One of my favorite Avengers stories ever (“Avengers” #223 for those of you curious enough to rifle through your back issues) featured Hawkeye and Ant-Man seemingly outmatched by the Taskmaster. That issue, like this one, was not so much about the Avengers team as it was about the spirit of the Avengers. In a misguided move, Clint Barton decides to end Norman Osborn’s “Dark Reign” all by himself. As it so happens, Barton’s plan meets some resistance in the form of Osborn’s own Avengers squad.
In sending the hero-formerly-known-as-Hawkeye after Osborn, Bendis gives the reader everything they’ve been clamoring for in this issue. Barton does some sneaking and we get treated to an enjoyable read that has a few clever surprises. While he may be wearing the garb of Ronin, there is no mistaking the hotheadedness of the real Hawkeye in this issue. In a stroke of literary brilliance, Bendis pulls Barton out of a tight spot by having him make a shot with a bow and arrow as only Hawkeye could.
Djurdjevic opts to enhance Bendis’ story by using an excessive amount of shadow and sparse backgrounds, further forcing Barton into the spotlight. Addition through subtraction seems to be the key, as the majority of the action happens in panels with limited background or backgrounds filled only with color. Make no mistake, Djurdjevic brings the detail to the page quite nicely, but he also knows when to let the characters play in the spotlight.
This issue’s ending leaves a little to be desired and lacks a point of “next,” as no specific reference is given to where this story continues. Does it carry on in “Dark Avengers,” “Mighty Avengers,” “Dark Reign: The List,” or somewhere else entirely? A little bit of a clue would be nice here, especially for those fans that may have picked this issue up only to be reminded of just how wonderfully hotheaded Clint Barton can be.
This issue carries a hefty price tag for 26 pages, but supplements that with eight pages(nine if you include the faux cover) dedicated to a preview of “Dark Reign: The List – Daredevil” as well as a five-page “art preview” of Dark Reign: The List – X-Men”. Personally, I would have been happier with 6 more pages of Clint Barton’s story.