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Why Hawkeye will be more important than you think in Endgame

Avengers: Infinity War, the nineteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, had just about everything a Marvel fan could want — well, except for a happy ending and a couple of other glaring omissions. While big daddy Thanos came down to Earth to complete his decade-long quest to obtain the Infinity Stones, fans of Paul Rudd's Ant-Man and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye were left out in the cold. We remain convinced that their participation would have turned the tide of battle — unlike Thor, Hawkeye definitely would have gone for the head. Oh well.

The costs of the battle proved devastating, with Thanos succeeding in his goal of wiping out fifty percent of all life in the universe, many Avengers included. But while the Earth's Mightiest Heroes didn't put a stop to Thanos, Thanos likewise didn't manage to finish off the team. Now, Hawkeye is coming back to finish the job in the second part of the fight, Avengers: Endgame. But this time around, he's bringing a different, darker attitude, and perhaps even a whole new name. Here are all the reasons why the man once known as Hawkeye will be more important than you might think in Avengers: Endgame.

Where was he?

As the list of movies in the MCU advances deeper into double digits, it can be harder for the average viewer to keep up. Some people might have questions about just why Renner's Hawkeye — also known by his real name of Clint Barton — sat out the team's biggest fight yet. It certainly wasn't cowardice — it should be obvious that a guy who's fought aliens, robots, a trickster god and the Avengers themselves isn't scared of all that much. So what gives?

You may recall the momentous events of Captain America: Civil War, which saw the Avengers fracturing along ideological lines around the question of superhero registration. Long story short, Barton aligned himself with Team Cap, resisting the idea of governmental oversight. At the time, the U.S. government in the MCU had recently been proven to be utterly infested with Hydra pseudo-Nazis, so why trust them?

Civil War ended in something of a loss for Captain America's side of the fight, with most of his team being locked up in the super-prison known as the Raft before Cap himself broke everyone out. At that point, Cap began roaming the world with a team of secret Avengers, with the exception of Scott and Clint. The two family men declined to go on the run, instead working out their own deals with the government. Scott went under house arrest, and Clint presumably retired to be with his family. It was more or less a happy ending… what could go wrong?

Nothing to lose

Of course, everything went wrong at the end of Infinity War. Just like that, half the universe was dead and dusted — including, we can assume, Clint's entire family. At least, that's what the first trailer for Avengers: Endgame seems to want us to think, pointedly flashing to Clint Barton in the streets of Japan while Captain America's voiceover discusses the family members people lost to Thanos' decimation. 

As we've pointed out elsewhere, it's hard to imagine Clint deciding to buy a plane ticket for a trip around the world to go publicly stab Yakuza to death if he still has family at home. It just seems a little bit extra, you know? No, this Clint looks like a man with a sunken soul, a murderous mood, and nothing left to lose. He's also got a kickass samurai-inspired new outfit, with a sword as his weapon and no arrows in sight. If you're familiar with his whole story in the comics, you know he's probably not going by the name of Hawkeye anymore. That's right, folks — it's time to meet a new hero. Goodbye, Hawk Guy. Hello, Ronin.

The mantle of Ronin

Rumors of Clint taking up a new superhero identity post-Infinity War have been swirling in the geek-o-sphere since before the movie even saw release, with his conspicuous absence from the movie's marketing leading many to look to the comic books for clues. With the release of the Endgame trailer, it looks like those rumors are confirmed.

While he's more popularly known as Hawkeye, Clint has taken on other names before, including a brief stint as the size-changing Goliath in the 1960s. In 2007, he took up the mantle of another hero in the pages of The New Avengers, adopting the role of Ronin

Clint, the second Ronin, inherited the new identity following a rather tumultuous time in his life — specifically, his own unexpected death. After being killed during the reality-shattering events of the House of M story arc, Clint returned to the land of the living feeling understandably shaken. After a short time spent soul-searching, he joined the New Avengers with the Ronin identity, taking over for original hero Maya Lopez, who was first introduced as a Daredevil supporting character. 

As Ronin, Clint showed off his combat skills beyond the bow, taking coaching and encouragement he had previously received from Captain America and putting it to good use as a more well-rounded fighter. But while he spent some time showing off his skills with a blade, he never quite put away the bow and arrow. After three years in the role of Ronin, he returned to his Hawkeye roots in 2010.

Skrull capping?

While Clint was in the Ronin identity, he and the other Avengers faced off with a new threat in the Secret Invasion storyline: the shape-shifting Skrulls, which are only now being introduced to the MCU through the Captain Marvel marketing. In Secret Invasion, many superheroes and their allies turn out to secretly be Skrulls, wearing the faces of established heroes to further a nefarious invasion plot. Ronin is one of the heroes who helps beat the threat back. Considering the timing, we have to wonder — is that what the movie Ronin is up to as well?

We know that Captain Marvel will be setting up the Skrulls as a major threat, perhaps laying the foundation of essentially the next Infinity Gauntlet-style overarching plot. Whether they're secretly wearing the faces of familiar heroes or not, it seems possible that Endgame will also feature a Skrull presence — and that may be what Clint is up to in Japan in the Endgame trailer. 

