Last week saw the beginning of Marvel Comics’ relaunched Ultimate line with the release of “The Ultimates” #1. As such, it’s fitting that the follow-up release is a miniseries spinning out of that title. In “The Ultimates” #1, three crises around the globe command the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D., and “Ultimate Hawkeye” #1 picks up on one of them, expanding upon it and detailing Hawkeye’s involvement as Nick Fury’s point man in tackling the emergency. It’s a smart way to put the spotlight on the marksman while taking the pressure off “The Ultimates'” attempting to juggle three big stories at the same time. Even spinning out of another comic, however, this first issue is still mostly set-up and doesn’t put as much focus on the titular character as you would expect.
Hawkeye is dispatched to the Southeast Asian Republic (the S.E.A.R.) to head up any actions S.H.I.E.L.D. are requested to take by the government in order to stem a rebellion that’s possibly being led, or at the least assisted, by metahumans. Before Hawkeye can properly assess the situation, the Triskelion based in the S.E.A.R. is attacked by a group of metahumans and we’re shown how their existence came to be. While an interesting set-up for the series, the construction seems to lean a bit too far towards being an “infodump” with a large amount of emphasis placed on the creation of these super-powered bad guys.
While he is the book’s title character, Hawkeye is treated like a secondary player, to a degree. He gets to show off his skills a bit and is obviously Fury’s proxy in the situation, yet the importance is placed more on the S.E.A.R. metahumans and what they mean to the “arms race” of super-soldiers. The ending of the issue indicates future issues will focus on Hawkeye and show why he needs to star in this story. This is good, because right now, any anonymous S.H.I.E.L.D. agent would seem to do.
Rafa Sandoval isn’t a household name in comics, though his work here suggests that he deserves a higher level of recognition. Sandoval’s style is a blocky, almost cartoony one, reminiscent of Cully Hamner’s work, albeit less polished and more inclined to feature heavy shadows. His layouts are tend to be somewhat unusual, conveying a sense of something being a little off, which really helps the action scenes come across as dynamic and full of movement. He makes Hawkeye look like a man that’s completely in control of and confident in his abilities. He exudes the idea that Hawkeye believes he’s the best in the world at what he does, something that’s hard to get across visually without a constant sneer on the character’s face.
Overall, “Ultimate Hawkeye” #1 provides a good introduction to the problem in the S.E.A.R. and why Hawkeye is there. The problem is, it doesn’t make a convincing argument for why this story deserves its own series and why Hawkeye is so essential to it. Why are we focusing on this particular event instead of the other two introduced in “The Ultimates” #1 and why is Hawkeye the agent for the job? Those are questions that this series needs to answer quickly in order to avoid becoming the unessential expansion of a story people can read the “good parts” of in another comic.