Picking up where the Annual left off, this issue focuses on Kate Bishop (aka Lady Hawkguy) as she quite literally lives out her Rockford Files dreams on the West Coast by becoming a Private Investigator to earn some money. With the main Clint Barton story remaining fairly static for the past 4 or so issues, these Kate stories are a nice injection of something new and a lot of fun.
Kate is bumming around the beach, living in a caravan and chilling, only she’s running out of money, fast. The solution to this is to become a Hero For Hire, which makes sense to me. She stumbles across her first case when she knocks on her neighbour’s door to use their printer. It turns out that her neighbours are a gay couple who are about to get married, only the orchids they want for their wedding have been stolen. Kate heads to the flower shop to investigate, and discovers that it has been burnt down. Kate finds out that the man behind this and the orchid thief is a local drug dealer called Flynt Ward, who wanted to buy the special flowers for himself, but when the shop owner refused to sell, stole them, and then burned the shop down.
The best scenes for me in this issue involved Kate going to see the local police department. The back and forth between Kate and Detective Caudle was a lot of fun, and the way Fraction poked fun at detective fiction clichés whilst at the same time totally doing those clichés was a lot of fun.
Kate cycles all the way up to Ward’s house to ask about the orchids, but he turns her away because she’s a crazy teenage girl on a bicycle. Kate then busts into his greenhouse to get the plants back on her own, only to run into the Bellboy henchmen from the annual, they and Ward quickly throw her out, so it’s on to plan C, which is follow Ward around and take photographs. Even then, this plan doesn’t really work, as he easily spots Kate tailing him, and the way she actually solves the case is because he hits her with his car and she takes a photo. Kate really does bungle her way through this entire case, and it’s a lot of fun, she really is Hawkeye in more ways than just being good with arrows, she’s just as much of a well-meaning fuck-up.
But in the end, it’s all worth it, as she gets an orchid back from her neighbours and saves their wedding. I think the fact that this was all in service of a gay wedding was a clever idea, it makes the flowers that much more special, as the two characters have been waiting a long time to be able to do this, just as you wait a long time for orchids to bloom, and it adds a sense of modernity. Without it, this whole issue feels like something out of the 70s, which isn’t a bad thing, but you know, it’s good to be current.
I also found the conversations Kate had with the mysterious coat-clad man in the supermarket interesting, it’s meant to be Jim Rockford right? But it was all in her head? I like that this issue was a homage to that classic TV show, but I’m not sure I buy a modern teenage girl hallucinating James Garner in the catfood aisle. I know that Fraction has name-checked that show when talking about Clint Barton as a character, but it is odd to see it here. Or was it not Rockford at all but Elliott Gould? I dunno, I need to brush up on my neo-noir. But I suppose Kate Bishop is no ordinary teenage girl, this issue continues to develop her unique character and inner monologue, which is a lot of fun.
The artwork here comes from Annie Wu, who has previously appeared in these pages drawing those hilarious romance comics parodies. She’s just as good at full-on sequentials, delivering a great, stylish comic with a lot of particularly great facial expressions. You can tell she works on the Venture Bros, as her art has a similar look. If Aja can’t draw every issue, than having Wu on board for alternate months, and having a few more awesome shaggy-dog Kate Bishop crime adventures is a perfect solution.
This issue ends with Madame Masque on the phone to Flynt Ward, so it looks like that rivalry is going to continue. This is just a unique book for Marvel, I love it, this was in no way a superhero comic at all, it was a crime comic just with a superhero, it was funny, it was clever, and it was heartfelt. Oh man, Hawkeye, even when you’re not about Hawkeye I love you.