Some unsourced rumors have been circulating for months regarding Ronin's possible activities in Japan, with some speculating that he may be hunting Skrulls as a part of some plot we don't know about yet. Part of that rumor, about Clint being up to something in Japan, appears to have now come true, meaning this story element may really have been leaked. So, is Ronin fighting Skrulls? We don't know for sure — but it makes about as much sense as him randomly hunting down Yakuza.

The surest shot

The "Ronin vs. Skrulls in Japan" rumor seems to come partially from a casting notice for Endgame which called for actors who were comfortable wearing facial prosthetics — which could indicate a lot of things besides an alien Skrull presence. Another rumor going around is based on even less evidence — but in the absence of concrete info, it still seems worth talking about. 

Some online chatter, supposedly from people who would know, indicates that Ronin will play a huge role when it comes to ultimately defeating Thanos. While you should always take these rumors with a grain of salt, it's worth noting that this particular rumor, sourced from a Reddit post at r/MarvelStudiosSpoilers, has so far gotten a heck of a lot of info right. Lucky guess, or a real leak? Let's get into the specifics, and you can decide for yourself.

According to that rumor, as well as an alternative source, Ronin will be involved with a plot to build a second Infinity Gauntlet. After creating a second gauntlet, the Avengers will hop through time to capture different Infinity Stones before Thanos gets his hands on them — something that, based on leaked location photos of past setpieces being recreated for Endgame, seems very plausible. Specifically, it's rumored that Ronin will have a scene in which he is forced to defend the new gauntlet from Thanos' minions. We don't know if this is true, but we also don't yet know anything that would disprove it, and that's what makes the rumor interesting.

Passing the bow

Regardless of whether or not Clint spends Endgame fighting Skrulls or building a new golden glove, there's reason to believe he'll be essential to setting up the next phase of the MCU. After all, Endgame is an end of an era — whether they die or just hang up their metaphorical capes forever, a lot of these heroes are probably never coming back. For the first time in series history, it's time for a new generation of young Avengers to take over — and in the comics, Hawkeye has one heck of a protégé. 

While Clint Barton is Marvel Comics' first Hawkeye, he's not the only one. Since in 2005, Barton has had a mentor/mentee relationship with a younger archer named Kate Bishop, an equally powerful wielder of the bow and arrow. Since her first appearance in the pages of Young Avengers, she's popped up in a wide array of Marvel comics, even headlining her own series starting in 2016. She's long overdue for an MCU appearance, and how's she going to learn how to be a superhero if the original Hawkeye isn't around to pass the mantle, either in Endgame or beyond?

Also — we're just going to leave this here — it was reported in October that Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why was secretly cast in Endgame in an undisclosed role. We know what character she looks like, but whether she'll pick up the bow as Kate Bishop is still yet to be determined. Our thoughts are somewhere in between "maybe" and "probably."

Small screen setup?

Maybe Clint won't pass on his Hawkeye mantle in Endgame. After all, there's already a lot going on in this story. But what about what comes after?

Let's start with the things we know. In September 2018, Variety broke the bombshell news that Marvel Studios was developing TV shows for the upcoming Disney+ streaming service, focusing first on the characters of Loki and Scarlet Witch. These aren't like the Netflix shows — these would be real deal MCU productions, starring the movie actors, and made with movie budgets and with movie continuity in mind. A month later, Variety reported that another series was in the works centering on Falcon and the Winter Soldier — or as we like to think of them, the future Captains America. In the weeks following that news breaking, it was reported by MCU Cosmic that another project is being developed for the two Hawkeyes, with a plot centering on Clint Barton training a successor who could, based on the comics, really only be Kate Bishop.

In other words, we're pretty sure that Clint is going to survive Endgame. And while he may retire afterwards, he won't do it without passing on the bow to another hero — one who will likely carry his legacy into MCU Phase 4 and beyond. It's worth remembering that these are still just rumors and reports, with nothing official announced, but keep an eye on these developments. Not only does it all feel pretty believable, it also sounds really, really fun.

The original six

There's a reason why characters like Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, and almost all of the Guardians of the Galaxy ended up dead by the end credits of Infinity War. While we can probably count on the MCU continuing indefinitely at this point, Endgame is most certainly a final chapter for the heroes who started it all. 

Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner — these guys were there at the beginning, and their stories are just about finished. While we know for a fact that Black Widow is getting her own movie soon — not to mention the rumored Hawkeye solo project — this is probably the last time the original six Avengers will get a chance to appear in a movie together. Doesn't that pluck your heartstrings? Even the most jaded moviegoer has got to see some beauty in the prospect of one last ride for the original heroes behind this most improbable pop culture phenomenon.

We now have our very first look at some Endgame footage, but we really have no idea where this story is going. We have hints, rumors, and credible clues, but the whole shape of things is still a mystery, and that's exciting. Fans around the world are waiting breathlessly to see how this story concludes, and with all the newer heroes temporarily sidelined, it's hard to see this movie as anything but a curtain call for Clint Barton and company. Considering Marvel's track record, we're pretty confident they'll stick the landing.