As the two stories in “All-New Hawkeye” reach their respective first arc conclusions, it becomes clearer they still don’t work as one piece. Though each is striking and moving on its own when intertwined this way, they don’t so much complement as interrupt one another. Still, the creativity on this book is impressive. Ramon Perez’s alchemical talent is on clear display, as he chameleons his way through such different art styles, and Jeff Lemire stacks his themes and motifs thoughtfully. As a showcase for its creative team’s flexibility, “All-New Hawkeye” #5 is amazing. As an attempt at a cohesive whole, though, it doesn’t quite gel.
Of the two storylines, the one in the present is my favorite. In writing the conflict between Katie’s optimistic righteousness and Clint’s grown-up complacency, Lemire smartly sidesteps the easy judgments. Kate’s kindness and strength are admirable, but there’s a touch of spoiled-rich-girl in her attitude. When Clint advocates returning the children, he isn’t wrong about the dangers they’d be avoiding, but Lemire doesn’t let that realism make it look like less of a capitulation. As a character conflict, this is really well-constructed.
Plot-wise, though, there are some logic gaps. Kate and Clint are disproportionately horrified when the Communion kids slaughter the Hydra operatives, but they themselves left a stream of bodies in the hallway a few feet away. Visually, it also looks like they’re handing the kids back to Hydra instead of to S.H.I.E.LD. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just wait to return them to Hill rather than supervillains.
Perez’s artwork is so fun; as has been noted, it’s certainly reminiscent of Aja’s approach, but it has its own flounce. The characters’ movements are free, and the linework is even a little flirty. I like the openness of it. His visualization of the Communion kids is also the perfect mix of awful monster and adorable munchkin. He brilliantly ties the stilted movements we associate with Frankenstein creations to the clumsy gestures of children still working on their hand-eye coordination. The resulting kids are unnerving and endearing.
For the storyline in the past, things come off a touch too mawkish for my taste — though this very characteristic may make it some other readers’ favorite. In contrast to the complexity of the present storyline, young Clint’s moralizing around theft feels too Victorian. (Where’s your class allegiance, kid?) I didn’t necessarily buy that Clint would prefer returning to an abusive foster home from the circus just because of picking a few pockets.
Perez’s hazy, rose-colored artwork looks like a memory, like an uncertain reach back into the past. The slight distortion of the faces adds to this sense that the story is being summoned up from half-memories and compiled from snatches of different moments. The result is lovely.
Where “All-New Hawkeye” #5 falls short is in the interweaving of the two stories. They’re tonally divergent and artistically different — and that sort of contrast can often enhance an issue. However, the stories don’t move at the same pace. As a result, intertwining them robs both of their momentum and dramatic pauses. When Perez lingers or zeroes in on a particular detail, the silence and import of that moment get lost in the switch between one story and another.
“All-New Hawkeye” #5 contains two fine stories, but I don’t feel it’s working as a whole. There’s plenty of good story in here, and I hope the team can find a way for it all to move together.