Doctor: Got yourself pretty banged up there, Mr. Barton… shattered pelvis… three broken ribs… sprained your neck, cracked your fibia… left clavicle, right ulna… and your spleen nearly ruptured.
Clint: Pssh. Thought you said I was hurt, doc… Paleolithic. I looked it up.
Clint: Feels like I got hit by a truck.
Maria Hill: Shot in the chest point blank. Vest or not, that’s gonna bruise.
Nick Fury: Cracked a few ribs. Bruised your liver.
Kate: You hit your head pretty hard, too.
Clint: But we won, right? Everything turned out okay?
A lot of the fun of Hawkeye is that it is a series told in short stories—one or two issues at a time, and you get a complete beginning-middle-end. However, that doesn’t mean that the different parts aren’t connected, even though they can stand on their own. Because issue five is the end of the first implied arc, this seems like as good a time as any to see what’s been building over the first few months of this book.
So here we have the first scene of the first issue, and the last scene of issue five. Clint’s been getting banged up since the book began—and long before that; his love affair with leg casts is well-documented—but that isn’t just to prove how human he is, how vulnerable. Really, all of Clint’s injuries, from the bandage across his nose in issue one to his bloody footprints in issue five, are showing us how far he is willing to go. He jumps off a building in issue one to make a shot—and we don’t even know what that shot was for. That’s not important. What is important is that Clint was willing to risk spraining his neck and breaking his leg to make it.
By issue five we’ve learned some things—there’s definitely a reason that the first hospital scene is Clint alone with an anonymous doctor, and the second is Clint aboard the hellicarrier surrounded by people who know him. We know the precise stakes of his injuries in the second scene—he was protecting other people, namely Kate and the unnamed Navy Seals.
There’s also a sense that Clint fumbles into his injuries, that perhaps he doesn’t have to get this beat up this often, but he does it anyway because he can’t do anything by halves. To come back to issue one’s refrain of “it’s not like I have superpowers,” these moments of vulnerability, of almost gleeful humanity, underscore that point and at the same time dismiss it. Yes, Clint doesn’t have superpowers. But he can get the hell beaten out of him on an almost daily basis and keep going, keep protecting who he needs to protect and doing what he needs to do.
From Hawkeye Volume 4 #01 (Matt Fraction & David Aja) and #05 (Matt Fraction & Javier Pulido)