A pretty solid week of enjoyable comics, most of them in the middle of lengthy ongoing stories. And then one big standout…
- Madame Xanadu #9, by Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder Hadley (DC)
- Top 10 Special #1, by Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon & Daxiong (DC/ABC)
- Guardians of the Galaxy #12, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Wes Craig (Marvel)
- Hawkeye HC, by Mark Gruenwald, Brett Breeding & others (Marvel)
- The Incredible Hercules #127, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Dietrich Smith & Cory Hamscher (Marvel)
- The Immortal Iron Fist #24, by Duane Swierczynski & Kano (Marvel)
- Nova #23, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea DiVito (Marvel)
- The Umbrella Academy #5 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
Mark Gruenwald is one of the unsung heroes of 80s comics, writing a number of Marvel comics, keeping largely-moribund series like Captain America going, and even the heavier series Squadron Supreme. But he always seemed to have his eye on the prize of making fun comics in the Stan Lee tradition, just updated for more modern sensibilities.
One of his earlier works was the Hawkeye mini-series, now collected in a lovely hardcover. Although mainly a writer, Gruenwald somehow convinced his editor to let him pencil this series, too. Although not the most polished, his layouts have an energy and charm that’s rare to see today, and veteran inker Brett Breeding keeps it all looking professional.
What really makes the series work, though, is summed up by a few words from Gruenwald’s introduction to the volume:
My philosophy of the Limited Series is that it should not only depict the single most important adventure of a hero’s life, but it should also leave the character permanently transformed by the experience. That’s what I tried to do here.
At the time the series was published, Hawkeye had left the Avengers – the team which had basically given the character meaning for the last 15 years – and become a security chief of a major corporation. This series turns Hawk’s life upside down, but he also meets the woman of his dreams – just that he never realized that she was who he was looking for. Mockingbird is a formed S.H.I.E.L.D. agent turned super-heroine, who both shares Hawkeye’s adventurous streak, but also reins in his reckless side, just what he needs after years of pining after exotic women like the Black Widow and the Scarlet Witch. Getting from one end to the other is what the story is all about, complete with a villainous plan to use Hawkeye to devastate the superhero community. The story has a certain self-aware cheesiness factor which actually works really well, as Gruenwald uses it to key the story’s humorous moments.
It’s one of my favorite series of the 80s.
Gruenwald unfortunately died in 1996 at the young age of 43, but it’s great to see Marvel bringing his great series back into print with this new collection. It also features Hawkeye and Mockingbird’s first adventures, and a couple of other important stories in the characters’ histories. So if you’re a Hawkeye fan, be sure to pick it up. And if you’re not, well, maybe you should be.