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September 24, 2017

Hitting the Mark: Occupy Avengers #1


Occupy Avengers #1
Marvel Comics, October 2016
Writer: David F. Walker

“Occupy Avengers” is a new miniseries from American publisher Marvel Comics that focuses on a character named Clint Barton. This is the alter ego of bow and arrow-wielding superhero Hawkeye. In this story, Barton travels across the U.S. looking for the kind of problems that usually get overlooked by Marvel Comics’ premier superhero group, the Avengers, in favor of sensational and flashy fights against supervillains or otherworldly threats. The title itself implies that the comic will delve into social issues that the post-Global Financial Crisis “Occupy” movement has become synonymous with.

The events in “Occupy Avengers” #1 are set after the events of Marvel Comics’ title “Civil War II: The Accused” (which we have reviewed before), with Clint Barton fresh off an acquittal from a criminal trial involving Barton’s murder of the Incredible Hulk’s alter-ego, Bruce Banner. “Occupy Avengers” hints that Barton is seen by many of his superhero colleagues as a traitor for murdering a friend (not knowing that Banner himself specifically asked Barton to do the deed). On the other hand, the general public sees Barton as a relatable, everyman hero. In some ways, the title is reminiscent of Denny O’Neal’s controversial work on “Green Lantern / Green Arrow” (DC Comics, 1970).

Despite the title of the comic, the first issue seems to be less of a story about the societal ills that the Occupy movement focuses on, and more of a story about Clint Barton finding his place in the grand scheme of things. Readers expecting a layered story where Hawkeye takes on a corrupt corporation or government may end up disappointed. In a mirror of contemporary events, there is apparently an evil corporation and connected to the water supply of a native American settlement being poisoned. But that element of the story is painted in such broad strokes that it comes off as hokey and cartoonish. A hero whose repertoire consists of trick arrows and superior marksmanship is ill-suited for the purpose of taking on greedy capitalists. In our view, topics like these are better handled by characters with a more worldly approach. Marvel Comics’ character property Iron Man would have been a better choice: the character has the resources and experience necessary to beat the enemy at their own game. Instead we get Hawkeye in a shootout with a group of paid mercenaries and a hired thug with water powers.

That is not to say that “Occupy Avengers” is not worth reading. It is, but the real meat lies not with how relevant it is to current events or with any specific idealogy, but with the handling of Clint Barton as a character. The character is portrayed as disillusioned with superheroics in general, a far cry from actor Jeremy Renner’s optimistic portrayal of the hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which we assume will be the point of reference to many new fans of the character).

Nonetheless, Hawkeye has the slow realization that there are entire segments of society that could use help, but do not get it because Like most American superhero team concepts, the Avengers are only interested in problems that can be punched in the face, with the visual dynamism which manifests from the stylised violent art of the superhero genre. This title pulls aside the curtain and looks beyond existential threats to humanity. The story also touches on the oft-mentioned critique against the character – that he is basically a regular guy who is kind of good with a bow and arrow, fighting alongside thunder gods, giant behemoths, and super soldiers. In this regard, “Occupy Avengers” #1 is successful as a character study. Mr Walker understands and knows how to handle the hero and his trick arrows.

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