Review: Hawkeye vs. Deadpool trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Various delays have led to the final issue of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye being released in July ... a few months after the debut of its replacement title, Jeff Lemire's All-New Hawkeye. While the Hawkeye vs. Deadpool mini-series would likely have been created without the long interruptions on one of its titles, its existence helped tide eager fans over while serving as part of a new Deadpool franchise extension. Bloat is always a worry when it comes to spin-offs and Deadpool had to pick up a bit of the slack left over from the lack of Wolverine. While Deadpool's Art of War was disappointing, the time-travel romp Deadpool vs. X-Force was fun and the Hawkeye vs. Deadpool collection is good enough to stand on its own merits.

This is a team-up between two specific eras of either character. Had the broody early 2000s Hawkeye shared a book with the early 2000s Deadpool, it would have fallen flat. Both characters are known for taking a lot of abuse in battle and for acting impulsively, traits that have been amplified in their current runs. Gerry Duggan uses this extra page time to merge the cast of Deadpool with the greater Marvel Universe. Like other crossovers with Deadpool, it takes some time to show why the Avengers put up with Wade, but it's for a different reason than the usual "he's effective." Clint Barton is surprised and moved to find out that Wade Wilson has a daughter, Ellie, and admires the merc despite himself.

The plot of Hawkeye vs. Deadpool seems okay at first, but it has some issues. An unknown villain is brainwashing people and putting them in superhero costumes to confuse the authorities. Said someone is also trying to obtain a thumb drive containing sensitive SHIELD data. This is what brings Deadpool into the plot: it's just work for Hawkeye, but that drive has the address of Deadpool cast member Preston's house on it, which is where his daughter lives. It's also why the first issue (actually issue #0 to attract more attention) takes place on Halloween as it drives home the theme of disguises. The brainwashing process is quite creepy with the use of patriotic songs as triggers. What confused me is the source of the plan: the Black Cat.

I'm a bit out of the loop when it comes to the Spider-Man villain status quo, but apparently Black Cat is making a move to be a crime lord in her own right. It's a plot point taken from Superior Spider-Man, and while it lacks payoff, it does generate a lot of false leads. I kept waiting for her to be revealed as someone else with a tie to the main characters, like Madame Masque, Mystique, Copycat, or even Yelena Belova. Adding to the misdirection is Black Cat hiring Typhoid Mary to be her enforcer. They're on the same "tier" of supervillainy -- enforcers instead of leaders -- so the hiring made me think there was a big reveal. I suppose it's an anti-climax only because I built up unfair expectations for a plot twist.

Kate Bishop, a.k.a. Hawkeye (the other one), redeems many of the nitpicks I have with the mini-series. Part sidekick, part partner, she's often the best part of Fraction's Hawkeye to begin with and she adds some extra depth to the storytelling. There's a nice arc as she comes to accept Deadpool as an ally after being terrified of him at first; this is helped when she's given a bazooka to wield as part of a plan. She ends up as the main character in the third issue after Clint gets brainwashed. There's also a bit of parody at the expense of her hipster nature with the running gag of "Ooper" drivers being frequently summoned. Even though the references might end up being dated, they're at least broad enough to not feel too repetitive.

I'm not quite sure that Duggan executes Clint's voice as strongly as Wade, but that's mostly because the Hawkeye elements are a pastiche of the current volume. This often veers straight into parody but the book is stronger for it. Duggan and artists Mateo Lolli and Jacopo Camagni save most of the parody parts for Hawkeye's visual elements, including the sign language and dog infographic issues. They even put their own stamp on this style by pairing a diagram of Deadpool's brain with unexpected cameos from Michael the Mage and the Ghost of Benjamin Franklin. I'm kind of surprised in hindsight that Shiklah doesn't make an appearance but Ellie, Emily Preston, and Agent Adsit make for a lot of introductions already.

The choice of artists for Hawkeye vs. Deadpool was brilliant as both have worked on the character before. Lolli was the artist on Cullen Bunn's Deadpool Killustrated, and he's currently drawing the character again in Bunn's Deadpool's Secret Wars. His bright and crisp style is close to that of Camagni, who drew the second Deadpool annual. Camagni has the ability to draw faces that would truly look perfect in a manga, and it feels like the two sometimes switch pages within an issue so that their strengths can be best used. While it would have been neat to have David Aja draw this mini after his award-winning work on Hawkeye, this book might have suffered under that stylization.

In all, Hawkeye vs. Deadpool is a fun adventure for fans of both characters. It's an inexpensive one-shot trade that fits in well with both of its source materials.
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  1. That reminds me, Black Cat hasn't been in the spider-man comics since the beginning of the new amazing run.....what are they going to do with her now that Secret Wars is changing everything?

    1. With the Spider-titles we've seen so far, there's a strong possibility that she'll show up in Spider Island and Renew Your Vows. I also wouldn't discount her appearing in Siege as a guard on the Shield.

  2. Question about the Marvel trades. I've bought a few Marvel "NOW" trades on Comixology, and I've noticed that they're basically the same as individual digital issues slapped together, with ads, next issue previews, and editor's notes included, unlike with DC, which cleans that stuff up, and includes textless covers and bonus material. Are Marvel's paperback trades the same way?

    1. I've honestly seen it both ways. The Infinite Avengers trade contains the covers and recap pages between the chapters, but the physical trades may have been printed the same way since sometimes the recaps pull in panels from other issues and titles. They don't have any letters pages, while a few of the Deadpool trades do.