I love private detective stories and I love superhero stories. So when someone finds a way to weave both of those often wildly different tales into a comic series that’s exciting, fun, full of heart, and beautiful I get excited. And this year I got really excited by Marvel’s Hawkeye series, where writer Kelly Thompson, artists Leonardo Romero and Michael Walsh, colorist Jordie Bellaire and all of their other collaborators told gorgeous stories that expertly melded together elements of superhero and P.I. fiction.
In Hawkeye, Thompson and her collaborators expertly build on the foundation writer Matt Fraction and artists Annie Wu and Javier Pulido laid in the second half of their Hawkeye run, by making the newest Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, their title character and sending her back to Los Angeles to work as a private eye. Kate is a snarky, female, shamus. So this Hawkeye series ends up reading like Veronica Mars set in the Marvel Universe, which is a high compliment.
The west coast P.I. elements aren’t taken superficially, either; Thompson and her collaborators clearly did their homework. Kate drives a Jim Rockford-style Firebird, her cases take her to seedy bars and scenic locales, and Jordie Bellaire’s colors really help convey the darkness and beauty of LA.
There’s plenty of action, too. In issue #7, Leonardo Romero delivered a kinetic and incredible Kill Bill-style fight sequence involving Kate and a score of suited thugs. And when guest stars came to town like Jessica Jones or Wolverine and her sister Honey Badger, Michael Walsh provided a sense of fun, and his acting helped ground those stories and made them feel real.
What also made Hawkeye so enjoyable was its cast of characters Kate is very funny, but also on an intense and personal arc involving her corrupt father, and the mother she believed was dead. In the series’ initial arc, Thompson and Romero introduced a diverse cast of supporting characters that serve as friends and a support network for Kate. You’re given moments that make you care about these characters, who include Kate’s gruff police contact Detective Rivera, first client Mikka Nguyen, her neighbor Ramone, computer savvy Quinn and Johnny, a guy concerned about crime in the area of Venice Beach.
On top of the great mix of characters and genre elements, Hawkeye readers were also given a collection of timely stories like the series’ opening arc, where Kate and her friends battled a villain who propagated and fed on hate. Like Veronica Mars, those individual cases all fed into a larger, personal arc for Kate, involving her dad and her archenemy, Madame Masque. Now readers will get the payoff to that arc, with a story that reunites Kate with her mentor, Clint Barton, and Thompson has a great handle on the dynamic between Clint and Kate.
Unfortunately, news broke recently that the current arc of Hawkeye will be its last. I’m happy that Thompson and her collaborators will be able to wrap their story, but will miss the monthly adventures of Kate Bishop. Hopefully, Thompson will get a chance to revisit Kate in another Marvel book that meshes street-level crime with superheroics, like Jessica Jones or Defenders. Her fantastic work on Hawkeye proves she’d be a great follow-up to Brian Michael Bendis, who will soon depart those books and start his new exclusive deal with DC Comics.