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Does Hawkeye Suck? An In-Depth Exploration

Everyone has different opinions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but over the course of the entire, sprawling saga, there seems to be one thing that people generally agree on: Hawkeye sucks. 

He can't match up with the other heroes in the Avengers, either in terms of power level or character development, and he consistently stands out as the one who doesn't belong on the team. Even actor Jeremy Renner has expressed his disappointment in the character at times. This opinion isn't limited to the films, either — Hawkeye has been around for almost 60 years, and for most of that time, the consensus among comic book fans has also been that Hawkeye sucks. There's a reason he never got his own movie, and there's a reason people aren't sure what to think about his upcoming Disney+ series — folks just don't like Hawkeye.

Is the hate justified, however? Has anyone actually sat down to logically consider whether or not Hawkeye really is the dirt worst? The fact that he hasn't been featured as much as other characters isn't a valid reason in and of itself, and a superhero with as much history as Hawkeye at least deserves a fair trial. 

With that in mind, it's time for an in-depth analysis into the matter. We'll judge Hawkeye in various categories, systematically determining the areas in which he sucks and those in which he doesn't. We will then deliver our final verdict based on how he scores. Does Hawkeye suck? Let's find out.


Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: This is an analysis of Clint Barton, not his one-time trainee and apparent successor, Kate Bishop. There's no need for a lengthy review of whether or not Kate Bishop sucks — anyone even implying such a thing deserves a lifetime of mockery and ridicule. Kate Bishop is great. Period, full stop, end of article.

That said, Kate being great actually is kind of a point in Clint's favor. After all, you don't get Kate without Clint. There would never have been a new Hawkeye if there had never been an original. 

Moreover, Clint also seems to be the gateway for Kate's upcoming arrival in the MCU by way of the "Hawkeye" Disney+ series. While his marginal list of supporting characters and joke of a rogues' gallery hasn't added much to the Marvel catalog as a whole, the introduction of Kate alone is enough to score him points for overall influence. Not to mention the fact that he single-handedly kicked off one of the best ongoing comics in Marvel Comics history — Al Ewing's "Immortal Hulk" — by delivering a mercy killing to Bruce Banner in the third issue of the 2016 event comic "Civil War II." Regardless of how you feel about Clint himself, his existence has been a net benefit to Marvel rather than a net negative.

Ruling: He doesn't suck

Origin story

Every superhero needs an origin story, and the best superhero origin stories are absolutely iconic. Batman watching his parents die, Spider-Man getting bitten, Captain America coming out of the ice — if it's one of the first things you think about when you hear the character's name, you know you've got a winner on your hands. Unfortunately, in this regard, Hawkeye is basically the ultimate loser.

Clint Barton debuted in 1964 in the pages of "Tales of Suspense" #57. If you don't remember it, join the club — "Hawkeye, the Marksman!" is an entirely forgettable Iron Man story that sees Tony Stark engaged in some heroics on Coney Island, where Barton is performing as a carnival archer for a heckling, jeering crowd. Jealous of the attention Iron Man is receiving, Barton puts on a purple costume and decides to use his archery skills to fight crime — only to screw up catching his very first criminal, accidentally making the police think he's the criminal, instead. He's then seduced by the sultry Soviet spy Black Widow and serves as a low-rent Iron Man villain for three issues before randomly declaring his desire to join the Avengers in "Avengers" #16.

His MCU origins aren't great, either — absent his own film, he made his (uncredited) debut in "Thor" by doing nothing. He then spent most of the first "Avengers" movie under mind control. If the test of a superhero's quality is the quality of their origin story, Hawkeye spectacularly fails.

Ruling: He sucks

Character growth

Hawkeye's career as a superhero doesn't start out great in any medium, but it's impossible to ignore how much he grows and changes as the years go on, even while rarely serving as a featured character. 

In the comics, he has a complex relationship with the idea of being an Avenger, and a superhero in general — he quits and rejoins the team on numerous occasions, and while he's been framed as a hero almost from the beginning, he has a moral ambiguity to him that makes him more compelling than his straight-laced companions. 

In the last decade, several prominent Marvel writers have done excellent work with the Hawkeye character, including Matt Fraction's celebrated "Hawkeye" run and David Walker's underrated "Occupy Avengers." These stories, and others, paint the picture of Clint Barton as a man who knows he doesn't fit in with his Avengers teammates, but is just trying to do his best with the tools in his possession. He has more layers than comic book fans have ever given him credit for.

