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The 'Hawkeye' trailer sets up a collision between Clint Barton's best comic run and his MCU past
The first trailer for the Disney+ original series Hawkeye arrived Monday morning, providing a long-awaited look at what we can expect from the new Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure that will shine a spotlight on Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and introduce his protege and new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). We've seen set images and first look photos already, so we had an idea of what the series was aiming for, but the trailer is the best glimpse yet at the target of Hawkeye's narrative, and it's a very intriguing blend of the old and the new.
As a character, Hawkeye's been around the MCU for quite a while, popping up in Thor before joining the title team in The Avengers and playing a role in several major clashes since, and the new series is well aware of his complicated history in that regard. But around the same time that Hawkeye was finding his feet on the big screen, the character was getting a warm, vibrant reinvention in the pages of Marvel Comics courtesy of writer Matt Fraction and artists including David Aja, Annie Wu, and Javier Pulido.
In the hands of those creators, Hawkeye -- a book that eventually gave nearly equal time to Kate and Clint as each dealt with their own adventures -- became one of the defining superhero comics of the 2010s, and one of those books you give to readers who don't necessarily follow comics on a larger scale. It was, without exaggeration, a major pop culture breakthrough for the character just as he was gaining traction in the films, and so it wasn't surprising when photos from the Hawkeye set showed the characters hanging out with a lovable Golden Retriever in homage to that comic book run's beloved Lucky the Pizza Dog. Making a Hawkeye series at this stage without some nod in the direction of the Fraction era would feel like an oversight.
But watching the trailer Monday morning, and then watching it again, and again, the Disney+ incarnation of Hawkeye revealed more than just knowing winks in the direction of that comic book triumph. Instead, what it shows is a rather direct collision between that comic book breakthrough and the MCU past Barton's built for himself over the last decade. Whether or not it works in the end is something we'll have to settle after the series has aired, but for the moment at least, we see a show with a very clear target.
So, let's break it down a little.
As trailers go, the Hawkeye teaser doesn't give us all that much in the way of plot. It's almost Christmas, and Clint Barton's kids are visiting him in New York City, where he's doing some kind of work (S.W.O.R.D.? New Avengers? Freelance security? We don't know.), only to find that someone's out there wearing a version of his old Ronin gear, taking their frustrations out on the city's bad guys. Sensing danger, Clint sends his kids home, calls his wife to tell her he'll be home for Christmas very soon, and tracks down this masked vigilante, who turns out to be... Kate Bishop, not just an aspiring hero herself, but apparently an admirer of his with her own archery gifts. Together, they battle a New York City gang with ties to Clint's past, share some laughs along the way, and hang out with a cool dog.
It's that last bit -- the gang, the laughs, and the dog -- that sets up the connection to the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run, in no small part because the gang Clint and Kate are fighting are very clearly dressed like the Tracksuit Draculas that Clint battled in that comic. On the page, they're a brutal group of bruisers whose speech largely consists of the world "Bro," and who are mainly interested in Clint because his devotion to his NYC apartment building and the people who live in it is getting in the way of their bid to sell off a parcel of buildings and knock them down to put up a shopping center.
In the show, it's not yet clear what their beef is beyond Clint's past as Ronin. Maybe he killed their leader back in the day. Maybe he tried to eradicate them in the aftermath of the Blip and they just refused to go down? Whatever the case, it's a clear connection between the two most visible incarnations of Clint Barton in the character's history.
Then that connection reaches further, into Kate Bishop's introduction to the MCU. Her somewhat murky original comic book origin tells us that she was attacked once in New York and decided to devote herself to combat training so she wouldn't be vulnerable, ultimately using that training to help others as a superhero. It's clear from this trailer that she's already been through a lot of that, and she's a capable fighter and archer by the time Clint meets her, which suggests that perhaps she survived the Blip and has been using the last five years as a proving ground. Or maybe she just got really good right before the Blip, came back, and never lost a step. Hopefully the series tells us more about that.
But what's perhaps more important than all of that, beyond the plot threads that connect Hawkeye the comic and Hawkeye the show, is the way the trailer establishes a certain tone that helped make the Fraction/Aja era for the character something truly special. That Hawkeye comic was billed as the story of what Clint Barton "does when he's not being an Avenger," and so it largely focused on a sort of sloppy but very physically fit man who spills coffee on himself, meets a cool dog, and tries to hold it together as his apartment building is in peril.
There's an Indiana Jones/John McClane element to this version of Clint, in that he's not bad in a fight, but he's not necessarily polished either. He sort of falls backwards into the fight -- his catchphrase, if you can call it that, from the comic is "OK, this looks bad" -- and manages to tumble his way to survival, with a lot of bruises to show for it along the way. Then there's Kate, the fearless up and comer, who comes storming into the book with all the energy of a future legend and finds that the guy she chose to pattern her superhero career after is... kind of a huge dork.
And honestly, that might be the key to Hawkeye's eventual success on Disney+, that sense that maybe our heroes aren't as amazing as we thought they were even as they keep dusting themselves off and getting back up. It's a very human way of looking at these characters, which is why the Fraction/Aja era is remembered so fondly. By capturing that and folding it into the fabric of Clint Barton's MCU past (and Kate Bishop's MCU future), Hawkeye is trying to capture that same vulnerable magic. The only question now is: Will it work?
Hawkeye lands on Disney+ November 24.