Taking it in on a bleary-eyed Monday morning, the sum of the New York Comic Con weekend ended with not so many HUGE movie announcements (although, obviously, Tomorrowland‘s reveal stole the show), but instead – a number of HUGE comic book announcements, almost all of which came from Marvel Comics. Appropriate, as they call NYC their home.
The announcements ranged from the incredible end game for Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run – a multiverse spanning return for the Secret Wars; a big push on female creators and characters, including series for Spider-Gwen and Silk, plus a “Women of Marvel” month of covers; and no brainers such as a new Scott Lang focused Ant-Man series, just in time for the Paul Rudd starring movie adaptation.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was this – a brand new series for Hawkeye, starting in March 2015.
For those who have been out of the comics game, Hawkeye is currently one of the most beloved titles in comics. Written by Matt Fraction, with a rotating art team including David Aja and Annie Wu, Hawkeye has blown audiences away with its brilliant art and irreverent writing.
Hawkeye has earned countless Eisners (the comics equivalent of an Oscar), become somewhat of a Tumblr meme (the kids love the Hawkguy), and has become one of those series like a Bone, Saga, Sandman or Y: The Last Man which just serves as perfect gateway book for people who don’t really love comics. Simply put, each issue has felt like strategically packaged perfection – even with its somewhat erratic shipping schedule. Heck, the down-to-Earth approach for Hawkeye has even rejuvenated other Marvel series, with a number of characters getting similar off-the-wall, auteur based reboots, including Black Widow, The Punisher and Moon Knight.
The series is currently set to wrap up completely with Issue #22 in December of this year, and now Marvel has a rather difficult decision on their hands.
On one hand – Hawkeye is one of the first string Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, spoken of in similar tones to Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow and Captain America. They’d be crazy to not have a new Hawkeye series in stores for when Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters next year.
On the other – Hawkeye proved how great big two comics can be if they’re handled – well, anything but like a big two comic. Currently, many Marvel titles have brilliant creative teams…most of the time. Many titles get solicited with big time pairings of writer and artist, which are quickly changed after the first arc, as artists – providing more detail than ever – are shuffled behind the scenes to only doing the first arc and the third…or in some cases, replaced never to be seen again….except on covers. It’s made the process in falling in love with a series even harder – especially as solicitations can change up until release date. (David Brothers wrote a far better story than I could muster on it back in 2012.)
Despite all of this – however, Fraction’s Hawkeye was allowed to exist “as intended”. Issue release dates have slid, due to Aja’s intricate art, but brilliantly – as the story provided a shift to the West Coast – MICA-alum Annie Wu was brought in to handle the LA portion of the story, giving it an appropriate unique feel. One can wonder if these delays and shifts added to Matt Fraction’s leaving of Marvel Comics, as he’s now purely independent, setting up shop at Image Comics for titles such as Sex Criminals and the forthcoming ODY-C – but the fact is, Marvel brilliantly let this team do what they do best: make great comics.
With this re-launch of Hawkeye in March 2015, Marvel has selected a brilliant team in writer Jeff Lemire and artist Ramon Perez. Lemire has been producing incredible work as an independent writer and artist (such as the Vertigo title Sweet Tooth, and indie books such as The Underwater Welder), and has proven himself an excellent hired gun over at DC Comics, where he lead the New 52 reboot of Animal Man to incredible heights. Ramon Perez may not be a name you’re familiar with, but you will be – especially if you read his beautiful adaptation of Jim Henson’s unproduced screenplay Tale of Sand.
Much like Fraction and Aja, these are picks of auteurs – incredible artists working in the comics medium, hopefully combining for greatness. The future looks great for Hawkeye under Lemire and Perez, but as a fan of what came before – I worry of the shadow they will be producing the book under.
This series will be launching with a new #1, a great sign as a fresh start, being allowed to develop in its own world. But as Lemire speaks in his interview with Comic Book Resources of reverence for what came before – he also speaks of using this series as a direct follow-up, continuing the tales of both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop.
I just hope that they aren’t left being a pale imitation, it’d be a horrible waste of incredible talents – and as we’ve seen with Brian Wood’s less-than-stellar taking of the reigns of Moon Knight after Warren Ellis left earlier this year, a poor continuation leaves fans with a bad taste in their mouths. Or, in an even worse twist of fate – the first arc for Lemire and Perez blows us all away, but Perez gets bumped due to the length of time his art takes…and here comes Hawkeye Vol. 2…from Jeff Lemire and Greg Land.
Marvel’s playing with fire here – and come March 2015, we’ll see if this new era of Hawkeye burns brightly, or just leaves fans feeling burnt.