“The High, Hard Shaft: Part 2—Hits and Mrs.”
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Stefano Raffaele
Redemption is a recurring theme for Hawkeye—himself a reformed criminal and former leader of the villains-turned-superheroes, The Thunderbolts. So when this self-proclaimed “poster boy for second chances” discovers that the thugs he’s been hunting are really a pack of Viet Nam veterans who claim to want a fresh start, it’s no wonder he becomes further intrigued. In a fast-paced HAWKEYE #2 by Fabian Nicieza and Stefano Raffaele, Hawkeye’s investigation of a Myrtle Beach stripper escalates into a possible international conspiracy.
Already, this series has established a distinct style. Only in HAWKEYE would a squirrel viciously assist in an assault against thugs; and only in HAWKEYE would the hero chitchat with opponents, interrogate a stripper while she’s performing, and consult with tourists and tattoo-artists about his case. Nicieza has filled this story with events and interactions that are tailor-made for the character. Additionally, Hawkeye is skillfully portrayed as a complicated but well-balanced individual. For example, when hunting the thugs in the dark woods of South Carolina, Hawkeye is simultaneously a bully and receptive listener. And when confronting his primary suspect, Miss Belinda, at her estate, he is both polite and crude—complimenting her butler on his “mighty fine” lemonade but kicking him in the face moments later. Here, Hawkeye is the determined and high-energy character familiar to readers; however, he is also more intense than usual. Three times in this issue, Hawkeye examines himself in mirrors. These are emphasized moments where he is, perhaps, having difficulty recognizing his image and motives without his mask. As a superhero, he has every right to meddle in other people’s business; but as a man, his rights are questionable. This possible dilemma hints at a story where Hawkeye might deal with his darker, plain-clothed identity—the orphan who was raised in a crime-infested circus.
The art is suitable for this more pensive Hawkeye. Raffaele’s style is heavy, effectively oppressive. In the hunting scenes, the densely packed woods arouse claustrophobia; you can almost pity the thugs as the master archer chases them through this threatening environment. Additionally, the stagings of the assaults are angled for maximum drama. In two scenes where Hawkeye has dropped his opponents, Hawkeye positions himself over the fallen men so that the sun breaks just above his head. The effect is a blinding interrogation, as the men lie helplessly beneath the bright light and readied arrows. Another noteworthy scene is where Hawkeye practices his archery in his bedroom. Unarmed, he tosses a deck of cards high into the air, dashes across the room for his bow, shoots, and nails his target card to the wall. This demonstrates Raffaele’s mastery of movement.
Throughout, the art is cleverly angled, sharply detailed, and appropriately moody. The action is mounting, and the dialogue is witty. Better yet, this issue follows Hawkeye as he continues to redeem himself and anyone else in need of a second chance.
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