Friday, September 18, 2015

All-New Hawkeye #4 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

So far, it's been mostly unclear how the present story that Lemire is telling -- of Kate and Hawkeye rescuing the three kids that were subjects of a Hydra experiment -- and the past story -- of Barney and Clint coming to find themselves with the Swordsman at the circus -- intersect.  Lemire makes the connection clearer in this issue, and it's beautifully sad.

In the past, the Swordsman teaches Clint how to shoot a bow and identifies him as a natural.  He also identifies Barney as a natural for another type of act at the circus:  pick-pocketing its customers.  The revelation that it's this act that serves as the real point of the circus doesn't particularly phase Barney.  Sadly, Lemire makes it clear that Barney understands that he doesn't exactly get to have a moral code at this point:  he realizes that he and Clint have nowhere else to go.  If Ms. Carson (the bearded lady that runs the circus) wants him to become a thief, he'll become a thief.  On the other hand, Clint is outraged when he discovers the truth and gets to practicing with his bow as much as possible, realizing that it's his way to be useful to the circus without resorting to theft.  Barney tries to prevent Clint from joining the gang as long as he can, but he also recognizes that he's only going to be able to hold off that day for so long:  Carson tells both of them that she doesn't need another sharpshooter.

In the present, we see how this experience informs Clint's behavior toward the kids.  Hydra and, I think, S.H.I.E.L.D. find the kids with the Hawkeyes, and it looks increasingly like Clint and Kate won't be able to save them.  The kids are forced to use their powers to save Kate, and Clint is suitably devastated over the fact that adults forced them to use their powers to do something terrible.  Now, we understand why he's so devastated.  The kids have become Barney:  they need to survive more than they need to be upstanding.

Beyond just delivering such a nuanced plot, Lemire's portrayal of the Swordsman shows his ability to portray a complicated character that isn't easily placed on the good/bad spectrum.  Jacques is shown as affectionate to the boys, but he's also not looking to be their father.  He recruits Barney into his gang, taking him on a job at the end of the issue, and lets the boys drink with his (probably underage) girlfriend.  However, he's also definitely warm to both of the boys (particularly Clint), and you understand why kids so starved for that sort of affection would return it to him.  It fits with the apparently moral of this arc, that seeing the world through a prism of "good' and "bad" are luxuries that only some people get to enjoy.

**** (four of five stars)

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