“The Search for She-Hulk, Part 3: Sticks and Stones”
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins
You have to love the guy for trying. And even after his head has plowed a forest, his quiver’s been emptied of trick arrows, and his ribs have cracked, he still won’t quit. In Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’ “The Search for She-Hulk, Part 3: Sticks and Stones”, Hawkeye battles, one-on-one, with the enraged and power-enhanced She-Hulk, until Bruce Banner arrives with assistance—or more destruction.
Hawkeye’s arrival brings humor, action, and raised stakes to THE AVENGERS. Flawlessly portrayed by Geoff Johns, the character is full of wit and bravado, courage and fortitude. The opening spread’s narrative completely captures the essence of Hawkeye as he relishes in the self-proclaimed fact that he is perfect—“always has been”—yet remains focused on saving lives; sacrificially, he uses himself as bait to draw She-Hulk away from a half-demolished town. What he ends up leading her to is her cousin, Bruce Banner, who is also skillfully represented by Johns as an assertive, dismissive, but sensitive man.
Though, in spite of the strong characterizations and accelerated pacing, the story continues to feel unnecessarily stretched. For example, Hawkeye spends a few pages recollecting his past, a past that is fully detailed in the recap page. And the scenes between Banner and She-Hulk are slow, especially during a slightly sappy moment where Banner recites a passage from THE SCARLET LETTER. Still, the story ends with a rousing cliffhanger, one that promises such potential for danger that even Hawkeye runs for cover—funny, since he intentionally activates the threat.
In fact, Hawkeye is constantly running in this issue, a fortunate element since Scott Kolins’ strength is in the portrayal of motion. The most impressive scenes all include motion—Hawkeye smoothly dodging She-Hulk’s rage in a bowling alley, the blurring speed of his motorcycle as he leads She-Hulk away from town, and the painful sequence of impacts Hawkeye suffers while crashing through a forest. Yet, when the motion stops, the focus is unfortunately drawn to the characters’ faces, plagued with exaggerated expressions.
In the opening spread, Hawkeye’s traditionally smug grin is amplified into an uncharacteristically loony laugh, which is downright clownish. When comforting a worried mother, Captain America’s sympathetic but reassuring countenance is undermined by his little boy pout. When Hawkeye has an idea, his face balloons as if his head is unaccustomed to the pressures of thinking; and a light-bulb flashes over him. The effect of these extreme expressions is a belittling of the heroes. But possibly the most distracting element of the art was the embarrassing lack of color in Hawkeye’s blood. That was blood, wasn’t it?
Hawkeye’s return to THE AVENGERS is the highlight of this issue as his dialogue and action spice up this story-arc and ends the issue with a thrill. Geoff Johns’ handle of the characters is impressive; but though the art is well detailed and excellent with action, it’s less successful in capturing the expressions appropriate to these characters.
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