At first, “Ultimate Hawkeye” seemed solely a means to tell part of the story in “The Ultimates” and leave that title free to explore other crises happening worldwide with occasional check-ins. It began as a solid story about superhumans created in the Southeast Asian Republic, and Hawkeye tasked at the Ultimates to lead S.H.I.E.L.D. forces in recovering the formula used to create the superhumans. Over the course of the next two issues, though, it’s morphed in a story that reflects what’s happening in “The Ultimates” more, paralleling it in a way, and showing that Jonathan Hickman looks to be making some big changes in the status quo of the Ultimate Universe.
“The People” (the S.E.A.R. superhumans) have their own city. Hawkeye, along with a trio of S.H.I.E.L.D.-employed mutants and Bruce Banner, has to break in a retrieve some of the formula that created them. The issue begins like a routine superhero action comic and develops over time as Hawkeye and company actually come into contact with the People. When Banner Hulks up, he gets separated from the group and engages one of the People in a fight before coming into contact with another that completely changes things. Another regular Marvel Universe character has popped up in the Ultimate Universe and, in this case, it makes a lot of sense and is a great final image for the issue.
Much of this issue is about playing with expectations and, then, subverting them. That it seems like a by-the-numbers issue is purposeful, allowing for later revelations to hold more weight. Unlike the Children in “The Ultimates,” this isn’t a sudden onslaught that changes everything at once; the People come on slowly without being any less effective. That those two groups have begun operating in the two Hickman-penned Ultimate comics hopefully means that things are changing. It’s hard to imagine how they won’t.
Rafa Sandoval does his best work yet in this issue. One the best visual gags is one of the People having the power to, basically, become a Mindless One. It’s a smart design to reuse as an opponent for the Hulk, both recalling those characters and the Hulk/Thing brawls. His art is even more streamlined in this issue with crisp line work that, more and more, points towards clarity and getting across what’s happening. Seeing him grow over the course of this series has been a pleasure and his dynamic pencils help emphasis Hickman’s ideas and words.
The final issue will help determine how ‘conventional’ “Ultimate Hawkeye” turns out to be; the ending to this issue suggests that, along with what’s going on in “The Ultimates,” big things are happening in the Ultimate Universe. The concept of what a superhuman is and what it does appears to be changing. A couple of moments in this issue are surprising and, hopefully, point to the future of this line. What began as a supplement to “The Ultimates” could be essential if this issue is any indication.