In the MCU, Hawkeye also gets more interesting as he goes along. He and his family unexpectedly form the beating heart of "Avengers: Age of Ultron," a mess of a film that relies far too much on Renner's work as an actor, and his appearance in "Captain America: Civil War" provides a flush of his trademark anti-authority tendencies from the comics. Of course, there's "Avengers: Endgame" to consider, but we'll get to that later.

Ruling: He doesn't suck


Hawkeye's inferiority complex makes him a more interesting character, and there's a legitimate reason for him to have one: He doesn't have any powers. This is also the reason why a lot of fans think he sucks.

He's a master archer, acrobat, and martial artist in peak physical condition and with extraordinary eyesight, which is great, but he's not superhuman. In "Avenging Spider-Man" #4, Clint gives Spider-Man a big speech about how he never misses, because missing would be proof that he doesn't belong on the Avengers. "If I miss," he says, "I'm just another dude with a bow." At the end of that issue, he takes a long, difficult shot, and misses, though he doesn't know it — Spider-Man places the arrow in its target before Clint arrives on the scene, to preserve his confidence. Again, it's great character work, but "just another dude with a bow" is kind of what Hawkeye is, and it's how fans have seen him for decades.

There have been a couple instances of Hawkeye gaining actual superpowers, but those generally have not gone well. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he spent a brief period of time as Goliath, using Pym Particles to change his size, but the less said about those stories (and Hawkeye's costume) the better. Even an alternate version of Hawkeye from an Earth where all the Avengers have been mutated by Terrigen Mists gets an incredibly lame superpower: an extra set of arms.

Ruling: He sucks


While he was technically only a villain for three comic issues, the idea of Clint Barton as a reformed criminal is one that has informed the character's attitude ever since. He's brash, arrogant, and hot-headed, and his problem with authority is one of the main reasons he's been in and out of the Avengers line-up so many times. 

Despite this, Hawkeye's heroic credentials are not in question. In Avengers #174, for example, he single-handedly defeated the Collector, one of the Elders of the Universe, who had either captured or defeated every other member of the team. He also sacrificed his life to save the Avengers by throwing himself and his detonating quiver of explosive arrows into a Kree warship in "Avengers" #502, the ultimate act of heroism. Beyond that, he's frequently seen going out of his way to protect the poor and powerless on a smaller but more human scale than his cosmic-level counterparts.

This devotion to doing the right thing, even if he can't necessarily fight the bad guy, shows up on screen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," most notably when he rescues a Sokovian child from the ruins of the city and is prepared to lose his life in that child's defense. However you feel about Hawkeye in "Endgame," he is the one who initially picks up the Infinity Gauntlet after Thanos destroys Avengers Headquarters, sweeping it away from the Mad Titan's cronies long enough to keep hope alive.

Ruling: He doesn't suck


Hawkeye's romantic history in Marvel Comics is very different from the MCU — but if there's one similarity, it's that being in a relationship with Hawkeye is a terrible idea. Not only does his personality make such a relationship difficult, but the women in Hawkeye's life have a disturbing tendency to die or have other horrible things happen to them. 

His first love in the comics, Black Widow, is shot and recaptured by the Soviets in the same issue Hawkeye joins the Avengers;  his feelings were re-kindled in "Secret Empire," the 2017 storyline in which she dies for good (mostly). His ex-wife, Mockingbird, died in his arms, too. Meanwhile, his brief relationship with the Wasp accidentally led to Wanda Maximoff remembering she used to have children, kicking off the reality-warping events of "Avengers Disassembled" and "House of M" (including Hawkeye's own death). What's worse, when Clint is resurrected after those stories, he tracks down Wanda, who has no memory of what happened or her life as a superhero at all, and ends up sleeping with her. And that's not even getting into his relationships with She-Hulk, or Moonstone, Night Nurse or others.

MCU Clint isn't nearly as much of a womanizer, being a happily married father of three — his MCU family is actually based on the "Ultimates" version of Hawkeye. Of course, Laura and the kids get murdered in "Ultimates 2" #7, and even in the MCU, they get Snapped out of existence by Thanos.

Ruling: He sucks


Speaking of "Secret Empire," we should talk about the fact that Hawkeye steps up in a big way and takes on a leadership role during that series, and it's far from the first time. 

