All right, folks, listen up. I wrote about the best Avengers teams a week or so back, and in that article, I talked about how Hawkeye is without a doubt the second-best Avenger. Some people took issue with that, but some people seemed more questioning and unsure as to why I made that claim. And for you all, I wanted to take this opportunity to help educate you.
So, here we go! Now you can learn all about Hawkeye's pure amazing-ness.
For the record, Captain America is the best Avenger, duh.
Chapter 1: Origin
Clint Barton and his brother Barney were born and grew up in Iowa. They lost their parents at a young age, and spent years bouncing around the foster system, until they did what everyone in the Twenties did: They ran away and joined the circus. Admittedly, due to the sliding nature of continuity, this apparently now happened in the Eighties, but okay.
In the circus, Trick Shot and The Swordsman trained them in archery. One day, Clint caught the Swordsman stealing from the carnival, and got the hell kicked out of him.
Clint continued to work with the circus as Hawkeye, Master Archer, until he saw Iron Man and was inspired to be a hero. Unfortunately, he fell under the Black Widow's sway and became a costumed criminal instead, fighting his idol in single combat.
Hawkeye fought as a criminal for a while, but eventually Black Widow left him, and he decided to just get back to being a hero, as he originally wanted.
Chapter 2: The Avengers
Shortly after that, Iron Man invited Barton to join the Avengers in his place.
Clint agreed, and was placed on the team – which came to be known affectionately as Cap's Kooky Quartet – alongside Captain America, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. The team faced adversity and mockery for not including many of the original Avengers, but Hawkeye added something that no one else before him had: a dissenting opinion.
Now, everyone knows Iron Man as the Avenger who had disagreements with Captain America, but back in the 60s that wasn't the case at all. Hawkeye would constantly play the hothead and fight with his teammates in ways that were new for the Avengers. The Fantastic Four fought all the time; the Avengers, for the most part, did not. But Hawkeye changed everything. He added conflict, and made The Avengers a true Marvel Comic.
And this is the beginning of Hawkeye being great. His solo villain stuff is fine, but it was when he joined The Avengers that he stepped up to the big leagues.
Chapter 3: Goliath
Hawkeye has always been the normal dude among the Avengers. He can't fly, he's not a genius, he gets hurt for real, and he can run out of ammo.
One of the classic Hawkeye stories that will play out again and again is the idea of his struggle against his limitations. The first big instance of this happened after his bow shattered during a pivotal battle and left him useless. Clint decided he was done being Hawkeye, and took up Hank Pym's former identity as Goliath, with what I will admit is a horrendous costume. Just a purely, deeply, bad costume.
Is he wearing the framework of a barrel on his chest?
During this time, his brother Barney also came back into the fold, allowing Clint to take care of some unresolved personal issues. He fell in love with the Scarlet Witch, and eventually left the team when she chose the Vision over him, retaking his Hawkeye identity.
Chapter 4: Solo Years
After Hawkeye left the Avengers, he bounced around a bit, checking in with all sorts of different people around the Marvel universe.
In San Francisco, he met up with his old flame, the Black Widow, and her new crime-fighting partner, Daredevil. Daredevil and Hawkeye fought a bit, but the Avenging Archer went on his merry way.
He later faced off with the electric monster Zzzax alongside the Hulk, and followed Hulk to a couple of Defenders meetings, until he bailed on that team, too.
He then participated in the weirdest team-up of all time when he, the Two-Gun Kid, and Ghost Rider fought the Manticore. That is maybe the oddest team ever. Like, the OG Champions were a more sensical arrangement of characters. During this period, Clint was still popping up occasionally in regular Avengers comics, doing his own thing. He spent some time protecting Cross Technologies, but eventually, he'd return to the Avengers.
But not the Avengers we knew.
Chapter 5: Avengers West Coast
Look, every Marvel hero is in New York, and maybe the rest of the world needs some protecting, too. Or at least that was The Vision's rationale when he decided to start a West Coast branch of The Avengers.
Hawkeye was appointed to lead the team because of all his experience. He teamed up with Iron Man, Wonder Man, and Tigra to form a new team. The West Coast Squad would take on tons of new members over time, usually either regular Avengers looking for a vacation or lower-tier heroes looking for a big break.
Notable examples include Hank Pym and The Wasp, Moon Knight, USAgent, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch. The squad fought classic Avengers mainstays like Ultron and the Grim Reaper, as well as some lower-tier baddies like Hydro-Man or Vibro.
Hawkeye remained team leader for the run of the team, although he left by the time they became Force Works, and therefore terrible. But you might notice, I left one person off the WCA line up"¦
Chapter 6: Mockingbird
Bobbi Morse is one of my favorite Marvel characters.
Now, to be fair, almost all of that comes from the amazing Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyck run. One of the best recent Marvel comics. But I do love her in this West Coast Avengers run.
