Avengers Solo follows Hawkeye as he gets tangled up in a conspiracy after saving a man's life one night only to find him dead shortly afterwards. The man, Tulio Guzman, has been searching for his sister, Alicia, who disappeared after taking part in a medical study supposedly testing the effects of prenatal calcium in women. Hawkeye soon discovers that there's much more to this study that what it appears to be on the surface, and that its victims believe it's being endorsed by none other than Hawkeye's friend and fellow Avenger, Captain America.
Hawkeye agrees to help the former test subjects from this study, who have now become the targets of those who conducted the study in the first place. Since they've been led to believe that Captain America is involved, they're mistrustful of the Avengers and only accept help from Hawkeye on the condition that he won't involve any of his teammates. This, as the title suggests, forces Hawkeye to separate himself from the other Avengers and their resources. The result is as much detective story as a superhero one — a sort of technological noir that keeps the reader both engaged and guessing with each new plot twist.
With Hawkeye appearing in this summer's Avengers movie, there's been an increase of Hawkeye appearances in recent comics, this one included. However, many of them seem to have forgotten that Hawkeye has done a lot of maturing since his early days on the Avengers, taking his impulsiveness and cockiness to the point of annoyance. In her portrayal, however, Van Meter takes into account Hawkeye's long tenure in the Marvel Universe and manages to blend his impulsive nature with the maturity and knowledge he's gained over the years. What results from that is an exciting yet intelligent version of Hawkeye who, while still being a leap-into-the fray kinda guy, also remembers his training as well as his experience as both a leader and an intelligence operative. Van Meter adeptly uses Hawkeye's impulsiveness and willingness to take chances as compelling parts of his character, avoiding the trap of making him brash and obnoxiously cocky that many writers fall into. She makes Hawkeye both likeable and someone the reader wants to identify with and, in turn, makes him a compelling character to read as he breaks out on his own and defines himself outside of the Avengers.
Accompanying the stellar writing is the impressive art. Along with the plot itself, the art takes a page from noir, with dark colors and shadows serving as a kind of "mood lighting" for the story. This isn't a flashy, brightly-colored superhero story, and the art reflects that expertly. The writing and the visuals intertwine to tell the story together, with neither detracting from the other.
The storytelling and pacing remain strong over all five issues, continuing to bring in twists, turns, and surprises up through the very end. Van Meter manages to wrap up the story nicely without making it feel rushed or forced, and while there's still work left to do for the women Hawkeye agreed to help, his journey with them is brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The final scene with Hawkeye, Iron Man and Captain America is a touching look at the strength of Hawkeye's character and the bond he has with his teammates, and shows exactly why he's worthy of having the title of Avenger.
Along with the main story is a back-up story, written by Jim McCann with art by Clayton Henry, that centers around Avengers Academy and its move to the West Coast. After discovering the reactivation of the lab he once shared with Dr. Myron MacLain, Hank Pym takes fellow faculty member Tigra and students Finesse and Striker to Death Valley to investigate. Once there, their quinjet is shot down, and what started off as a "field trip" becomes a hands-on lesson in the being an Avenger. McCann's writing is, as always, witty and engaging, and this story's addition to Avengers Solo is getting two great stories for the price of one.
Whether you're a fan of Hawkeye, detective stories, Avengers Academy, or just good art and storytelling, Avengers Solo is a limited series worth picking up.
Sara McDonald started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.