As much as I enjoyed Matt Fraction and David Aja’s take on Hawkeye, issue #22 will be the end of their run together. I’m sad to see them go but at the same time excited to see their new projects (Sex Criminals got picked up for a TV show and if you read our Top Comics of 2014 post I chose Sex Criminals as the comic that desperately needs to be made into a TV show so…Merry Christmas to Clinton).
Yesterday the first issue of All-New Hawkeye was released, written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Ramón Pérez. If you find it unusual that I have not written a review of Fraction’s final issue #22 yet, that’s because it is set to release in April.
Truthfully I was very excited that Hawkeye would continue but at the same time I was very nervous. A new team also meant the possibility of redacting everything that made me love the previous series, and when I saw the previews for Lemire’s Hawkeye a week or so ago I was extremely disheartened. Unfortunately, that didn’t improve much when the issue itself was released.
Before I go into my reasoning as to why I was disappointed (and, to be honest, offended), let me just say that there are things about the comic that are really good. The banter between Hawkeye and Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) is funny, and the panels that show Clint and his brother as children are absolutely beautiful.
Pérez is very talented with watercolor and although most of the memories of them as little boys are in black and white, the moments where color is added are great.
My problem comes with one single solitary panel:
I am so tired of Tony Stark’s magical cure-all technologies.
Let me tell you a bit about myself so you understand where I’m coming from. I am an intern at a school for the Deaf and most of my job is related to intelligence testing and academic testing for the school and the state, so I see a lot of kids throughout the week. All of my school kids, all 100 of them, have worn hearing aids at one point or another. Some were later given cochlear implants or stopped wearing either of them due to the lack of benefit, but hearing aids are a normal part of all of my kids’ days.
An integral part of my job in working with these kids is also working with their self-esteem. Many of the kids I see who are from the surrounding state complain of their hearing aids making them stand out; one little guy I tested recently didn’t even want to wear his at all. When we get a kid who says something like that, what I often do is sit down with them one-on-one, show them my own big clunky purple hearing aids, and show them how they can personalize their own. My job is to make them proud of their ears, not be ashamed of them.
So why is Marvel so ashamed of Hawkeye wearing them?
Especially after everything that has been done with Blue Ear and Sepheara, a teenage girl with a pink cochlear implant, that was added to a self-contained comic a few months ago. Why are Hawkeye’s aids practically invisible?
I’ve noticed that Marvel has a bad habit of creating a character with a disability but doing everything to counteract that disability so that it seems nonexistent. Recently I started calling this the “Daredevil Syndrome,” in the sense that even though Matt Murdock is blind his powers pretty much negate that fact. I mean, he might as well not be. The only other deaf character Marvel had, Echo, could copy whatever she saw and practically lipread through walls. So what was the point of even making her deaf?
When issue #19 of Fraction’s run was released, I immediately used it with my kids up at the school. The first week of the school year I had some downtime with one little guy so we watched a cartoon (the Avengers cartoon) while waiting for the next round of testing. At one point he stopped, pointed at Iron Man, and said “I wish I could hear so I could be normal like them.”
When a kid tells you something like that, it breaks your heart. But that is why issue #19 was so important. Before we finished for the day I showed him what I could of that issue (some panels are not meant for elementary school kids) and by the time he left he changed his mind about wanting to be “normal.” Since that day I’ve had panels taped to the door of my office.
My point is this: every time something like this happens, it teaches kids to be ashamed of their hearing aids. It teaches kids that they are not worthy of being represented, that they are somehow lesser because there is something obviously different about them and that this difference needs to be hidden.
It teaches them that they need to be fixed.
Can you see why I might be offended by this? After all that was done to finally bring back a deaf character, especially one that signs, and so much work done to really communicate the deaf-experience, All-New Hawkeye takes two giant steps backward.
There is a possibility that I am getting upset over nothing. Maybe those particular hearing aids are just special ones used for field work (they do have a comm unit built into them) and when Hawkeye goes home he switches them out. I guess we’ll have to wait and see to find out about those kinds of details. Either way, Marvel has the chance to do something big for deaf and hard of hearing readers. It’d be a shame if they don’t take it.