Monday, August 19, 2013

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)


I have to say, it's surprising how your taste in characters change as you get older.

When you’re younger, you’re into the flashiest characters. The ones with the coolest powers and the baddest attitudes. Wolverine, Hulk, Ghost Rider, etc. And--don't get me wrong--they’re still cool when you get older; however, I’m frequently surprised at how much I’ve grown to love the characters that were least interesting to me when I was younger. Captain America is a good example of this. For the longest time, I thought: "the guy’s got a shield...who cares?"

But it isn’t adamantium claws or fits of superhuman rage that make you cool (although it sure doesn’t hurt). It’s the character. Cap is sort of pure. In the middle of so much controversial stuff in the Marvel universe, he’s incorruptible. And he never stops fighting. It’s hard not to love the guy really.

Imagine my surprise when these days I find that I'm especially drawn to Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. Sure, Hawkeye was always the Avengers’ tough guy, ready to talk trash and flash around a big attitude. He was the Avengers’ Wolverine (before Wolverine actually became an Avenger). But for me, it always seemed strange that a team that sported a line-up of Iron Man and Thor would have a guy with a bow and arrow on the team.

I think The Avengers movie kind of put this concern to rest. You sort of got the Avengers and how they worked. Sure, it’s nice to have the god of Thunder on your side, but he’s only going to be able to stave off that alien invasion for so long. Sometimes you need a WWII legend to direct the flow of battle or a trained KGB super-spy to flit her way across the battlefield to shut off a machine. Or frankly, a well-aimed arrow in the right place at the right time. Some of the Avengers might have incredible power, but sometimes it’s precision that wins the day.

Okay, so the guy is a badass with a bow and arrow. He could give Bullseye a run for the money (Actually, has this ever happened in a comic? If so, I need to read it like yesterday because that would be frickin’ awesome). Besides that, he’s the most intuitively perceptive of the Avengers. He notices thigns the others don’t, sort of sees the big picture quick and fast (like, you know…a hawk).

So he’s hardcore. I’m all grown up and I can see that now. But see, even THAT isn’t what I love about Clint these days. Here’s why I think he’s the man though: does this guy ever BREAK? Does he ever even COMPLAIN? I mean, okay, he wasn’t abducted into the Weapon X program or anything but consider this:

His father was an abusive alcoholic who killed himself and his wife.
He grew up in an orphanage after his family fell apart, than later grew up in a circus.
He’s lost his own wife twice. First when he thought she was dead, now just because they’ve become estranged.

…I feel like that doesn’t even scratch the list of what Clint’s been through, just a few examples. I mean, this guy has had some tough, TOUGH breaks. Yet, he doesn’t come to your mind as a character that is chronically in pain like Daredevil or the Thing or anyone like that. Why? Because Clint doesn’t break. That’s why. He just TAKES it. For better or worse, Clint’s philosophy is kind of like ‘suck it up and deal’ whatever life throws his way.

I’ve really been enjoying Matt Fraction’s take on the character. I feel like he gets this guy’s resilience, gets that he’s a bit more of an underdog whose learned to take on the big guys rather than hide under the table. Clint’s got a soft spot for underdogs too and Fraction’s Hawkeye gives us a look at the man outside of Avengers business. It’s a very down-to-earth, hard-luck kind of story filled with less superpowers and more gritty action and trick arrows. Maybe he’s laying it on a little thick, but I think Clint’s dog--rescued and recovered from a near fatal injury and ironically dubbed Lucky--kind of says it all about Hawkeye.

Really, recommended reading. There are very few places in the Marvel Universe that haven’t been thoroughly examined, but for some reason the life of Clint Barton has never made much press until now. You’ll like what you see.

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