With Disney+’s Hawkeye out this winter, it is surprising that Marvel has not capitalized on the increased attention on the Avenging archer Clint Barton with a solo series, as they have with Kate Bishop. In fact, the only major focus the character is receiving this month within the comics is in Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1, written by Ethan Sacks, drawn by Ibraim Roberson, with Dijjo Lima on colors, and VC’s Cory Petit on letters.
In theory, this issue should not work. The continuity behind it is so scrambled that, if it were not for an editor’s note, it would be difficult to tell what universe it takes place in. As a series of one-shots, Wastelanders coincides with the roll-out of an episodic podcast series of the same name. However, these audio stories do not follow the same continuity as the previous comic titles — Hawkeye’s adventure, for example, has a wildly different interpretation of many of the characters and backstories encountered between Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan and Ethan Sacks’ 2018 Old Man Hawkeye. Amongst these two continuities, this issue is clearly stated to be set in Marvel’s comic Wasteland. The entire point of Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1 as a tie-in to the podcasts is, therefore, entirely defeated.
But, despite its perplexing premise, Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1 works because its plot is compact with contextually low stakes. Picking up where 2018’s Old Man Hawkeye left off, the issue gives readers a brief glimpse into the recently blinded Hawkeye’s training under Matt Murdock. Unlike most of the stories told in the Old Man Logan/Wasteland universe, Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1 leans more on humor and levity than it does drama and emotion. The issue tells its own, relatively self-contained tale at an enjoyable pace. Roberson and Lima’s art carries most of the faster, action-packed elements, and brings the issue back to the gritty, morose backdrop of the Wasteland. Certainly, Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1 is successfully executed because Sacks, Ibraim, Lima and Petit manage to each share different plot components and bring them together to make a well-balanced one-shot.
Die-hard Hawkeye fans will also appreciate how Wastelanders: Hawkeye #1 draws on some of the earlier, old-fashioned elements of Clint’s character. His spoken exposition throughout the action feels like it could come straight from an issue of West Coast Avengers. This is a strength, not a weakness — in an industry where superhero comics are written more and more like movie scripts, it is refreshing to read something that unashamedly embraces its form. Clint Barton is a circus performer who spent most of his history in a purple loincloth; he should be written more as the overly-confident cornball with the caustic tongue.
As a muddled tie-in, Watelanders: Hawkeye #1 has much going against it. Yet Sacks, Ibraim, Lima and Petit have achieved the difficult task of creating a fun and satisfying Clint Barton story by knowing their limitations and embracing the classic elements of the character. It is simply a shame that Marvel has not given Barton more attention during a time when the spotlight is on him.
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