Old Man Hawkeye #11
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! At long last, Hawkeye is closing in on the mastermind behind the deaths of the Avengers - Baron Zemo! Deep within his mountain fortress (the former Weapon X bunker), the diabolical mastermind waits, but first Clint - aided by a begrudging Kate Bishop - must fight his way through the an obvious trap. Kate tries to warn Clint, but even as an old man he's as bull-headed as ever and charges right in.
But what Clint finds isn't the fight he was expecting. Instead, the rank-and-file Hydra soldiers let him pass, eagerly herding him toward a fight he never expected - one with Zemo's very own Captain Hydra (not to be confused with Stevil from "Secret Empire"). They begin to fight, and it becomes very apparent right from the start that Clint is completely outmatched (wouldn't you be if you were an almost-blind sexagenarian fighting Evil Captain America?). Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everyone, Kate has sneaked in through the sewers and is swiftly making her way to Clint's aid.
Before Kate can get there, though, a scientist standing nearby hands Clint the means he needs to defeat Captain Hydra - a syringe full of the substance that jacked him up in the first place. Captain Hydra's head explodes, and Clint meets up with Kate, who's made a startling discovery of her own: Zemo plans to execute the innocent scientists involved with the Captain Hydra project to ensure its secrets don't get out. Kate urges Clint to help her rescue them, but Clint, shedding the last vestiges of the hero he once was, flatly admits he's only interested in vengeance.
When he finally reaches Zemo, though, he's shocked to learn that the former Master of Evil is nothing more than a shell of his former self, wheelchair-bound, breathing through a tube, unable to even move on his own. Clint, let down by what he thought was going to be an epic battle gloriously righting the wrongs of the past, settles for what can only be described as a mercy killing and fills Zemo full of arrows. Only then does Clint decide to assist Kate, but before he can do so, he's ambushed by Avalanche, who proceeds to use his vibratory powers to rattle Clint's optic nerves completely loose, ending his sight forever! And as bad as that is, little does he realize that Bullseye awaits outside for the final confrontation...
Prequel stories are prickly beasts. On the one hand, it’s fun to read about a protagonist’s earlier adventures, which can also lead to filling in gaps in the original story. But on the other hand, it creates a predicament for the writer: how do you generate suspense when your characters’ stories have already concluded?
Unfortunately, in the case of Old Man Hawkeye #11, writer Ethan Sacks doesn’t seem to have the answer to that question. Everything proceeds forward in an extremely straightforward manner, because ultimately we all know that Clint has to end up blind and morally broken for “Old Man Logan.” Events occur because the story needs them to. So when Clint’s fighting Captain Hydra, there’s no real stakes, especially with the deus ex machina conclusion that is telegraphed a mile away. Clint jams the syringe into him, his head explodes, and that’s that. Scene. Move on to the next set piece.
A big part of this issue’s problems lie in Sacks’ inability to deliver key moments. The Zemo reveal is supposed to be shocking and impactful, but falls flat. Similarly, Clint’s decision to leave the scientists to their fate should be a major moment, signaling how far he’s fallen – but instead, it really just feels like the story going through the motions. Even Avalanche rendering the archer fully blind doesn’t really register, because we know he has to eventually go fully blind anyway. The moment therefore hinges on the “How is he going to get out of this?” trope, but again, since we already know Clint’s ultimate fate, it doesn’t really matter.
The writing’s not all bad, though. Sacks writes the Hawkeyes’ relationship really well – he clearly understands their “inverted siblings” relationship, with “little sister” Kate always admonishing “big brother” Clint and picking up his slack. He also nails that arrogant entitlement that Zemo is known for. Even in his reduced state, he can’t help but look down on Clint. I wish we had been given that level of engagement with Captain Hydra, but sadly he winds up just being An Obstacle To Be Overcome, with no personality or motives of his own.
The art, too, is functional at best. Francesco Mobili gets the job done, but that’s about it. There’s nothing garish or unpleasant about his art, but it’s fairly basic in execution. His panel layouts are competent and easy to read, but lack a dynamism to really convey anything other than step-by-step rote story progression. But his expressions are often vacuous, not conveying emotion very well at all. It’s said the eyes are the windows to the soul, but in the case of Mobili’s characters, that soul is very empty indeed. But occasionally he chooses to go completely over the top in ways that make no sense – when Clint kills Zemo, there’s at least three-dozen arrows sticking out of his body from every conceivable angle, which is pretty ludicrous to say the least. Where did all those arrows come from?! No amount of suspension of disbelief can sell this image. It’s over the top for the sake of it.
For what should be an engaging cliffhanger of a penultimate issue, where all the series' themes and story elements come together and leave the reader gasping for the conclusion, Old Man Hawkeye #11 misses the mark. It's neither good nor bad, just sort of existing without providing much evidence for its own necessity one way or the other. Which is too bad. Clint deserves better.
Old Man Hawkeye #11: “An Eye for an Eye part 11: ‘Finding Zemo'”
Writing - 5.5/105.5/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 5/105/10
Color - 6.5/106.5/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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