Oh hi, you’re probably wondering what I’m doing posting a review for an old issue of a comic. You see, I’ve decided that it’s time to save all of my reviews from my time at PopOptiq from the website that is just a hollow shell of its former self. Y’see, when the website changed EICs a little more than a year ago, the new editor decided he wanted to make the website more like Buzzfeed and then proceeded to fire most of the staff. He then also claimed copyright ownership of our work.
Well, I know I never signed a contract with you or the previous EIC that said that was okay and my name is on the byline, so…
Hawkeye vs. Deadpool is a series that should not have worked. On paper, it sounds like it would be a terrible 90s rehash of ‘hero vs. hero’ tropes that would be capitalizing on the popularity of both Deadpool as a property and Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run on Hawkeye. When the series was announced, I rolled my eyes pretty hard and put it on my skip list.
However, when it came out, my trusted Hawkbro Chris Troy over at Forbidden Planet NYC told me after the release of the zero issue that it was actually pretty good read. After that recommendation and seeing a few panels from those first two issues, I decided to give it a shot. I’ve never been more happy to be proven wrong.
Hawkeye vs. Deadpool is a five issue mini-series that came out in 2014 written by Gerry Duggan with art by Matteo Lolli, Jacopo Camagni, and Cris Peter. What could have easily been a series of wacky adventures with Deadpool and a little bit of Hawkeye ended up actually being a rather well rounded and super fun mini that gave equal balance to the two. Well, three rather. Kate Bishop is also a major player in this series, which is a major bonus in my book since she’s pretty much my second favorite Marvel character ever as well as my patronus, to put it lightly.
The mini opens on Halloween, with Clint giving out candy to kids in his apartment building and Deadpool out with his daughter Ellie and her mom Emily. If you’ve seen panels of Clint in a jank Ultron costume unable to read a kid’s lips behind his mask, of Deadpool in a Ghostbuster costume calling himself “Dadpool,” or of Deadpool signing to Clint or speaking to him with his mask pulled up so he can read his lips, it’s from this comic. Overall, the comic does a pretty good job of incorporating Clint’s deafness into the story, though I wish the creative team had decided to go with a visible hearing aid since you never know when he actually has it in or not unless he specifies. It’s the one of my few gripes with the story. That, and there’s one really terrible pun at the end of issue four that I have audibly groaned at several times.
However, the Halloween costume silliness doesn’t last for long. A few minutes after Clint slams his door in the face of a young man looking for help, that very same man is shot in cold blood a few minutes later on Clint’s door step by a man in a Punisher costume. Deadpool runs in for backup, which leads into a chase of the fake Punisher and a long chat with the police after that fake Punisher is revealed to be brainwashed and steps in front of a van after Clint nearly captures him. At the end of the night, Clint thinks he’s finally going to be rid of Deadpool when Wade finds a thumb drive in his candy bucket. On it, there is a video confession from Jeremy Ellsden, the man who was killed in front of Clint’s apartment. Ellsden reveals himself to be a hacker who has stolen the personnel files of every active S.H.I.E.L.D agent, but had a change of heart before meeting the buyer and hid the files. Since Deadpool’s baby mama is an active S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, he decides to involve himself in the case, much to Clint’s annoyance. This is where the shenanigans begin to ensue.
The first thing you really notice is that Hawkeye vs. Deadpool is not really a crossover event per se, but rather a chance to see what would happen if Deadpool got himself involved in the street level mystery and espionage stories that the Fraction and Aja run was famous for. There’s a lot of hilarity with Deadpool desperately trying to be a Hawkeye/Reserve Avenger, but the story beats match more of what Fraction was doing with Hawkeye. I wasn’t the only one to notice. Fraction even gave Duggan, Lolli and Camagni a shout out when he wrote his goodbye letter after the release of Hawkeye #22, saying, “you did us better than we did us. AND you did it in spite of Gerry’s chemical castration and endless legal problems. Amazing. Hilarious. Thank you.” I feel like I’m missing a joke there, but it makes me sad that Duggan wasn’t picked up to write the series after him. There’s two story moments where he nails the atmosphere of the Fraction run especially well. The first is in the zero issue when Clint is chasing the fake Punisher through the street with a broken bow and declares that he “better be damn perfect” as Lolli illustrates a POV shot of him loosening the arrow as the bow snaps. The second is in the last issue, when after all is said and done, Clint takes responsibility for the bloodstain left in front of his building by Ellsden’s death, scrubbing the sidewalk until his fingers bleed.
