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The Untold Truth Of Hawkeye's Swordsman, Jacques Duquesne

For a character with only a relative handful of appearances and whose official death was nearly 50 years ago, the Swordsman has a powerful legacy in the Marvel Universe. First appearing in "The Avengers," Volume 1, #19, the Swordsman becomes a recurring enemy of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and later an official member of the team. Originally a carny performer specializing in sword tricks, the man whose real name is Jacques Duquesne is also deeply tied into Hawkeye's story. Duquesne, in fact, saw Clint Barton's natural talent and trained him as his sidekick and partner. But the Swordsman's criminal ways eventually cause their split and lead to more conflict down the road.

Duquesne is an interesting character because while he is a thief, he isn't a psychopath — he doesn't want to be a killer and longs to be accepted. However, he is always kind of a pathetic character despite the powerful gimmicks in his sword, and he frequently feels sorry for himself. While Duquesne dies a hero, he makes surprising appearances even after his death. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he appears as Jack Duquesne, the sleazy fiance of Eleanor Bishop. That's the mother of Kate Bishop, who in the comics takes on Hawkeye's name when he is presumed dead. Later, they team up. In the "Hawkeye" show on Disney+, Kate forces Jack to reveal just how skilled he is with a sword. 

Let's take a look at the life, death, and legacy of this early, forgotten Avenger.

Carny life with Clint Barton

When Hawkeye hears that the Swordsman confronted the Avengers, the brash bowman is petrified. Indeed, he realizes that the costumed swashbuckler is the same man who took him on as his protege in the circus. 

Clint Barton and his brother Barney were both orphans who made their way to the circus. The Swordsman could see Clint's talent but had no use for Barney, who became a roustabout. The Swordsman teaches Clint how to throw blades and then directs the circus' ace archer, Trick Shot, to train the boy as well. Eventually, the Swordsman and young Clint become a popular act, but Duquesne has a gambling problem and robs the circus' payroll to pay for it. 

Clint barges in on the Swordsman, who tells the young man that he was now part of his operation. When Clint refuses, the Swordsman chases after him up on the highwire. The Swordsman easily deflects Clint's arrows and then cuts the rope, seemingly sending Clint to his death. But he survives to become Hawkeye, and the Swordsman doesn't know Hawkeye is Clint until Egghead hires him to kill Goliath. Notably, Swordsman takes the job because he wants to prove he is still Barton's superior. But while Swordsman manages to capture him, Hawkeye turns the tables, defeating Egghead (his brother's murderer) and saving Swordsman as Goliath with a makeshift bow and arrow. It is perhaps the Swordsman's most humiliating defeat. 

The forgotten Avenger

In the Swordsman's very first appearance, he states a desire to become an Avenger: "No one questions a man with an Avengers' ID card! If I can join their team, there's nothing I won't be able to get away with!" The Swordsman presents as a mirror version of Hawkeye, a former criminal who joins the Avengers to prove that he wants to do the right thing. To prove himself, Hawkeye breaks into Avengers Mansion and ties up Jarvis. When Swordsman decides he wants to join, he also breaks in, attacking Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. 

As the Swordsman is losing, he feigns that he was only testing them and wants to join. Captain America looks up his criminal record and refuses, and the Swordsman flees. In an ill-advised scheme, the Swordsman leads Cap into a trap and threatens to throw him off a building if the other Avengers don't make him their leader. Cap gets out of the predicament, and they beat the Swordsman, only to see him disappear.

The Mandarin captures the Swordsman and sends him back to the Avengers as his operative. Swordsman tricks the Avengers using an illusion of Iron Man, telling him to take the Swordsman as a new member. After Swordsman officially becomes an Avenger, he is supposed to destroy them with a bomb. When he has second thoughts and tries to disarm it, the team sees him as a traitor. He flees and becomes an enemy of both the Avengers and the Mandarin.

Death of an Avenger

One of the most memorable issues of "The Avengers" was "Giant-Size Avengers," Volume 1, #2. In this issue, Kang the Conqueror rolls up to Avengers Mansion and mops the floor with Thor, Iron Man, and Vision. He then declares that one of Mantis, the Scarlet Witch, or Agatha Harkness is destined to be the Celestial Madonna and give birth to the Celestial Messiah. His plan is to marry the correct woman and rule the universe through his offspring. Afterward, Kang places the captured Avengers inside Macrobot armor and plans to use them to start World War III. He also defeats the Swordsman but considers him beneath his attention.