Hawkeye's leadership is actually an important part of his character — he led his first team back in 1984, when he and Mockingbird established the West Coast Avengers, and later he assumes leadership over the team of reformed villains known as the Thunderbolts, molding them into a force for good. The Marvel Comics version of Hawkeye is often presented as a dark reflection of Captain America — a hero with stains on his soul who doesn't always work well with others, but who embraces the idea of being a leader and is consistently able to bring out the best in others, despite his personal struggles to bring out the best in himself.

Considering his relative lack of screen time, MCU Hawkeye is no slouch in this regard, either. He takes on a tactical leadership role during the Battle of New York in "Avengers," helping his teammates be more effective in combat against the Chitauri. He demonstrates similar qualities in "Age of Ultron," when he inspires Wanda Maximoff to fight back against Ultron and become an Avenger (and he inspires her brother, Pietro, to take a bullet), and he inspires Wanda again in "Civil War." Hawkeye might not have superpowers, but he can effectively lead people who do.

Ruling: He doesn't suck


We absolutely cannot make this ruling without talking about "Ronin," the worst version of Hawkeye regardless of medium. He officially takes over the mantle from Maya Lopez (who will also appear in "Hawkeye") in "New Avengers" #33, but while Lopez had a good reason for using the costume and the name — she was in Japan fighting ninjas — Clint Barton never made any sense as a "masterless samurai," and there's never actually a reason given for the change beyond a vague "keep it until you no longer need it" from Lopez. Clint's Ronin phase lasts a depressingly long time, and it never gets any better.

If anything, things are even worse in the MCU. While never actually called "Ronin," Clint clearly adopts this version of the character in "Avengers: Endgame," where he first appears in Japan fighting Yakuza with a samurai sword. While at least this version of the character has a reason for changing his persona—– grief over the death of his family in the Snap — the whole thing is unrelentingly stupid. It's never entirely made clear why Clint's grief leads him to hunt down and murder criminals, and the attempt to make Hawkeye edgier only serves to make him more boring. We'd have vastly preferred he died on Vormir, though sacrificing himself would have been the easy way out. Plus, while he looks pretty dumb wearing the Ronin costume in the comics, nothing could possibly look dumber than the haircut he sports in "Endgame."

Ruling: He sucks

Lucky the Pizza Dog

If we're going to judge Hawkeye by his worst moments, we should also judge him by his best. As previously mentioned, the Matt Fraction "Hawkeye" run isn't just the best Hawkeye comic ever, it's one of the best comics of the last decade, period, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the addition of Lucky. 

In Fraction's "Hawkeye #1," Clint visits the headquarters of the so-called "Tracksuit Mafia," which is being guarded out front by some henchmen with a dog. Clint feeds the dog a piece of pizza. Later, when the henchmen start shooting, the dog returns the favor, biting one of their arms. The henchman responds by kicking the dog into traffic, but Hawkeye manages to save his life, then takes him home and re-names him Lucky (his original name was Arrow). Fraction and his fellow creators even produced an entire issue ("Hawkeye" #11) told entirely from Lucky's point of view — it's an absolute masterclass in experimental comic creation that writer, editor, and podcaster Jay Edidin has said "might be the best comic ever." That's how great Pizza Dog is.

Thus far, there's still no word on whether or not Lucky will be part of the "Hawkeye" streaming series, but in the comics he was taken by Kate Bishop and, in his most recent appearance, was still living with her, so there's always hope. Regardless, the mere existence of Hawkeye's dog provides a crucial last-minute score for Clint Barton.

Ruling: He doesn't suck

Final verdict

It's true that Hawkeye has a terrible origin story, no superpowers, an extremely problematic history with women, and a stint as the worst ninja ever. However, it's also true that he has had an overall positive impact on Marvel Comics and the MCU, demonstrates legitimate growth as a character, engages in breathtaking acts of heroism, displays remarkable leadership skills, and has a dog who likes pizza. 

The numbers don't lie: by a score of 5-4, we can definitively say that despite the narratives around him, Hawkeye does not suck

In fact, compiling this analysis has actually made us significantly more excited for the "Hawkeye" show, in which Clint Barton will finally have the chance to prove he doesn't suck in a story that will finally treat him as a main character. And hey, on the off chance we're wrong and the show tips the scales back in favor of "Hawkeye sucks," by that point we'll have Kate Bishop around to redeem the name.