Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Leonardo Romero
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Designer: Manny Mederos
Cover Artist: Julian Totino Tedeso
Review by: Nate Mondschein (@33andMoonshine)
(AHOY! THAR BE SPOILERS FOR HAWKEYE #1! YARRRRRR)
In the spirit of full disclosure, a quick preface: the writer in me would have loved nothing more than to kick things of here with a heartfelt personal anecdote connecting my life experience to Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero’s excellent new Kate-Bishop-centric series. Unfortunately, my short-lived career in archery began and ended with a 12th birthday present of a bright red short-bow the unintentional discovery of nest of garter snakes in the woods on my first day of “training.” And given that I’m still working on getting past that, howsabout we just dive in?
Equal parts P.I adventure, California love letter, and everwoman romp in the lineage of Hawkguy, Hawkeye #1 finds Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero expertly dancing the tightrope between innovation and nostalgia. For every tip-of-the-cap to the Faction/Aja epic of 2013-Eisner-Winning-fame that came before, there is another sounding of the trumpets to herald a new era on its way: Kate Bishop is the Hawkeye. And she is damn good at it, too.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Hawkeye book if there weren’t plenty of work left to be done. As we find her, the so-called “Adorable Archer” is in the midst of a casual scramble to get her newly established “Hawk(Eye) Investigations” off the scorching LA ground. It’s an endeavor that, at least for the time being, seems to involve more poorly handwritten signage and pictures of hot abs and meetings with disgruntled clients in search of either the “real” Hawkeye or an optometrist (see poorly handwritten signage) than actual investigative work. A viable case eventually comes, but until the issues’ final moments, it serves as little more than a vehicle to focus on establishing and accentuating Kate’s personality for both new and longtime readers.
Thompson’s grasp of the Kate Bishop character, as well as every bit of her simultaneously self-effacing and self-righteous, privileged-yet-altruistic demeanor, is on full display from the issues first pages; but perhaps never more so than during a college computer lab misadventure near the outset of our hero’s quest: After a more direct approach to gain entry falls short, Kate sneaks her way past a militantly rigid administrator (thanks to some skillful pick-pocketing), only to blow her cover after snapping at what she assumes is a degrading pet-name, revealed instead to be the name on the badge she had “borrowed.” It’s a hilarious reveal that at once highlights the quickness of her temper and, perhaps more importantly, the strength of her principles.
Romero’s work is fantastic throughout, perhaps best described as an ever-so-slightly more three-dimensional Aja style: linework is simple and clean, action is precise, expressivity is king. Layouts vary noticeably from page to page, with a set of 9 panel grids giving way to a clever use of regressively blacked-out panel to simulate a camera zoom, demonstrating Romero’s versatility without sacrificing a unified aesthetic.
With so much already working in its favor, the story’s strongest moments come when Kate’s abilities take a backseat to her witty-ish banter, quips falling short even as she accomplishes the unthinkable with her arrows. These are the moments that humanize her, these decidedly un-super heroics of a sassy, privileged, charismatic, kind-hearted young woman who just happens to be a total badass with a bow. It’s this everyday fallibility that made us fall in love with Clint all the way back in 2012. And if things follow along the path Thompson and Romero appear to be walking, it looks like we’re about to fall in love with Hawkeye all over again.
Verdict: BUY. A blast of a read on it is own, and all signs point towards a great series to come. Get on board now and save yourself the trouble of hunting for back issues down the road.