Ever since I first read a comic with Kate Bishop, I’ve been a massive fan of Hawkeye. Kate’s smart and fun attitude captured me since the beginning, giving me a new favorite hero in the Marvel Universe. Kate has always been the closest thing I have to a fictional role model; I know she’s a mess (what good Hawkeye isn’t), I know she has put herself in a lot of awkward situations, but she always tries to make good, and she always tries to be the best Kate Bishop (and the best Hawkeye) there is. But after Kate’s leading role in Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli’s West Coast Avengers, she has been far from the spotlight. Fortunately, Marieke Nijkamp and Enid Balám bring Kate back in her own mini-series just in time for Kate’s first live-action appearance, portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld, in the new Disney+ Original TV show Hawkeye.
Kate has gone through a lot; she’s been a member of two different versions of the Young Avengers. She’s been thrown into the mess that is Clint Barton’s life, fighting the tracksuit mafia and Madame Masque, and she has moved to LA, along the way going through events that changed the way she loved her family. And finally, she has been a founding member of the most recent iteration of the West Coast Avengers.
It’s been a long time since Kate took on the mantle of Hawkeye, and Nijkamp acknowledges this in a way that doesn’t confuse new readers or give them information overload. After living in LA for a long time, Kate has to decide if she is ready to return to New York, leaving old friends behind and reuniting with even older friends. The issue begins with Kate’s inner (and sometimes not so inner) monologue about just this topic. With the dialogue, Nijkamp manages to capture Kate’s character perfectly while still building upon Kate’s growth since her first appearance in Allan Heinberg and Jim Chung’s Young Avengers #1.
Starting a new series with a character that has gone through so much in so little time can be difficult, but the creative team of Hawkeye: Kate Bishop does a fantastic job managing this. This series is not trying to compete with the past versions of the character. I like that it doesn’t feel like I’m reading something trying to be Kelly Thompson’s run on the character or even trying to be better than it. This issue acknowledges the past and uses it to tell a new story, continuing the personal growth of Kate in whole new ways.
Combined with Oren Junior’s inks and Brittany Peer’s colors, Enid Balám’s pencils capture Kate’s energy, especially when it comes to the action scenes, which feel fluid and quick, which works well with Kate’s humor and fast thinking. Nijlkamp and Balam’s iteration of the series is able to evoke previous outings of the character without feeling too derivative; take, for example, a double-page spread with a layout that reminds me of Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye run without feeling repetitive. An honorable mention should also go to Balám’s facial expressions, which gives the book an extra bit of humor and drama when it needs to.
Aside from all of that, my favorite thing about this first issue has to be the fact that the creative team continues the recurring theme of Kate’s relationship with her family. This time, instead of exploring Kate’s crooked father or her mysterious mother, the series brings in Kate’s estranged sister, Susan Bishop. Susan, playing the role of a disapproving older sister, is an excellent foil to Kate, who just wants to stay the best version of herself.
Hawkeye: Kate Bishop #1 is an entertaining and smart return to the character that will have new and old fans reading excitedly to find out what kind of crazy shenanigans Hawkeye gets herself into next.