Or – “He Looks Like Hurricane Helms, Doesn’t He?”

Clint Barton used to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe, back in the day.  The capable leader of the West Coast Avengers, with an ironclad code of honor, he stood up to the worst and most powerful foes in the Marvel Universe with a weapon that any putz could buy in the Wal-Mart sporting goods section.  That takes cojones of brass, Faithful Spoilerite.  Any more, he’s just another interchangable mask in one or more of the myriad Avengers books, the designated deadpan snarker during the endless pause-laden conversations.  Can Ultimate Hawkeye rekindle my love of the character?

ULTIMATE COMICS: HAWKEYE #1
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciler: Rafa Sandoval
Inker: Jordi Tarragona
Cover Artist: Kaare Andrews/Neal Adams & Sunny Gho/Adam Kubert & Justin Ponsor
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Editor Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously on Ultimate Comics – Hawkeye:  One of the earliest recruits to The Ultimates, Hawkeye is a master marksman and weapons master, with the ability to turn nearly anything into a lethal projectile.  During one of the team’s earlier missions, The Black Widow turned on The Ultimates and murdered Hawkeye’s family, holding him hostage.  He escaped by killing his captors with his own ripped-off fingernails, and later executed the traitorous Widow in retaliation for the murder of his girlfriend and children.  Some time later, The Ultimates have become The Avengers, and Hawkeye is one of their senior members, as well as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  What do you bet he’s gonna shoot some folks?

The Two Pillars Of The Ultimate Universe: Global Scale…

While I’ve never been in love with Ultimate Spider-Man, I do have a grounding in certain parts of the Ultimate Universe, and at one point considered The Ultimates to be one of my favorite monthly reads.  Since Ultimatum, I’ve kind of lost track of who is who in this world, and was a little bit surprised to find that Hawkeye was still alive.  This issue starts with the arrival of Hawkeye in Bangkok to assist in peacekeeping missions throughout the area, only to have S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters come under attack by unknown super-powered folk.  (This, in my memory, has been the beginning of roughly 50% of all Ultimate Comics to date.)  Over the last decade or so, Marvel Comics has slowly been developing what I think of as a “house style,” a mostly inoffensive but not particularly memorable art style, aided and abetted by computer coloring and production.  The art in this issue is as generic as I’ve ever seen, which works both for and against the story.

…And Wholesale Murder And Destruction.

We get an origin for the super-types attacking the Triskelion (apparently, evil scientists have created a serum that allows them to empower their own people as superhumans, in concert with a virus that will negate the mutant population of other countries, allowing them to win the mutant arms race by sheer force of numbers.)  Hawkeye quickly dispatches the three attackers (by KILLING them) and is tasked by Nick Fury with finding the serum that creates powers.  That’s the whole of the issue, though Hickman does manage to make what could have been just a flashback an entertaining bit of exposition, with a cute bit about “THE PLAN!” and a particularly clever demonstration of super-powers.  We learn nothing about the main character except that he can handle himself in combat, and that he “never misses,” which sets up a somewhat interesting character beat that is undermined (in my mind, anyway) by the cold-blooded murder that immediately follows.

The Verdict:  Hmmph.

I’m probably going to sound like the old curmudgeon again, but the things that originally drove me away from the Ultimate universe are here in spades.  At some point, it became a staple that a more realistic universe will always be a crapsack world filled with gray-on-gray morality, and that a realistic take on superheroes will be about sex, violence and body counts on a global scale.  Certainly not every character is going to subscribe to Superman’s old “No Killing” rule, but the casual way that Hawkeye deals with his attackers in this issue don’t make me want to read more about the character.  He arrives in Bangkok to find the city on fire during some sort of emergency, and makes a callous joke about it before setting off on his mission, and basically comes across as a jerk.  The art is competent enough, but with the exception of one cool half-page of Hawkeye leaping as he fires three arrows at once, it’s all by-the-numbers generic comic book art.  The story takes place in the SEAR (Southeast Asian Republic), which I believe is not a real thing in our world, adding to the versimilitude of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, but what it really breaks down to is the stereotype of the evil Communist nation stopping at nothing to destroy the nations of the west.  All in all, Ultimate Comics: Hawkeye #1 doesn’t really do anything wrong, but doesn’t catch my interest, even with a fave-rave writer handling the words, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall.  If you’re an Ultimate fan, it may be your thing, but the issue just fell flat for me…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  Why is it that impossible ultra-violence is considered more realistic these days?  Is it the fault of ‘The Matrix?’

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. Samuel
    September 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    The thing about Ultimate Hawkeye and the Ultimates as a whole is that they kill their enemies. Hawkeye was a member of a black-ops team when he first showed up and has been killing people this whole time. Its what hes paid for.

    Always great review

  2. September 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm — Reply

    Unfamiliar with SEAR, but ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is a thing. It’s often used in marketing, just as EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) is used.

    Have to say this exact issue is what turned me off of Ultimate comics. Whatever interest I had disappeared when Ultimate Blob was shown EATING Ultimate Wasp’s intestines on panel in glorious technicolor…and, y’know, Hank Pym literally biting Blob’s head off in return.

    Anyway, casual horribleness and death generally turns me away from stories about superheroes, but (then again) I wasn’t one of the many that jumped on-board with Liefeld’s X-Force or any of the ultra-violent Image books either.

    • TaZ
      September 1, 2011 at 5:44 pm — Reply

      Ditto.

      • TaZ
        September 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm — Reply

        Except for X-Force.

  3. Eric (CMonocle)
    September 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm — Reply

    Remember when Bullseye dressed up like Hawkeye during Dark Reign? That’s Ultimate Hawkeye. Right down to his little fingernail shooting maneuver.

  4. September 1, 2011 at 6:29 pm — Reply

    I remember a part in one of Millar’s Ultimates – before the madness of Ultimatum – where Hawkeye and Black Widow enter an office building and proceed to kill everyone. Of course, it turns out be an alien cell – but the whole first couple pages were decidedly “Matrix” with Hawkeye and Black Widow entering in sunglasses and trenchcoats and gunning down (seemingly) innocent civilians. If with the big reveal, it felt flat even then.

  5. Schafe
    September 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm — Reply

    I don’t know if “realism” equates hyper violence necessarily. I think it can lead to it depending on the decisions taken. Captain America was a soldier, why would he have qualms about killing? Similarly Hawkeye is coming from a military/spy situation with the Superheroics being a PR front which was part of what the original Ultimates was doing (Iron Man however wasn’t a killer however, nor were the scientist types). The Ultimate universe has lost its way allot, Millar became a parody of himself I feel, Loeb just lacked any subtlety in his storytelling. I’ve not read Ultimate Comics since Ultimatum but am jumping on since I like Hickman and Spencer so imagine that there might be interesting things afoot now.

    So in conclusion, Ultra-Violence isn’t considered more realistic, it’s that the scope for violence to occur is more realistic and comic books being comicbooks tend to amplify certain beats for effect (in this case the violence). That the scope for violence is leant on so heavily by creators in the Ultimate Universe is a damned shame there had been for a moment a movement towards “Action Movie” sensibilities with regards plot which is to the detriment to good storytelling which I’d reckon should be the main objective. Don’t get me wrong 90 minutes of an action flick is good brain candy, nothing to think about and pretty things to see but it is limited to the extent to which it is entertaining.

  6. TaZ
    September 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm — Reply

    And, no, he doesn’t look like Greg Helms. The character looks way too sober and doesn’t have a neck brace…

    • ~wyntermute~
      September 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm — Reply

      Shtan’ back… There’sh a Hurricane comin’… Oh man, I thin’ I’m gonna hurl…

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