Besides the story beats, Duggan also nails character aspects of the Hawkeyes spectacularly. From Clint covering up his guilt for allowing Ellsden to get killed by diving headfirst into the job and being self-deprecating to Kate’s resounding competency and sarcasm as she takes point in issue three after Clint is brainwashed. She actually ends up being a great foil to Duggan’s Deadpool, who does have a fair amount of his usual zaniness, but mixed with how he plays off the Hawkeyes and his devotion to his daughter, he comes across more endearing than annoying in a way. By the end of the comic, I think I was in love with Kate and Wade’s friendship more than the one he has with Clint, and I’m not just saying that because he declared the very true fact of Kate being the better Hawkeye at the end of issue two.
The plot itself is a decent one. It’s a back and forth race against time against Black Cat, Typhoid Mary and a doctor brainwashing a bunch of patients in a psych ward in order to obtain the files gelled together by humorous moments. Even a year after reading this comic, I still found myself giggling at the four panel sequence of Kate trying to figure out a grenade launcher as Black Cat struggles with a computer in the foreground, Agent Scott Adsit (yes, THAT Scott Adsit has a cameo in this book as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who is working as their point man) really wanting the drive to be found so he can keep his rent controlled apartment and Deadpool becoming obsessed with Clint’s old skycycle, even going so far as to steal it from storage while singing Queen’s ‘Bicycle Race’ so he can shoot up Black Cat’s hideout while riding it.
What really makes this book work though are the character moments in between the big action that really define this book. Deadpool’s unspoken understanding of Clint’s deafness and his love of tearaway clothes. Kate and Clint using their superior hand-eye coordination to be good at video games. Clint getting messed up in little ways that add up by Black Cat’s bad luck powers. Kate being the one to realize that Ellsden left his cat with his neighbor and later anonymously giving her everything she needs to take care of a cat. Kate’s initial thrill followed by immediate horror of using a grenade launcher for the first time. Every moment with Ooper. It would have been very easy to make this book just wacky superhero adventures, but it’s these little moments that add up and make it seem like a natural day in these three character’s unnatural lives.
It’s this take on the humor of the series that benefits Deadpool the most. As I mentioned before, the series does have his usual zaniness, but his motivation to protect his daughter informs his character here more than that. In this adventure, it becomes less about him trying to take over what Clint and Kate are doing and more adapting to the way they do things. In this regard, he ends up becoming less “random humor” Deadpool and more like a weird and silly uncle who’s just trying his best.
Granted, he is a weird uncle who has the ghost of Ben Franklin living in one of his safe houses. No really. That happens. He winks creepily at Kate, surprising no one.
The art in this series is also gorgeous. Lolli and Camagni have a very fluid animation inspired style that lends itself well to character expressions and body language. This ends up building the humor of the story even more, especially when characters have big facial expressions that may not always be “flattering,” especially for the women characters. Some of the best moments of the series come at the expense of Kate’s dignity, allowing her to make “ugly” facial expression that are absolutely hilarious. Lolli and Camagni also do an amazing job illustrating women’s costumes in this series, opting more for practicality over fan service while still being recognizable. One of the best examples of this is Typhoid Mary, who is wearing a variation on her more recent costume, but looking more like a pro-wrestler than a bondage model. Which, hey, time and a place for, but it makes way more sense for her to be flipping around when I’m sure everything is going to stay in. Combined with Cris Peter’s beautiful and bright colors, and it’s easy to imagine Marvel adapting this into an animated movie if they ever wanted to.
Hawkeye vs. Deadpool is a big example of not judging a book by its solicits. What could have easily been a zany cash grab ended up being a well constructed and hilarious story that brings out the best in both the Hawkeyes and Deadpool. While it is sad that the team didn’t get to tell a longer story after this mini, it does have a nice little coda in the 2015 Marvel Holiday Special in a ten page story by Duggan, Danilo S. Beyruth and Peter. In it, the Hawkeyes team up with Deadpool again to catch a pickpocket on Christmas Eve, but then end up taking a bit of pity on him when they find out he has a kid. After ensuring the kid gets a good Christmas, Kate and Clint end up hanging out with Wade all night when he’s barred from entering She-Hulk’s party. While it would be nice to see this team up in the future, it’s great to see that perhaps that weird uncle Deadpool rubbed off a little on them after all.