell. The dynamic posing during fight sequences makes every moment feel important, even when it might be played for laughs. One scene of Clint and Kate hiding in the back of a car while trying to stay under the radar is completely hilarious thanks to their bickering back and forth and their expressive faces. You can feel the driver resisting the urge to bail on his own car.
The main drawback to this section of the book is the fact that this particular run of Hawkeye came to a premature end. As such, there are several plot threads and character arcs that feel as though they’ve been cut dramatically short. The final issues still manage to give the readers a sense of closure, but things like Eden Vale’s backstory and motivation have been drastically boiled down to a single panel exposition dump, while long-running plot threads concerning Kate’s mother are more or less shoved to the side in favor of one last fun punch-em-up in the street.
Even so, the character work in these issues, particularly when it comes to Kate and Clint’s friendship, is top-notch (no pun intended). While these stories are heavy on witty banter, the sincere moments really shine through. The final issue of this run has such a feeling of optimism to it that strikes me now as being just as sweet and well-earned as the first time I read it.
The collection concludes with the first four issues of Kelly Thompson and Stefano Casselli’s West Coast Avengers, which dials up the wackiness to a fever pitch. This series put together a team consisting of characters from the previous Hawkeye series, along with a few wild cards like Gwenpool and Quentin Quire, all trying to live under one roof and shoot a reality series about saving the day. The goofy premise affords the creative team the space to explore these characters in a few different ways, including Big Brother-style confessionals where the heroes get to complain about the latest plot twists in their lives. The extended cast of super-powered characters also allows for some truly bombastic action scenes, including a battle against a super-sized Tigra.
While this story arc is definitely fun, the bit saturation here may be a bit much for some readers. By that, I mean that the the quips and goofy humor are non-stop in these issues, and while that fits the reality show parody concept of the book, the whole vibe may ultimately be off-putting for even longtime fans of Thompson’s take on the Hawkeyes.
Even so, this collection as a whole does a lovely job of summing up everything that’s fun and endearing about Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye, and it does so with fantastic artwork and a breakneck sense of pace.
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