Recently, I had the opportunity to get away for a minute and spend some time relaxing with my quaran-team around the campfire, playing games and sneaking in some comic book reading in-between all the camp-related hijinx. It was a good time for a story that I didn’t have to think too much about, a story I could put down at a moment’s notice (cough, Pappap handed out pocket knives to the kids this year, cough). I basically was looking for a summer blockbuster in comic book form. I remembered we read just that waaaay back in the halcyon days of 2018 with Old Man Logan for the podcast and luckily enough, I happened to have its prequel, Old Man Hawkeye, just sitting around in trade paperback form waiting to be read.
I enjoyed original Old Man Wolvie…enough. I gave it a B, which was a bit higher than my podcasting compatriots. The crazy ideas kept my attention, the world was intriguing, and as the few minutes of relistening to our show reminded me, Hawkeye had a pretty cool character arc in that story (Thanks for pointing that out on the show, Andy).
My annual camping trip with the in-laws is still one of my primary arguments for having the physical copy of books around. Especially books you’re not super beholden to. I’m not dragging my Mr. Miracle book to camp to be destroyed. Nor am I bringing the iPad to the campfire—people will judge. Instead I picked up the two trades of this prequel I picked up on the cheap at C2E2 and dragged them with me in glorious physical form from campfire chair to campfire chair. The story got wet; it had pages bent; it apparently got to taste a s’more after one of the kiddos dropped some onto a page; it was tossed in and out of vehicles at a moment’s notice and it did its job. In all honesty, the first volume didn’t make it back, but its sacrifice was not in vain.
The only downside was that I couldn’t really go back and reference the original story. When Clint runs into his daughter Ashley, I remembered that she was bad news (and a Spider-lady), but the specifics were fuzzy. It didn’t matter too much. Most of what you need is already here. And if you do need background, both stories are available on Marvel’s digital reader.
Written by Ethan Sacks, art by Marco Checchetto (Issues 1-10), Ibrahim Robertson (7), and Francesco Mobili (11-12), colors by Andres Mossa, Old Man Hawkeye sets the table for what was a really cool Hawkeye story disguised as a Logan western. It takes place 5 years before Old Man Logan.
This story focuses much more on the Hawkeye side of the equation, eventually pulling Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) into the mix as well. Instead of Venom dinosaurs, this time out you get Venom Jamie Madroxes—an idea that I go back and forth as to whether I liked it or not. It’s a fun, crazy idea, akin to the original, but I just feel like it was a bit of a waste of the Madrox character. Still, in these What If/Elseworlds style stories, they can muck up your favorite characters and it doesn’t really matter. That’s part of the fun!
They gave Bullseye Deathlok tech!
They gave Hawkeye glaucoma! That’s… not as fun. Still, it made for an interesting take on the screw-up archer as his vision slowly deteriorates until it very rapidly deteriorates to leave him as the blind screw-up hero we learned to love in OML. All of that craziness from the original is there. Is Marco Checchetto on par with Steve McNiven? Eh. I’d say not, but he’s darn close. Definitely not a bad choice for this book. Checchetto also benefits from a more cohesive story from Sachs than McNiven had to work with from Millar. By the time the artists start switching around in the second trade, I was already emotionally invested in the story. Whereas OML seemed like the story shifted abruptly towards the end, this felt more cohesive as a story.
The big draw here is you get to see what happened the moment the bad guys won.
You get to see Thor’s hammer fall. That part is still shocking even if you know it’s coming.
You get to see the seeds planted for the kid Ant Man that will pay off later. Between that and the super soldier references, you get to think, hey, I remember this is a bigger deal later!
You get to see why Hawkeye is around when most of the other Marvel do-gooders are no longer doing good. That part is heart-wrenching and insulting!
You get to enjoy one last go around with Kate and Clint and how their relationship works. I don’t know why I love watching the two of them interact as much as I do. Their relationship has such a touch of reality to me that you don’t get in other comic book relationships.
And on top of all that, you get an old fashioned revenge tale as Hawkeye uses his last moments of sight to track down his teammates from the Thunderbolts who had betrayed him.
There are moments of bombast. There are moments where you say, is that it? as some reveals purposefully leave you nonplussed. There are moments where you say, hey? Where has Avalanche been for the last few years? There are even moments where you see a character pop up for a page and wonder what the heck they’re doing there! It’s almost as if they could keep telling these Old Man stories for a bunch of characters!
All in all, it’s twistedly fun watching Clint cling to his ego and his sense of justice and to his last vestiges of sight while managing to make an even bigger mess of things. I enjoyed Bullseye as the western baddie who’s even better than the hero but can never win. My favorite is probably Taskmaster, who shows he knows how the game is really played at the wrap up of the story.
So, who is Old Man Hawkeye for?
If you enjoyed Old Man Logan, this is more of that same crazy idea factory wouldn’t it be cool to see this style, only longer and with a less Wolverine!
If you enjoyed Thunderbolts and you’re wondering what the original Beetle is up to, this is for you.
If you enjoy Hawkeye and his quest to do the right thing while simultaneously screwing to all up, this book is for you.
If you like dystopian stories and want a glimpse of how the Marvel Universe all goes wrong, then this book is for you.
Who is Old Man Hawkeye not for?
If you are a traditionalist who enjoys Hawkeye as not as good Cap in a purple tunic, you can probably skip this one.
If you never hopped on the Kate Bishop as Hawkeye train, feel free to sit this one out.
If you’re a continuity wank who loves to say, that would never happen like that because…, save yourself the time.
At the end of the day (and camping trip), I enjoyed it. I don’t see it as a story I’ll go back to again and again (and that’s a good thing because my copies are wrecked and/or lost), but the story was sound. It had its humor and its emotional moments and its crazy blizzard of ideas tossed into a western universe. The art was detailed and exciting. Everything worked enough to tell a clear story and make me care (or continue caring) about the characters. I would rather there be consistent art teams throughout for things like this, but that’s a minor nitpick. It’s fun. B+.
See you next week!