Monday, May 27, 2019

Hawkeye, The Defender!

Despite starting his career as a solo act (and briefly partnering with the Black Widow), Hawkeye, the Marksman is perhaps better known by many readers as a long-standing member of the Avengers--though we can go even further and add to his résumé of super-teams with distinguished tours in both the West Coast Avengers and the Thunderbolts. But there is one team where his contribution tends to be overlooked, given that, at the time, the general public was unaware of its existence; and yet Hawkeye made his "mark" on that group of individuals, just as the adventures of their core membership were drawing to a close.

But words like "members" and "team" are inapplicable to the band of fighters named

As for how Hawkeye found himself in their company, the story that he relates to us--and to them--is basically one where he finds himself at loose ends, beginning with his abrupt departure from the Avengers after having his advances rejected by the Scarlet Witch. From there, he had an altercation with the man called Champion, which spurred his desire to strike out on his own; instead, however, his path led him to San Francisco, and renewing ties with the Widow (or, rather, attempting to), followed by a less than amiable confrontation with his former teammates. Finally, he ended up back in New York, where the Hulk was mixing it up with the electrified monstrosity, Zzzax--and though Hawkeye's quick thinking resulted in Zzzax's dissipation, his efforts went unrecognized due to the Hulk's proximity to the foe at the time of its destruction.

That leads us back to the green goliath, and a very persistent archer trying to satisfy his curiosity as to the Hulk's connection with Dr. Strange. But come now, is this man seriously expecting the Hulk to answer his questions?

Things turn more hostile for Hawkeye when the Sub-Mariner and the Valkyrie arrive in response to the commotion, and the three come to blows from what's mostly a misunderstanding. (To make matters worse, Hawkeye only knows the Valkyrie as a form taken by the Enchantress, in a plot involving the so-called Lady Liberators.) When the dust settles, Hawkeye finally receives his answers.

Not exactly the welcome mat, but Hawkeye is in no position to press his luck.  At Strange's sanctum, he also learns the truth about this incarnation of the Valkyrie; and though Strange himself is absent in a crisis demanding his attention elsewhere, Hawkeye gets first-hand experience on how "the Defenders" operate when Namor receives an abrupt plea for help from one of his Atlantean subjects concerning an incursion by Namor's undersea, barbaric enemy, Attuma. For a moment, Hawkeye hesitates on being swept up into another group situation; but he finds sufficient rationale to tag along with these three, owing to the Defenders' modus operandi (as well as a more personal form of motivation).

Near the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, where Attuma has chosen to attack, there's no denying the Defenders' power in dealing with Attuma and his forces--and as for Hawkeye, he clearly fits right in with their individualistic style, one that doesn't necessarily follow a game plan or cues from a team leader.

Beneath the waves, however, Namor, in confronting Attuma, is rendered insensate when he's unexpectedly taken out by... well, porpoises, which strike his nerve centers--further examples of Attuma's mysterious ability in this attack to have the creatures of the deep follow his bidding. And when Attuma brings him to the surface and uses him to demand the Defenders' surrender, the disadvantage of the absence of leadership in this group of individuals becomes apparent.

With Attuma preparing to take the captive Defenders to his undersea base, however, the Hulk, remembering his experience with Captain Omen, decides to abandon ship and depart--one less thing for Attuma to worry about, granted, but not the best development for those who might have depended on his might to turn the tide in this encounter. As for the others, there are more surprises awaiting them--for one, the presence of the Red Ghost as Attuma's ally, who has used technology to control the minds of sea creatures with cosmic radiation, in a bid to conquer first Atlantis and then the world.

Yet he has also been successful in using that technology to control the minds of humans--and when Hawkeye and the Valkyrie escape captivity, they unfortunately run into a shocking example of the Red Ghost's success in that regard.

His opposition dealt with, the Ghost goes on to subvert the Valkyrie and Hawkeye to his will, and soon the attack on Atlantis proceeds.  Fortunately, Strange and the Silver Surfer enter the fray, arriving in time to block the Ghost's access to cosmic rays and thus cancel his control over his thralls--after which he and Attuma are both summarily dealt with.

Hawkeye's stay with the Defenders would last only a few issues, his departure coinciding with writer Steve Englehart's (and pretty much the bulk of the Defenders)--but he was of course present and accounted for when the Defenders came into conflict with those who started this ball rolling for him in the first place.

Both teams being victims of misconception due to a plot by Loki and the dread Dormammu to obtain an object of power known as the Evil Eye, the event comes to be known as the 1973 Avengers Defenders War--in part made possible by Strange's efforts to restore the Black Knight, turned to stone by the Enchantress, to his human form. The news that the Avengers have moved to counter the Defenders' efforts to recover the Eye in order to help the Knight, a former Avenger, understandably hits Hawkeye like a bucket of ice water--but there's no question of where his loyalties lie in this conflict. Assuming his brashness doesn't get his head handed to him before then.

As for who Hawkeye meets in combat, it would admittedly have been a toss-up between the Swordsman, who ended up facing the Valkyrie... or another person he clashed with when he was just starting out, one whose fighting style and vulnerabilities he has come to know well, and who has unfortunately already taken possession of the Eye. But not for long.

In the battle that follows, Hawkeye uses his wits and skill to prevail, beating a quick path away from the site with his prize. Though when the two teams finally meet and compare notes, it's clear that his harsh feelings toward his former teammates have yet to run their course.

Thus, with the crisis averted, and the mission to help the Knight about to commence, Hawkeye takes stock of his situation and realizes that he's back to square one in terms of the goals he set for himself following his departure from the Avengers.

And so it comes to pass, for both Namor and our pensive archer.

Hawkeye would begin his gradual return to the Avengers when he stepped in to help rescue the team from the machinations of Kang the Conqueror. In light of his storied career, his time with the Defenders could be seen as no more than a blip on the radar; yet aside from the Valkyrie, he was one of the first "ringers" to be brought into the group and thus help to keep the core trio of Strange, Namor, and the Hulk from looking as if they had indeed cemented their status as a formal group and were functioning as such, while also setting the stage for Nighthawk, Luke Cage, et al. to be tapped to help supplement the ever-changing Defenders roster.


Anonymous said...

I think the ever-changing roster was this book's best feature.
It was interesting to see very different characters, like Luke Cage and the new Red Guardian interact with each other. Or Hellcat and Val, Nighthawk and Moonknight. Even Howard the Duck briefly joined in some Marvel Treasury addition or other. Talk about yer titanic team-ups.
It was cool to see Hawkeye roll with 'em for a while. Although having him hang around the Hulk for very long seems to me like a bad idea.
Great post!


Comicsfan said...

I remember catching a glimpse of a few scenes from that Treasury Edition, M.P.--I think it was Gene Colan's art that drew my attention in the first place. I can't say I ever became any sort of fan of HTD, though I'm mildly curious to read that story from start to finish--maybe some rainy day with a cup of hot chocolate. :D

Anonymous said...

I meant "Edition"...whoops!
The rate I'm going I'm gonna have to repeat grammar school.
At least now I'll be the tallest kid.

M.P., slightly mortified

pete doree said...

Clint's in my top 5 characters ever. As I've said on my blog, he's your best drinking buddy who just happens to be a superhero instead of a dock worker or mechanic. A total doofus, but with a heart of gold.
He could never've sprung from DC, put it that way.

Comicsfan said...

The top 5 is high praise for him, Pete. I've grown to like his film counterpart, as well--the two are quite different, but they did a good job with his character there. (And adding what seems like a good bit of Mockingbird to his abilities didn't hurt.)

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