Avengers: Hawkeye - Mark Gruenwald I think, though can’t say with 100% certainty, that issue 1 of this 4 part mini-series by the late, great Mark Gruenwald may have been the first comic I purchased. I certainly remember perusing the back issue bins at the long gone Dark Sword Fantasy comics shop in Guelph and eagerly pulling out this one with the cover depicting a garishly purple-costumed archer and knowing it had to be mine. So started my love affair with the archer-as-superhero and the pre-eminence for me of Hawkeye in that role. Hawkeye is an interesting character: two parts sheer hot-headed bravado and smart-mouthed brashness coupled with one part uncertainty brought on by a lack of superpowers and the constant need to prove himself. A stalwart member of the Avengers ever since Captain America’s ‘kooky quartet’ days, and initially thought to be a villain when he ‘introduced’ himself to the Avengers by breaking into their mansion and getting into a fight with Iron Man to prove himself, Hawkeye eventual became a stand-by and old-guard member of Marvel’s premier super-team.

This series finds Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, trying to make his way in the world as a solo hero, out of the shadow of the Avengers. Currently working as head of security for Cross Electronics (ironically a major competitor for Stark Industries), Hawkeye’s apparently blissful life on his own soon falls apart. After quickly losing his lover, his job, and his self-respect all in one really bad day, Hawkeye is thrust into the midst of a supervillain’s master plan and must figure out how to pull himself up by his bootstraps before disaster occurs.

The three main villains of the series are a fairly ridiculous lot, even as supervillians go: Oddball, the strangest of the three, is an expert juggler who dresses up like a skin-tight court jester and lobs multi-coloured ‘trick’ pool balls filled with deadly substances at his foes; Bombshell looks like a 1980’s butch hooker who likes to throw explosives; and the master-mind of the crew, Crossfire a former CIA operative, has no superpowers at all, though he does actually have a fairly ingenious plan to thin out the ranks of the superheroes for which Hawkeye is required as a key element. Add to the mix the “mysterious Mockingbird” and you get a seminal tale of our archer hero as he encounters both professional and personal challenges and struggles with the desire to solve this mystery on his own without having to run back to Avenger’s Mansion with his tail between his legs.

Good old-fashioned super-hero fun with a dose of character development to boot.