Avengers: Hawkeye – Earth’s Mightiest Marksman


By Chuck Dixon, Nelson Yomtov, Tom DeFalco, Scott Kolins, Jerry DeCaire, Jeff Johnson, Dave Ross, Mark Bagley & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5939-1

Clint Barton is probably the world’s greatest archer: swift, unerringly accurate and augmented by a fantastic selection of multi-purpose high-tech arrows. Following an early brush with the law and as a reluctant Iron Man villain, he reformed to join the Mighty Avengers where he served with honour, yet always felt overshadowed by his more glamorous, super-powered comrades.

Long a mainstay of Marvel continuity and probably the company’s most popular B-list hero, the Battling Bowman has risen to greater prominence in recent years, boosted no doubt by his filmic incarnation in the Thor and Avengers movies.

This brash and bombastic hardcover collection assembles some of his lesser known solo appearances: the second Hawkeye Limited Series (January-April 1994), a brief serial vignette from anthological Marvel Comics Presents #159 -161 (July-August 1994) and one-shot Hawkeye – Earth’s Mightiest Marksman (from October 1998).

The wild happenings begin with a miniseries released after the cancellation of Avengers: West Coast – an offshoot team the Abrasive Archer led until his wife Mockingbird was killed. In his absence, the squad was forcibly disbanded by the East Coast parent division…

Crafted by Chuck Dixon, Scott Kolins & Tim Dzon, ‘Shafted’ opens in the freezing Canadian Rockies where the justifiably disgruntled and grieving bowman has retreated to lick his emotional wounds. Reducing his life to a primal daily battle against hunger and the elements, Hawkeye is dragged out of his depressive funk when he stumbles across a hidden scientific complex run by the malevolent Secret Empire and rescues a strangely vulpine yet intelligent victim from their ghastly bio-labs…

Guarding the facility are old enemies/merciless mercenaries Trick Shot and Javelynn, but they aren’t enough to stop Clint wrecking the base and fleeing with the severely wounded little werewolf. Sadly, his heroic incursion didn’t take out the base commander: one of the most ruthless and wicked terrorists on Earth…

Dubbing his dying companion Rover, Hawkeye carries his new hirsute pal to snowbound hamlet Dunroman and convinces harassed Doctor Avery to operate. The beast has amazing recuperative powers and a day later the frantic mute creature has convinced the archer to invade the fortress a second time.

They are too late: the ‘Masters of the Game’ have shut down their genetic experiments and cleaned up by exterminating the cages full of similar creatures which must have been Rover’s family…

As the horrified hero and the heartbroken man-beast rip their way out of the charnel factory, Hawkeye sees smoke on the horizon and realises the Secret Empire’s drive for secrecy has led to the eradication of Dunroman…

Vowing unholy vengeance, the archer then contacts old comrade War Machine from the defunct West Coast squad. The former military specialist offers the services of his personal armourer to upgrade Hawkeye’s bag of tricks and, once renegade engineer Mack Mendelson outfits the outraged archer with a new costume, transport and heavier arrowhead-ordnance, both bowman and human tanks clear a path into the heart of the Empire’s island HQ in ‘Run of the Arrow’.

However, despite wiping out the fortress, Hawkeye’s ultimate targets elude him and, following a Colin MacNeil pin-up, the savage saga concludes in ‘Rage’ as the archer and Rover track down the monstrous mastermind in time to stop her unleashing a brutal pack of the wolf-beasts’ totally weaponised descendents onto the mercenary market as unstoppable “Biological Combat Units”…

There is one last blockbusting battle before the bloody dust settles which turns on a knife edge and an unexpected betrayal…

A sort-of sequel to the miniseries appeared in the middle of 1994 as Hawkeye starred in a three chapter epilogue by Nelson Yomtov & Jerry DeCaire originally seen in Marvel Comics Presents #159 though 161. It begins with the insubordinate U.S.Agent trying tough love and a ‘Rocky Reunion’ to drag the morose marksman back to civilisation and into the ranks of newly constituted Crisis Management team Force Works.

Now haunting the backwoods of Tennessee, the archer is ferociously resistant to the notion and, with both masked mavericks displaying lethal levels of testosterone and ‘Bellies Full of Fire’, the argument quickly descends into all-out war which encompasses even more savage beasts before the stupid spat inconclusively concludes in ‘The Hungry Wolf’

By the time Hawkeye – Earth’s Mightiest Marksman was released in 1998 the Avengers – Hawkeye included – had all been apparently obliterated by mutant menace Onslaught, spent a year outsourced to Image Comics as part of the Heroes Reborn sub-universe and then been dramatically reintroduced to mainstream Marvel in Heroes Reborn: The Return.

The impetus of the reunification and the sheer quality of the restarted titles (The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor) ignited a mini-renaissance in quality – especially in the monumentally hero-heavy Avengers volume 3 – and as Hawkeye battled again beside his former comrades Clint Barton assumed a mentor’s position; giving the newest costumed neophytes admitted to the prestigious team the benefit of his vast experience…

It was in this role, teaching ex New Warriors Firestar and Justice, that scripter Tom DeFalco devised a triptych of interconnected tales to test Hawkeye that began – after a handy prose-and-picture recap feature – when the Astounding Archer agreed to help computer programmer Augusta Seer retrieve a stolen virus of catastrophic potential.

Sadly the mission was a set-up and led into a trap where Hawkeye was ‘Battered by Batroc!’ (art by Jeff Johnson & Kolins) and his henchmen Zaran and Machete

Having trashed the terrible trio and set out after the fictive Dr. Seer, the bowman is then ‘Assaulted by Oddball!’ (Dave Ross & Tom Wegrzyn) – despite the best efforts of Justice and Firestar, in attendance for the educational experience – before the true villain is exposed and ultimately overcome in ‘Trounced by Taskmaster!’ (by Mark Bagley & Al Milgrom), with a final-act appearance by stalwarts of both the Avengers and New Warriors to cap and contribute to the furious all-out action.

This is a compendium of short, sharp, uncomplicated action thrillers that will test no one’s deductive abilities but will certainly set pulses racing: a straightforward big bag of Fights ‘n’ Tights romps to delight the hearts of ten-year-olds of all ages.
© 1994, 1998, 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.