By: Matt Fraction (story), Annie Wu (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors)

The Story: It’s never a good day to find out your dad’s involved with a very bad woman.

The Review: Hawkeye has always operated on a loose structure, with an improvised quality that encourages Fraction, Wu, and David Aja to take the title in unexpected directions. This is especially the case for the Kate Bishop side of things, since her youth, inexperience, and utter lack of resources leave her no choice except to fake it until she makes it. This would be fine if you didn’t get the niggling feeling that Fraction’s doing the exact same thing.

Obviously, there is very little wrong (and everything right) about the premise of Kate broke and stuck in L.A., embroiled in a vendetta with Madame Masque. And if every issue of this series was about nothing except that, we’d have a very large time indeed. But this whole system of coming back to Kate’s story every couple months or so results in done-in-one chapters that don’t quite mesh once you try to fit them together. The standalone #16 is the best example, although really, it’s only been since #18 that we got the sense of an overarching plot.

With that in mind, the fact that Fraction jumps to a conclusion here feels premature. We simply don’t know enough about anything to be terribly invested in how they end up: [Spoiler alert!] Harold’s miraculous revival and ultimate betrayal of Kate; the discovery of Kate’s dad among Masque’s clients; Kate getting bailed out by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s sudden, inexplicable, entirely too convenient raid. All these things, which would normally pack a hefty punch, wimp out from deficiency of substance.

Because let’s be honest here: you don’t really give a crap about Caudle, Harold, or even Marcus and Finch. Caudle never does rise above the crusty archetype he feared he’d become; Harold remains an amoral enigma wrapped in a trenchcoat (which seems all the douchier now that you know he’s not a legitimate P.I.); and aside from their liberal-pandering homosexuality, Marcus and Finch have shown little personality in proportion to the seemingly infinite support they’ve given to Kate. For the love of Mike, they somehow manage to hook her up with a sweet ride for her trip home, which makes you wonder why the hell they couldn’t have done that six issues ago.*

That’s the problem right there: with only six issues of Hawkeye since Kate first got stranded in L.A., that means we’ve only had three issues actually centered on her adventures in the City of Angels, and that’s not enough to really get immersed in anything. Fraction definitely had quite a bit work to do before he could realistically call it a day, which you can tell not only by how he reduces Kate’s other cases into a single-page montage, but also by the fact that you finish the issue thinking that Masque is truly a lame villain. Fraction may be trying to show how awesome Kate is by having her outwit the villainess time after time, but conversely, it makes Masque look like a loser. How else does a crime boss let herself get punked by a kid with near-zero resources every time?**

While Fraction’s script falls short in many areas, Wu’s art does not. Her strong, careful etching puts in so much emotional richness into the characters and their doings that they very nearly paper over some of the story’s defects. Kate’s reactions always feel real in the moment, whether it’s her rage at Harold’s trickery, horror at her dad’s complicity in Masque’s crimes, or gratitude for Marcus and Finch’s friendship. There’s not much substance backing up these scenes, but Wu makes you think there is.

Conclusion: Entertaining enough, but it could have been so, so much more.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * Or how about instead of $2,000 for Kate to drive herself home, Marcus and Finch spend $300 to book her a one-way flight (and throw in a little extra for the mutt)? Do people not know about in the Marvel U?

** Also, and this is not to be overlooked, I find it incredible that Kate’s able to get all that information on the “second or third terminal I tried,” considering this is the same girl who couldn’t Google an answer to “how to be a private detective in California” in #14.