Clint Barton is known throughout the Marvel Universe for his perfect aim as the Avenger called Hawkeye, but that doesn't mean his decisions are perfect. Like all Marvel characters, Barton is flawed and prone to mistakes, but when writer Matt Fraction kicked off the new "Hawkeye" ongoing series he partnered Barton with someone to help him deal with those mistakes -- the Marvel U's other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. Bishop did her best, but her namesake still made several big missteps including one that led to the death of an innocent friend.
In the wake of that death Bishop tried to stand by her friend and partner, but he decided to push her away. At the end of "Hawkeye" #11 she headed west with Barton's dog Lucky, leaving the two Hawkeyes on very different paths. So what comes next for Clint and Kate now that they've gone their separate ways? For the answer to that question and more we spoke with Fraction about the latest developments and what he has planned for "Hawkeye."
The events that led to the death of Grills, Clint Barton's friend and neighbor, began in "Hawkeye" #8, but they didn't play out in any normal, chronological fashion. These last few issues have unfolded in a way that dealt more with certain characters' perspectives than with linear time. Events were revealed from one perspective, or remained entirely hidden from readers until seen from another character's vantage point in later issues.
"Everything sort of catches up by issue #13," Fraction told CBR News. "'Hawkeye'#6, the Christmas issue, was where I started to think about ways of telling self-contained stories that move, build, and tell a grander story. I wondered if we could apply that shape and structure to a run of issues. Basically we decided to take the equivalent of six days of Clint's life and smash them up with a hammer and scramble them around and still see if I could tell engaging self-contained issues that built, moved, and progressed when viewed in total.
"So it's not an ongoing concern. I think we're always going to play with time in the book, but maybe not to this degree. By the time we get to issue #13 I think it's reached its natural conclusion and it's time to figure out something new," Fraction continued. "Hopefully it made you want to go back and revisit the single issues. And hopefully when you read the issues it felt like you got a complete experience. I wanted you to have questions, but still be satisfied. Between the annual and issues #8-13 you'll see everything, but when you see it is kind of the question."
In "Hawkeye" #9-10 readers saw how and why Grills was killed. Then in issue #11 Fraction began to cover Clint Barton's reaction to his friend's death. The death was a result of Clint's enemies, a Brooklyn-based Eastern European crime syndicate he's dubbed the Tracksuit Draculas, striking back at him, which in turn has made Clint take the loss very personally.
"We're in a dark part of the story," Fraction remarked, "It's time to see what he's made of and what kind of hero he is under all of that."
Kate Bishop had to walk away from Clint Barton in "Hawkeye" #11, but Barton won't be going through this dark period alone, much to his chagrin. Former Dark Avenger Trickshot, who also happens to be Clint's brother Barney, is about to walk back into his life. Readers caught a glimpse of Barney in "Hawkeye" #11 and he becomes part of the book with issue #12, on sale now.
"It's fun to bring together these brothers who have been so at odds with one another again and again and yet are still brothers. I think looking at that relationship and that blood trumps everything else is kind of the fun of writing this guy right now," Fraction said. "They do have a very complicated and storied relationship, none of which you need to know about. You can come in clean. You don't need to know who Clint's brother is or even that he had a brother. Like everything else in the book, I want it to be clean and accessible. If you're a Barney Barton fan you'll appreciate the history, and if you know nothing about him that's okay. We'll teach you what you need to know as we go. Things have clearly gone badly for old Barney since the end of "Dark Avengers.'"
Barney Barton may be joining the cast of "Hawkeye," but he's not replacing Kate Bishop. Fraction and artist Javier Pulido will check in on her exploits on the West Coast in "Hawkeye Annual" #1, available later this month. "Clint pushed Kate away, but if you're reading 'Young Avengers' you also know that she and her teammates can't be in New York at the moment," Fraction explained. "I talked with Kieron [Gillen, the writer of 'Young Avengers'] about how I could write Kate and not contradict his book, and having her get out of New York fit nicely with where things are headed in my book. So it made sense for Kate to take a sort of summer vacation; to get out of New York for a while and go find herself. She'll get to find out what kind of person she is when she's not living on her dad's credit cards or living in anyone's shadow. She heads west to find her destiny."
Kate's immediate destiny in "Hawkeye Annual" #1" involves a clash with the villainous Madame Masque, whom she made an enemy of in "Hawkeye" #4-5. Following that, Fraction will check in with her again in August's "Hawkeye" #14.
"We'll begin zig zagging back and forth where we'll have a Kate issue and a Clint issue," Fraction explained. "David Aja will continue to do the Clint stories and the fabulous Annie Wu, who did our romance issue covers for #8-9, does the Kate stories. So we're going to alternate between East Coast adventures with Clint and Kate's exploits out West."
Clint Barton's East Coast adventures involve an escalation of his war with the Tracksuit Draculas, eventually finding his apartment building under siege and all of his neighbors under siege with him. Leading that charge is the assassin that murdered Grills, the Clown. In "Hawkeye" #10 readers saw the horrible events in Eastern Europe that forged the Clown into who he is, but the inspiration for the character came from a discussion between Fraction and his editor Steve Wacker about an obscure Marvel humor character.
"Steve Wacker was joking around about reinventing Obnoxio the Clown. So we decided to reinvent Obnoxio the Clown, so here we go -- a Eurotrash Patrick Bateman with a KISS fetish," Fraction remarked. "The Clown is not going away. He's here. He's present. The world's greatest marksman has now made an enemy of a master assassin and there's a lot of fun that comes out of that.
"He's remorseless and relentless and unimaginably cruel -- a warped mirror of Clint. On some level I think he's looking to inflict the same kind of pain on the world that the world has inflicted upon him. He has no conscience or morals. Just a sense of duty and a relentless efficiency," Fraction continued. "As you saw in 'Hawkeye' #9 and #10 he went after Grills not Clint. He's not out to kill people, he wants to destroy them. He's the world's cruelest child picking the wings off of every fly he sees."
Fraction has been incredibly pleased with the way artist David Aja has depicted the Clown's cruelty and all the action on the East Coast as well. He's equally impressed by the work being done by Annie Wu and Javier Pulido on the West Coast portions of "Hawkeye."
"As far as I'm concerned this book is a murderer's row of art talent. Everything is so unique and so amazing looking, and it's going to remain the best looking book on the stands. It's a dream to write for these amazing people. Maybe they're competing with each other I'm not sure," The writer said. "I think the Annual is one of the best things Javier has ever done. So I can't be effusive enough. I'll sound like I'm kidding. I feel incredibly fortunate."
Working on "Hawkeye" has been a labor of love for Fraction and he's extremely excited the book is about to begin its second year. The writer knows that wouldn't have been possible without everyone who contributed to the book's commercial and critical success and is grateful to the army of supporters that make up Team Hawkeye.
"The trade numbers and the issue numbers are crazy," Fraction said. "It keeps going back to press. I'll spend the rest of my career thanking people for making this possible."
"Hawkeye" #12 is on sale now.