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Staying on Target, Part VI

Previously: Our long-form look at Hawkeye the Marksman goes on unabated. When we left off, Hawkeye had just returned to the team after one of his lengthier absences, and big changes in his life were just around the corner…

In September of 1983, after almost two decades of publication, ol’ Hawkeye finally got his own comic book, albeit a 4-issue miniseries, one of Marvel’s first experimental new “limited series.” Written (and surprisingly enough, also penciled, with help on the finishes from Brett Breeding, Danny Bulanadi and Eliot R. Brown) by longtime Marvel editor Mark Gruenwald, the HAWKEYE miniseries would change the character’s status quo for the next decade.

Taking place during the character’s temporary injury leave from the pages of AVENGERS (if I recall correctly, Br’er Hawkeye suffered a broken leg while battling the Plantman, although he seems all but recovered as our story opens), the tale begins with Hawkeye on top of the world: Great high-paying job, a fat bachelor pad, a hot girlfriend and a brand-new jetcycle. So of course, you just know he’s going to lose it all.

As Hawkeye tests out his new jetcycle, built for him by the technicians at Cross Enterprises, the high-tech engineering firm where he’s head of security, he explains to one of his men why he carries the bow and arrow, instead of a gun: “it’s quieter, more versatile and in my hands the deadliest weapon in the state.” He also explains the secret of archery:

While heading back to his apartment with his new girl Sheila, who also works for Cross as their PR exec, Hawkeye ruminates about how good he’s got it:

Hawkeye’s night off is interrupted by a security alert from a Cross warehouse, which he feels obligated to check out. Investigating the break-in, Hawkeye encounters a mysterious blonde intruder, calling herself Mockingbird, who early on manages to get the better of him:

Mockingbird contends that Cross is working on some sort of mass mind-control device, all under Hawkeye’s nose. Before she can tell him any more, Hawkeye’s security team rushes in to take her into custody, but his curiosity now piqued, Hawkeye can’t let it go. He heads over to the warehouse that Mockingbird had mentioned to investigate, only to be attacked by his own security team:

Hawkeye has his opponents practically beaten, until he hears a familiar voice: his girlfriend Sheila, held hostage:

The archer surrenders and is thrown quiverless into a chemical waste pit alongside Mockingbird, and to add insult to injury, is faced with an unsavory revelation: Sheila had been playing him for a fool:

Emotionally crushed, Hawkeye is ready to throw in the towel as the toxic waste begins to pour down on he and Mockingbird, who results to cruel goading to force him to find a way out. Summoning his jetcycle via remote control, and with a rocket arrowhead and a length of cable from his boot (gotta keep those arrowlines somewhere), Hawkeye manages to pull he and Mockingbird out of the poisonous muck, and heads back to the Cross offices in a rage.

Hawk angrily confronts Sheila, but doesn’t have the heart to pursue it, and merely takes his bow and quiver and leaves, with the hateful Sheila snarling threats at him on his way out.

The next issue finds Hawkeye, after only a minor emotional breakdown, taken in by Mockingbird after Cross follows through on its threats and confiscates Hawkeye’s apparently corporate-provided apartment.

While Mockingbird heads out for supplies to repair Hawkeye’s costume, Hawk gets some much–needed sleep, only to be awakened by the sensation of a gun barrel at his temple. Hawkeye grapples with the completely silent assassin, but is caught by surprise, and would be done for were it not for the timely return of Mockingbird:

The now-outnumbered assassin retreats, and Mockingbird gives Hawkeye his replacement costume, a long-sleeved number that the archer would wear for the next few years:

Hawk and Mock head to Cross’s corporate offices to try and find more evidence on Cross’ mysterious mind-control project, where Hawkeye once again tangles with the mysterious Mr. Quiet, this time grappling with the assassin over the mouth of a concrete smokestack.

His opponent dispatched, Hawkeye picks up Mockingbird, who’s managed to locate all the files on the Cross mind-control project, and the two head back to Mockingbird’s apartment to plot their next move. Unfortunately…

Luckily, Mockingbird’s espionage background had allowed her to detect the signs of a break-in, and they escaped before the bomb went off, triggered by one of Hawkeye’s bomb-sniffing arrows.

In an interesting sidenote, this series finally explained just how Hawkeye always manages to have the right arrow at his fingertips: the arrows in his quiver are standard hunting arrows you can buy at any sporting-goods store, with the specific modular trick arrowheads stored in pouches on his tunic and belt, allowing him to have any trick arrow literally at his fingertips in seconds. The bomb itself had been set by the assassins Oddball and Bombshell, who later attack Hawkeye and Mockingbird on a crosstown subway train, and lead the two on a frantic running battle.

The encounter ends with both Hawkeye and Mockingbird knocked unconscious and taken to see the man behind the entire scheme: a former CIA-agent turned would-be supervillain calling himself Crossfire, who’s got a mad posh to rid the country of its superhero community.

Crossfire’s plan? To lure the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the rest of New York City’s super-types to a common location and subject them to his mind-control device, which will send them all into a blinding, insane rage, prompting them to viciously murder each other. Only a few will survive, and the rest will be forced into hiding or retirement after the carnage is made public. And what will lure the heroes together? Why, the funeral of one of their own: namely Hawkeye. Crossfire adds insult to injury when Hawkeye asks why he was chosen to be the target of Crossfire’s plot: “I would think it was obvious, Hawkeye. You are the weakest, most vulnerable known costumed crimefighter in town.”

Ouch. Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down.

To test out his machine, Crossfire unleashes it on Hawkeye and Mockingbird, intending for them to kill each other with their bare hands, and for a while that looks likely, as the two engage in an ugly, brutal battle with no holds barred.

On a whim, Crossfire turns off the device briefly to see how long the effects last, giving Hawkeye the opportunity to slip a hypersonic arrowhead from one of his tunic pouches into his mouth, blocking the mind-control while at the same time nearly destroying his hearing.

Able to keep his wits about him, Hawkeye overpowers Mockingbird and knocks her unconscious, then plays dead himself, allowing him to get the drop on Oddball and Bombshell. Hawkeye then confronts Crossfire, who plans to kill Hawkeye with his own weapons. Ah, irony. Unfortunately for Crossfire, it’s not as easy as it looks…

Crossfire now dealt with, Hawk runs back to where Mockingbird fell, fearing the worst:

His fears allayed, Hawk’s pride gets in the way, not wanting Mockingbird to know that he was practically deaf. As a result, he misses a rather important proposition:

Luckily for him, Mockingbird isn’t quite as willing to let pride get in the way, and so…

Mark Gruenwald’s HAWKEYE miniseries is a fun, enjoyable little gem that’s sadly overlooked these days. Not only did it give us a closer look at Hawkeye as a character than we’d ever had before, the addition of Mockingbird as Hawkeye’s wife (a clear tip of the hat by the Gru to the Green Arrow/Black Canary relationship) created an all-new dimension to Hawkeye’s character, and sparked his resurgence to a high-profile role in the Marvel Universe like none he’d had before. Highly recommended.

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