“A handwritten letter in an age of text messages.”
David F. Walker (W), Carlos Pacheco (P), Rafael Fonteriz (I),
Sonia Oback (C)
Cover by Agustin Alessio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Occupy Avengers. That’s a name that definitely leaves one wondering what the comic is going to be about. I will admit that it’s a little odd that this is named such since the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t made news headlines in about four years. The name still evokes a certain ideology though.
I do know that many people are averse to comics that are politically charged or take a stance in some way. I frankly applaud a comic that wants to be about something. It’s part of why I still talk about Ed Brubaker’s Captain America and Mark Waid’s Daredevil. It’s why I try to champion books like Power Man and Iron Fist, Sam Wilson: Captain America, and Green Arrow. That being said, I understand the idea of wanting a space where the frustration and stress of politics does not invade, especially in this late hour of the current presidential election. As a result, I put this disclaimer here that Occupy Avengers, as the name implies, does invoke a “ripped from the headlines” story with what one could call a political slant.
This comic takes place in the shadow of Civil War II, with Clint Barton aka Hawkeye having left New York and gone on the road after his acquittal for the murder of Doctor Bruce Banner aka the Hulk. The introduction tells us that he has become a champion to the people but a pariah to the Avengers and others in the super hero community.
The opening scene in Santa Rosa, New Mexico supports the former claim, as he is being ambushed at a diner by people who want his autograph or a picture with him. Each tells him how much of a hero he is for having killed the Hulk. Clint’s thoughts tell us otherwise, as he does not see it as such a heroic act. He is next approached by the local sheriff and her deputy, Red Wolf. They are suspicious of what he is doing in their town, and the two discuss the contaminated water issue with Hawkeye upon his own questioning. Red Wolf takes Hawkeye to the Sweet Medicine Reservation where he sees the poverty and struggle the tribe is going through due to the water issues.
Later, Hawkeye is ambushed by mercenaries who want to capture him and figure out his business for themselves. Clint holds them off, and Red Wolf comes to his aid. They dispatch the mercenaries, but the comic ends with the appearance of an old rogue that I don’t really want to spoil here.
There is certainly a lot to unpack from the narrative of this comic book. As I said, it does take a very current news story for its inspiration. The comparisons to the ongoing Standing Rock Reservation land rights dispute are obvious. I say it takes a slant, but I can’t imagine many people who would side with an oil corporation ravaging the water supply of an entire community of people. Then again, it is a dispute, so what do I know.
It also evokes another comic, and I couldn’t help but notice it in the early pages of this issue. The mixture of archery and culturally relevant narratives definitely makes one think of Green Arrow, especially as Benjamin Percy has recently brought the hero back to his “old lefty” roots. More specifically, the idea of Hawkeye going on the road and “rediscovering himself” while teaming up with other heroes is very reminiscent of Dennis O’Neil and Neil Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow series from the early 1970’s. I don’t make these comparisons to slight Occupy Avengers. I love that old Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, and taking inspiration from other stories is a big part of the writing process. Plus, well, Oliver Queen doesn’t have a patent on being a political super hero, and the writing on the current Green Arrow series, despite my high praise of the first issue, does leave a lot to be desired.
While the comic does openly criticize the power of corporations, the government that allows it to happen, and the apathy of the people, it does also take a shot at “bleeding heart environmentalists” who only gawk at the problem, make a few supportive comments, and do nothing more to help the situation. I’m not one to use the “both sides are bad” argument, but I do have something against people who claim to be for a cause and do nothing beyond making statements.
I haven’t really talked much about the characters yet, and character is a big part of this comic. Despite the title having “Avengers” in it, this is a Hawkeye comic book. He is the center of the cover, the opening character, and his narration runs through the majority of the story. He is trying to figure out who he is now, and he wants to help people while he does it. He’s not sure if he’s a hero anymore, and he’s not sure he’ll ever get past the fact that he killed Bruce Banner. However, he is not willing to stand by as people are suffering and oppressed like the people of the Sweet Medicine Reservation.
Red Wolf, despite being in much of the story, does not get much fleshing out here. You do get the feel for what kind of person he is, and diving too much into him could have potentially taken away from Clint Barton’s own character study. I do hope to figure out more about him in the issues to come. I didn’t read Nate Edmonson’s Red Wolf series, partially because of the other comics that were coming out at the time and partially because of the unsavory rumors that surrounded the writer himself.
The art is quite good in this comic. The characters look defined and the facial expressions are very detailed. The colors are kind of bland, but they are by no means bad. Some of the fight scenes are a little lackluster with the blows seeming a bit disconnected. However, the arrow piercings on the mercenaries are pleasingly highlighted and detailed.
I think I’ve more than given away that I loved this comic. I tried to restrain my excitement while discussing it because I didn’t want my zealousness to overrule the analysis of the comic itself. I think this comic is important and worth talking about. It has a lot to say, and it should be heard. David Walker is a writer that I have become a big fan of in the wake of his run on Cyborg and his ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist stint. He is an immensely talented writer with a lot to say himself.
Again, I know a lot of comic book readers tend to stay away from series that involve political discussion or news stories. However, if that describes you, please do not let it keep you away from Occupy Avengers. It wants to mean something, and I don’t think that should be discouraged. Just because someone has a cape and flies does not mean that the story about him or her should be vapid and completely apolitical. Plus, this comic is diving into the psyche of one of Marvel’s most classic heroes with skill that hasn’t been seen since Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. You should definitely give this comic a try.
Final Score: 9.5/10