Wolverine quickly hurtles into Hawkeye’s path in the whip-smart 12th issue of Hawkeye, bringing chaos, joyously cluttered fight sequences, and fast-paced banter with her. A lot of things seem to happen all at once, with the creative team seemingly enjoying the random melee that ensues -- and making sure the reader is right there with them.
It’s a lightweight issue, and deliberately so, establishing immediately that it's going for a fun time more than anything else. Indeed, there are times the issue hits on an emotional nerve but then pulls back immediately for more joking around from its lead. Time flies and so must fists, and that lightweight approach works with a certain awkward charm which proves itself as infectious as Hawkeye's amiable, enjoyable attitude to the strangeness going on all around her.
It’s interesting to see how Kate Bishop is handled here, as the once unstoppably cool co-star of the Fraction/Aja/Hollingsworth era has nowadays become highly flappable in any given circumstance. Her stammering leads to most of the best character development -- and some of the best jokes -- in an issue which is primarily content to just muck around with three well-played leads and see what happens. The narrative, when it does creep in, is merrily played down in favor of a constant fast-paced back and forth between Wolverine, Hawkeye and Gabby, who each impress themselves on the reader in empathetic and enjoyable fashion. There are some real heroes right here, and you’re left wanting more from all of them by the time the issue ends.
The structure of the story plays out as a single run-through. There aren’t any cutaways to other stories, or switches to other perspectives. We follow the trio as they first meet, decide on a mission, and then head out to fulfil it, with no stops in between -- only slight pauses. Even when the comic breaks away from fighting, the speed of the comic continues through the quick back-and-forth dialogue, lettered with a breezy style by Joe Sabino. There’s an electric pace as a result, with the comic delivering a constant barrage of jokes, styled and aimed in different directions to keep things interesting and surprising, and some brilliant sequential ideas from Michael Walsh.
Walsh isn’t always great with body proportions and arrangement, but he knows how to compose a story in such a compelling fashion that his off-kilter character models become an important part of his style and play to the tone of Kelly Thompson's script. The body language here is exaggerated and emphasized in ways which bring each kick to crisp reality, and where every punch flies hard into the face of some bad guy, even if it means the forearm looks comically oversized in the process. There’s something hugely satisfying about viewing Walsh’s fight sequences, which have an offbeat nature even whilst calmly confirming that: yes, Kate Bishop is able to pull off a hurricanrana at will.
Jordie Bellaire’s colors split the difference between the tones of Matt Hollingsworth’s work before her -- the comic still remains in thrall to its Eisner-winning predecessor, whilst persevering to be its own thing -- and the harsher, darker hues of the current All-New Wolverine series. Without giving away the ending of the comic (although an advert halfway through the print edition does), the final page harkens directly back to the prior volume with some deep purples, and it feels like a homecoming.
Hawkeye as a series has a deep heart and some great jokes -- on the strength of this issue, it doesn’t have much more to it, but then again it doesn’t feel like deep emotional resonance is particularly needed right now. I’ll happily settle for a quick succession of giddy one-liners and fun superhero adventures, given how often Kelly Thompson hits the mark this issue.