The first page of the first issue of Hawkeye suggests action in the typical superhero vein. Boom-Smash-Whack! But the first page after the credits starts the narrative’s slowing down in two ways: a) it moves from superhero-action to the slice of life stories as Barton is severely injured and immobilized, shown to be mere flesh and blood, and b) it represents the protagonist’s (literalized) drop from Hawkeye to Clint Barton as, as he falls, he compares himself with the Avengers with their “armor. Magic. Super-powers” which contrast sharply with his own “stick and a string from the Paleolithic era.” Here, as the narrative starts to slow down (and this slowing down is shown through the multiplication of gutters between the images at the bottom of the page, which forces the reader to literally slow down his or her reading) is where the issues of time become prominent.
Hawkeye’s first issue focuses on a ‘domestic’ conflict between Barton-as-Barton-and-not-Hawkeye and the ridiculous “tracksuit mafia” whose unjust activity (beyond their criminal appearance) of evicting the poor is circumscribed within the limits of and justified by the law. In other words, their villainy is lawful. The villainy is here “in [the] lease. She sign.” The subtle difference and divergence between law and justice is here brought to the forefront, and its re-entanglement is shown to need a solution more subtle than that traditionally employed by the typical superhero.
Hawkeye’s fourth dimension here becomes crucial.
The pages of Hawkeye’s first issue present two separate – time-and-place-distinct – conflicts between Barton and the tracksuit mafia.
The first, occasioned by Barton’s visit to the mafia’s lair, focuses on the legality of their conflict as Barton tries to “pay the rent … [f]or everybody. For the building” which the mafia is trying to take over. The fight between the two is here occasioned by the mafia’s refusal to play along within the legal parameters they themselves have set up by trying to raise everyone’s rent threefold. When Barton presents the money with which he plans to pay everyone’s tripled rent, and the bad guy refuses with a “go @@#$@ you, bro. Don’t accept,” the bad guy steps outside of the legal parameters he himself had set up. This legal transgression evokes ass-kicking #1.
The second conflict is occasioned by the tracksuit mafia’s attempt to even the score with Barton as he tries to take care of a dog that was injured after the dog had – instinctively – helped Barton during the first fight. The tracksuit mafia invade the veterinary clinic in which Barton is waiting and, once again, experience Barton’s wrath. This time however, the issue is not one of legality, but one of justice: “Who throws a damn dog into traffic,” yells Barton as he deals with the three thugs. While the ass-kicking #1 is occasioned by the mafia’s transgression of legal parameters they have set up, ass-kicking #2 is initiated by the unjust action of picking on the poor and the weak. The mafia’s injuring of the dog by throwing it into traffic is here the stand-in for their more general treatment of the poor and the defenseless. As such, ass-kicking #2 is a remedy for their unjust rather than illegal transgression.
The first conflict, then, emerges out of the dispute within the legal realm. The second, on the other hand, emerges out of an impassioned concern with justice.
The interesting thing here is that, through clever use of the fourth dimension – in which the two conflicts are melded together through a continuous presentation of time-divergent events – these two conflicts take on a unified appearance. In other words, even though they occur in what we understand to be distinct places and distinct times, by graphically presenting these as continuous, as part of the same fight (IGN’s Joey Esposito has called this segment as presented via a “jarring narrative structure, which leaps back and forth in time”) we see the conflict as unified.
The upshot of this representational, formal strategy is that we come to understand that the issues of legality and the issues of justice are here united. Even though Barton fights dirty, he acts both legally and justly in his dealing with the mafia.
The final page, in which Barton finds out that the dog’s name is Arrow, then, does two things: it, on the one hand, presents the two – Arrow and Barton – as belonging together; and, at the same time, it metonymically echoes the way in which legality and justice were in the preceding pages shown to belong together.
To be continued…