The Ultimate relaunch continues apace, this time out it's Ultimate Hawkeye's turn at a solo series. One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster...
Credits & Solicit Info:
Ultimate Comics Hawkeye #1(of 4)
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Artwork by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Brad Anderson
Hawkeye has always been one of my favourite Ultimate characters, and along with Thor, may be the best example of the Ultimate version actually improving on the original. I mean, I like the regular Hawkeye, but he looks kind of dumb, and Ultimate Hawkeye is just a lot more bad-ass. Ever since his heavily Matrix-inspired debut he's been an unrelenting force of awesome, and what with the character's upcoming central role in The Avengers movie, it makes sense that he's got his own mini, and it's pretty damn good.
The new writer of The Ultimates, Jonathan Hickman, is also in charge of this mini-series, and he does an excellent job of tying it in with what he's got going on over there. We see the same conversation between Hawkeye and Nick Fury in last week's Ultimates #1 as we do here, but from a different perspective. It's a nice little Rashomon-esque incident which makes clear to us that the Ultimate universe is as close-knit and coordinated as ever, and tells any readers foolish enough to be reading only one of the books to get off their ass and buy both. Hickman is a specialist at making his own books connect, although sometimes it's hard to work out exactly how and why they are; but in this instance, it's clear.
Of course, in this issue we see exactly why Hawkeye's discussion with Nick was interrupted, and it's pretty fascinating. Hawkeye is in Bangkok (which in the Ultimate universe is part of a country called the South-East Asian Republic) trying to stop some kind of rebel uprising when his Helicarrier is attacked by mysterious superhumans. The story behind these characters is interesting, and provides a great twist on 'No More Mutants'. You see, the SEAR leaders have developed their own mutant 'cure' and turned into a virus. They've sent out into the wide world, which will ensure that their country will be the only country still able to produce new mutants, hence aiding their cause in the superhuman arms race. Pretty dastardly huh? I'd never have thought to see mutants represented as a military asset, and it's ingenious of Hickman to think of the concept. It's great when a writer has a perspective on something that blows your tiny mind. In addition to being the only country able to give birth to mutants, the SEAR have also created a serum which created the super-humans who attacked Hawkeye, who have since rebelled against their masters and started the uprising.
Which brings us back to the present, and, of course, Hawkeye kicking some ass. Unlike his regular counterpart, this Clint Barton is adept at more than just a bow and arrow. He is Bullseye-esque in his ability to turn everything into a weapon, and in a fantastic action sequence takes down the SEAR villains, who are cosmic-level in power, with nothing but shards of broken glass and some arrows. I often criticise Hickman for his dialogue, but lines like "That's it, shoot at the guy who can turn anything into a weapon – miss, and hit a bunch of glass... brilliant" are cool as hell. That's not to say there isn't a healthy dose of the Hick's usual silly-speak. We get some gems, 'the stairs of creation' and other rubbish, but by now I think we all know where we stand on that stuff. I won't moan about it.
The art in this issue comes from Rafa Sandoval, who came to prominence with his work on the Ultimate Doomsday trilogy with Bendis, and he continues to do great work. His action sequences are strong, and nobody draws weird amorphous blobs better than him.
Overall, this is a strong first issue. It ties in very nicely with Ultimates #1, sets up an interesting threat that approaches traditional Marvel themes in new ways, and has great action and great art. My only real complaint is that Hickman seems more concerned about the SEAR and the outside threat than Hawkeye himself. Loeb may have gone a bit over the top with it, but Clint is still grieving for his wife and kids who were murdered by Black Widow in Ultimates 2. Loeb made his reaction too cartoonish but Hickman hasn't addressed it at all here - there should be a middle ground, I hope later issues deal with Clint's personal issues more and we get less high-concept stuff, as it's a problem that persists in all of Hickman's work. He doesn't do enough with characterisation. But other than that, this was good, high-action and high-intelligence. The Ultimate universe is back in full-force, we've seen what Hickman's got, now it's over to Nick Spencer and Brian Bendis.
Review by: Niam Suggitt