An increasingly unhinged Swordsman is contacted by Agatha Harkness, who draws him to Egypt. There, Rama-Tut (a future version of Kang) stops him from attacking Kang and instead takes him back to Avengers Mansion. He finds his old friend/foe Hawkeye here, and Rama-Tut secretly leads them to fight each Macrobot. The two least powerful Avengers defeat the first one when Rama-Tut reveals that Vision was inside, so Hawkeye hits him with a goop arrow that prevents him from taking in the solar energy he needs. 

After they free the other Avengers, Kang is defeated. However, after determining that Mantis is the Madonna, he tries to kill her. The Swordsman jumps in front of the blast and soon dies as a tearful Mantis rues her decision. His agonizing last words are, "I'm just ... one of those people ... who doesn't ... count."

A strange romance with Mantis

When the Swordsman decides to rejoin the Avengers full-time, it's at the behest of his girlfriend Mantis, the Vietnamese empath and martial artist. When they first rejoin, they seem to be in league with the Black Panther's enemy, the Lion God. However, it's a ruse, as they lead the Lion God into a trap and save the day. 

Things go fine for the Swordsman until he sustains an injury at the hands of Valkyrie that grows infected. Sitting out a battle with the Zodiac, Vision rescues Mantis from being thrown off a building. The combination of the Swordsman's injuries and the Vision's virtues leads Mantis to become attracted to the latter, and the feeling is partly mutual. Mantis recovers from her injuries and springs up to help Vision in battle, only to learn that Libra of the Zodiac was her father. He reveals that her mother was killed by Monsieur Khruul, the crime boss the Swordsman worked for. 

Later, an injured Swordsman tries to kill Khruul, only to accidentally unleash a deadly space dragon. Afterward, Swordsman becomes despondent and thinks that Mantis might leave him, Vision is conflicted about who he loves, and Wanda is jealous of Mantis making a move on the Vision. Ultimately, Mantis goes from being a devoted lover to completely disinterested and contemptuous of the Swordsman. 

Contract work with the Mandarin

The Swordsman is whisked away from his first battle with the Avengers by the Mandarin, who uses his powers of molecular manipulation to bring the swashbuckler to him. The Mandarin conscripts the Swordsman into his service in order to destroy the Avengers. Although the Swordsman resists at first, the Mandarin paralyzes him with his rings, and the Swordsman realizes he is no match for the supervillain and agrees to go along with the plan. Before he sends the Swordsman back to the Avengers with a cover story, the Mandarin tricks out his sword with Makluan technology. With the touch of a button, the sword can now shoot lightning, emit sleep gas, fire a force beam, spit flame, and disintegrate objects.

After the Swordsman betrays the Mandarin, he becomes a free agent sword-for-hire. He and Power Man (another loser supervillain who becomes his frequent partner) are hired by the Black Widow to destroy the Avengers. They try and fail twice, despite the Swordsman still having access to the Avengers' security codes! Swordsman is also hired by the Red Skull to slow down Captain America, which results in another failure. Elsewhere, the Mandarin conscripts him again with a number of other villains. In one instance, the Swordsman and Power Man threaten to destroy a South American city with a giant sword, but the Swordsman is knocked out by the Wasp. Similar things happen when the Swordsman is later hired by Batroc and then the Grim Reaper as part of his Lethal Legion. Nevertheless, the Avengers always stop him.

Multiversal Swordsman

After the Swordsman has been dead for years, the Avengers are greatly surprised to find themselves lured into a trap and attacked by him. Accompanied by a mysterious woman named Magdalene, he accuses the Avengers of leaving him for dead and betraying him. In their further encounters, he repeats this claim, and his intimate knowledge of the Avengers' inner workings seems to back up the idea that this is the actual Swordsman.

In a way, he is. However, instead of being named Jacques Duquesne, he is Phillip Javert from Earth-921. Working for a man named Proctor, he is part of a group called the Gatherers, which visits parallel dimensions and extracts super-beings. When they bring them to Earth-616 (the "home" Marvel universe), Proctor readjusts their brains and makes sure the versions in this universe are dead. When they kidnap an alternate Black Panther called the Coal Tiger, they try to kill T'Challa in Wakanda. Slowly, it dawns on the different Swordsman: these aren't the Avengers that he knew. Indeed, he is from a different universe, one where the Swordsman hasn't died. 

Swordsman turns against Proctor and helps the Avengers, and Magdalene joins him when she learns that Proctor is planning to kill the Swordsman. Proctor turns out to be an alternate version of the Black Knight, who was rejected by Sersi and vowed to kill her in every reality. The Swordsman and Magdalene hang out with the Avengers until they accompany the Squadron Supreme to their home reality. 