Clint and Bobbi met when they were both working for Cross Technological Enterprises. After a whirlwind romance, Clint proposed and they married. Together, they led the Avengers West Coast for a long time. During a time-hopping adventure, Mockingbird wound up without memories, and was manipulated into a relationship with The Phantom Rider. After the Rider (Lincoln, not Carter Slade) took advantage of her, she broke free and fought him on a mountaintop. When Slade fell off the cliff, Bobbi let him die, causing a deep rift between her and Clint.
Around this time, the Skrulls initiated their Secret Invasion protocol, kidnapping Bobbi and replacing her with a Skrull sleeper agent. When the real Mockingbird returned years later, she and Clint tried to resume their relationship, but it eventually ended in divorce. They are at least on good terms now, though.
Chapter 7: The Thunderbolts
After leaving the West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye tooled around a little bit before re-signing with the main squad. Around this time, the quirky and beloved new superhero team known as the Thunderbolts revealed themselves as the Masters of Evil in disguise, and tried to conquer the world.
After putting a stop to that tomfoolery, the Avengers had to decide what to do with the Thunderbolts, who actually did want to be heroes. And the answer was to appoint a chaperone. And who better to help reform a team of villains than a reformed villain? So Hawkeye stepped up to lead the team. There was some initial resentment, but eventually they came to respect him.
This Thunderbolts run is one of the peak Hawkeye stories of all time, and the ultimate moment in his decades-long character arc. In the Avengers, Hawkeye went from being the firebrand who challenged authority at every turn to being in charge of his own team and having to keep them in line. Yes, Hawkeye led the WCA, but that team was made up of his friends. He never really had to lay down the law. But the Thunderbolts were a team of firebrands who needed a strong authority figure. After years of character development, Hawkeye was finally the guy to provide that.
Chapter 8: Death and Return
This incarnation of the Thunderbolts eventually disbanded, and Hawkeye returned to the Avengers as a mainstay.
Around this time, Scarlet Witch had a breakdown, and began to set events in motion that damaged or killed multiple Avengers. One of those was Hawkeye, who died taking down a Kree war ship. Then the Witch went even more insane, and rewrote all of reality to put her father, Magneto, in charge of the world. During this House of M period, Hawkeye was reincarnated, and he survived into the real world after reality returned to normal.
Going under the codename Ronin, he joined the New Avengers. For a brief moment, Tony Stark tried to push him into becoming Captain America, but Clint refused. After Norman Osborn was ousted from public office, Clint returned to the Hawkeye identity and an active role with the Avengers.
But of course, Hawkeye still needed reinvention. He hadn't had a major character change since the Thunderbolts, and was due for a new leg in his career.
Chapter 9: The Secret Avengers
Captain America asked Clint to head up the Secret Avengers, the Avengers' covert ops squad devoted to secret missions. Clint augmented the team to serve his ends. Squad members included Beast, Giant-Man, Captain Britain, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Venom, Human Torch (the android one), Ant-Man (Eric O'Grady), and Barton. They fought against Father, a crazed product of Project Descendant, a division of the UK version of Weapon Plus.
After fighting numerous machines, and losing one of their own to the hordes, the team beat the robot revolution. Later, after the fight between the Avengers and X-Men over the Phoenix Force, Nick Fury put together a newer incarnation of the Secret Avengers, with Clint still employed. However, this team didn't know they were a team, as they were mind-wiped by SHIELD after most missions because they were too secret to even know about.
But none of those things cemented Hawkeye as the second-best Avenger. They put him pretty high, but not over the top yet.
No, that would be because of"¦
Chapter 10: The Best Marvel Comic of the Twenty-First Century
Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye is the best Marvel Comic of the twenty-first century.
Pick up a recent Marvel comic, and odds are it was influenced by this goldmine of a series. The book follows Hawkeye and the Young Avengers' Hawkeye, Kate Bishop (Hawkguy and Hawkeye), as they go about their lives. From Clint’s Bed-Stuy apartment complex to the coast of California, where Kate starts her P.I. business.
This series includes some of the best-ever moments for Hawkguy as a character. The relationship with his brother Barney is perfect; the revelations in The Tape about Clint and his SHIELD work; the line, "I'm great at boats"…It's all there. And of course, the Eisner Award-winning issue Number Eleven, Pizza is My Business, which centers on Lucky the Dog and his view of the world. That issue is a perfect comic book.
Fraction and Aja's Hawkeye is a flawless comic. Hilarious, intense, emotional, so impossibly good. And it cemented Hawkeye – aka Goliath, aka the Golden Archer, aka Ronin, aka Hawkguy, aka Clinton Barton – as one of Marvel's best characters, and certainly the second-best Avenger.
And there you go. If you read through all of that, you should get it. Honestly, just reading that Fraction/Aja book should convince you of how wonderful Hawkeye is. But if none of that worked, well then"¦Honestly, I don't understand you.
Hawkeye is rad as hell.
I can't explain it any better.