Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hawkeye Limited Series #4 (December 1983)

Title: Till Death Do Us Part
Cover: Mark Gruenwald, Bob Layton
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Pencils: Mark Gruenwald
Inks: Danny Bulanadi
Background Assistant: Eliot Brown
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: Joe Rosen
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.60
Cover Date: December1983
Release Date:  August 1983
Synopsis: The finale of the Hawkeye Limited Series opens with Hawkeye and Mockingbird shackled to the wall in the coffin-filed basement of a mortuary. They soon meet their nemesis, who identifies himself as Crossfire and explains his origins as a CIA agent who went rogue and became a mercenary for hire.  In order to prevent future opposition to his nefarious schemes, Crossfire initially hatched a plot to eliminate all superheroes, which was thwarted by Moon Knight and The Thing in MarvelTwo-In-One #52 (June 1979).

Crossfire’s new plot involves a machine that can send sonic subliminal messages to directly stimulate the rage centers of living brains, which he plans to use on all of the heroes that attend Hawkeye’s funeral.  He believes that he can make the heroes savagely attack each other, resulting in the slaughter of many of the weaker heroes and undermining the confidence of the survivors who will be wracked with guilt and likely subject to incarceration or government regulation.

Crossfire tells Hawkeye that he was chosen because he was the weakest and most vulnerable costumed crime fighter in town and he intends to test out his rage machine on him and Mockingbird.  After being deposited in a special room by Bombshell and Oddball, Hawkeye and Mockingbird are driven to mortal combat by Crossfire’s rage machine.  They fight savagely in what is a remarkably evenly matched contest, although Mockingbird is clearly more skilled at hand-to-hand combat.

During the melee, Crossfire turns off the machine in order to see how long it takes for the heroes to return to normal. This respite gives Hawkeye the opportunity to activate a sonic arrowhead that he had concealed in his tunic pouch.  He places the arrowhead in his mouth, which blocks the effect of Crossfire’s rage machine and allows him to think clearly when the fight begins again.  With a clear head, Hawkeye is able to beat Mockingbird, knocking her unconscious and then pretending to pass out himself.

Believing that Mockingbird is dead and Hawkeye is unconscious from his injuries, Crossfire has Bombshell and Oddball retrieve their bodies.  Hawkeye is able to incapacitate both of the minions and runs off to track down Crossfire.  He finds the villain waiting for him, armed with his bow and arrow.  To Crossfire’s surprise, he doesn’t have the strength to draw Hawkeye’s longbow and the concussion arrow falls the ground and explodes. 

“Weakest hero in town, am I, sucker? Then what does that make you?  You didn’t have the strength to pull my 250 pound bow!” quips Hawkeye.

With Crossfire out of action, Hawkeye runs back to find Mockingbird, breaking into tears when he thinks that he’s killed her.  Fortunately she stirs and they embrace. The ending of the comic is really great because it’s a twist on the happy romantic ending that you would assume.  Mockingbird declares herself to Hawkeye, but the hero is deaf because of the effect of the sonic arrowhead and just nods his head, pretending to understand what she was saying and then walking away to her complete surprise.

But… There is of course a happy ending as the last page of the issue finds our two heroes in a heart-shaped hot tub on their honeymoon at a resort in the Pocono Mountains in New York. 

The Hawkeye Limited Series was the hero’s first real solo adventure and a compelling look at a hero in the real world with a job and life outside of the Avengers. Having just read it all again, it’s a fun series that stands the test of time as a story that is as important and definitive in its own way for Clint Barton as Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Wolverine Limited Series for Logan.  Hawkeye goes from being a solid second string character to a strong solo lead. He gets a new costume, saves the Marvel Universe from a nefarious plot, gets married and starts life down a new path that that ultimately leads to the formation of the West Coast Avengers and solidifies Hawkeye as one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Universe. 

Those were sweeping developments for the House of Ideas that seemed to want to preserve their characters unchanged for all time.  It was early days for Marvel’s Limited Series format that allowed it to really add depth to the characters in its universe and Kudos to Mark Gruenwald who really flexed his creative muscles with this story.  His rare turn as an artist really pays off because it’s clear how important this story was for him.

Source:  Kraalo Archives, Marvel Comics
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