A double wedding

Perhaps the most famous comic image of the Swordsman doesn't actually involve the soul of Jacques Duquesne. How did this happen? In one of the weirdest Marvel storylines of all time, writer Steve Englehart ties up Mantis' story by having the Scarlet Witch finally resolve her potential romance with Vision. How does the Swordsman figure into all of this? Well, it's complicated, because this story also reaches back and tells the origins of the Kree-Skrull conflict.

On Hala, the Kree homeworld, two sentient species existed. One was humanoid and became the Kree as they were widely known. The other was the Cotati, and they were a sentient plant species. The Skrulls arrive in their world and offer their technology to the race that most impresses them. The Kree are put on Earth's moon and build the Blue Area, which is an impressive feat of skill. Conversely, the Cotati are put on a barren asteroid but still manage to create a garden. The Skrulls declare the Cotati the victors, and the Kree kill both parties. This sparks the Kree-Skrull War.

A few pacifist Kree take the surviving Cotati, and some wind up on Earth. In the garden where the Swordsman is buried, a Cotati possesses the Swordsman's body. Indeed, his destiny is to marry the Celestial Madonna — Mantis — and conceive a being who was the best of plant and animal species. This is how the glowing, green body of the Swordsman gets married while poor Jacques Duquesne is still dead. 

An anniversary surprise

After battling the Avengers for years as a hired goon, the Swordsman changes his tune in "The Avengers" #100. The Avengers had just returned from space and the Kree-Skrull War when they happen upon a group of violent militants called the Warhawks. They are led by a man with a mohawk named Mr. Tallon, and Thor realizes that this is really Ares — the Olympian god of war — in disguise. Previously, Ares got his hands on the Black Knight's Ebony Blade and turned everyone in Olympus into crystal. Ares escaped but had two servants kidnap Hercules to Olympus.

Captain America has the Black Knight summon everyone who has ever been an Avenger for the rescue mission. This includes the Hulk, who has been on bad terms with the heroes after quitting the team in issue #2. The Swordsman hears the call, steals a Quinjet, and tracks them to the Black Knight's castle. In many ways, this was the start of his turnaround, because he really does put his life on the line for the Avengers, even after trying to kill them more than once. He goes on a splinter team with Cap and Hawkeye — the two men he had fought the most — and helps them defeat the Satyrs whose music is enchanting humans. It isn't long before the Swordsman returns to the team full-time, though he has a few more changes to go through until he does.

The Chaos War

The Swordsman pops up again from time to time. He is plucked out of the timeline to serve in Immortus' Legion of the Unliving. He was one of many dead Avengers resurrected by the Grim Reaper in his vendetta against the team. However, his most prominent resurrection — one that gives him the closure he never received at the end of his life — comes in the Chaos War.

The evil god called the Chaos King tries to destroy everything in existence. He starts by wiping out the Dream Realm but then destroys the rulers of the underworld. This makes the dead rise, and the Dream Realm's destruction causes the living mortals — including the Avengers — to fall asleep. The Grim Reaper pledges himself to the Chaos King in order to kill the hated Avengers once and for all. The resurrected Avengers include Deathcry, Doctor Druid, Captain Mar-Vell, Yellowjacket (Rita DeMara), Vision, and the Swordsman himself. All of these Avengers died in accidental, pointless, or just plain depressing ways and are given a second chance.

The Swordsman makes the most of it. While the others waver, he rallies them by saying that they were given a second chance: "I had to die to find it, but now that I have, I'm not going to give it up!" He and the Dead Avengers defeat the Reaper and protect the Avengers. Ultimately, he dies in the final battle against the Chaos King. 

The coming of the Swordswoman

The Avengers travel to a village in Italy where the entire population disappeared. Here, they learn that their old enemy, Morgan le Fay, is the ruler of this City of the Dead. Hawkeye gets badly injured in an ambush, but Nightmask senses the presence of others. This is where Spider-Woman first encounters Adelynn Duquesne, the Swordswoman. She is a member of the European strike force team Euroforce, which is led by the Black Knight

Swordswoman is the result of a one-night stand — her mom hooked up with Swordsman after meeting him at the circus. Despite being told that her dad was a loser and a criminal, young Adelynn inherited her father's reckless, swashbuckling ways. Even as a kid, she loved playing with a sword. She attacks Spider-Woman instead of asking her any questions and jumps into battle with reckless abandon. Seeing her in action, the Black Knight asks Spider-Woman if they were ever that young. Spider-Woman replies: "Young, maybe. That crazy? Definitely." At the end of the day, Swordwoman helps the team defeat Morgan and establishes herself as a positive legacy that her hard-luck father never even knew about.