The Young Avengers are a team of adolescents who formed in the wake of the Avengers: Disassembled storyline in 2004. In terms of publication, there have been two complete volumes of stories, the first by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, the second by the infamous comics team of Gillen/McKelvie in 2013. They were initially assembled by Iron Lad who used a secret Avengers Fail-Safe Program to find them. The Fail-Safe Program was designed by the Vision, who was recently deceased in this storyline, to find and recruit the next generation of Avengers in case the worst ever happened – and the worst just had happened.
We are exploring the Young Avengers because, recently, Marvel has been introducing a lot of those characters in their Disney+ shows and films and it just feels like they are secretly building up that team.
We’ve already introduced you to Wiccan, Speed, Teddy, and Patriot.
This week we will introduce you to Hawkeye.
No – not that Hawkeye. Kate Bishop. You know… Hawkeye.
We’ve already started to see some of the pictures of Hailee Steinfeld who has been filming along with Jeremy Renner for their Disney+ series, so we know this character is already accounted for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But whether she will end up on a team filled with Young Avengers remains to be seen.
Who Is Kate Bishop?
Everyone is already familiar with Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye. He’s the eagle-eyed archer from Marvel comics introduced as a villain in 1964’s Tales of Suspense #57, then after a few more bouts with Iron Man, he eventually reformed in Avengers #16, asking to join the team along with Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we first met Clint Barton, as played by Jeremy Renner, in 2011’s Thor. However, his first big presence was in 2012’s Avengers where we saw Loki mind-controlling him and turning him against the team before Black Widow finally knocked him the sense back into him.
But we’re not talking about that Hawkeye.
We’re talking about Kate Bishop: the better Hawkeye.
Kate Bishop’s first appearance was in Young Avengers #1. She quickly makes it known that she has some skill fighting, but even then, she didn’t really have the code name Hawkeye until Young Avengers #12, after she’d already helped to defeat Kang, Mr. Hyde, and an entire armada of both Kree and Skrull armies. And why could she even take that mantle upon her when Marvel already had a Hawkeye? Because Clint Barton, at that time, had been killed by Scarlet Witch during the events of Avengers: Disassembled. So, there wasn’t a Hawkeye at that time. They’ve since started a truly wonderful friendship, but we’ll hit more on that later.
When we first meet Kate Bishop in Young Avengers #1, she is at a family wedding that has been taken hostage and is being held for ransom. The first time we meet the Young Avengers is when they smash their way into the church to save everyone. The very first thing we learn about Kate is that she is anything but a damsel in distress. Seeing a gun thrown on the floor in the chaos, she picks it up, only for one of the gunmen to take her hostage. But she defends herself, stabbing the gunmen in the leg with one of Patriot’s throwing stars.
For an example of her character, all you need do is read these few panels.
After that, Cassie Lang, the daughter of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, finds Kate at the hospital and the two of them head towards the remains of Avengers Mansion hoping to find the Young Avengers there. It’s there, as Kang arrives in Young Avengers #4, that we first see the truth of Kate’s intentions to become a superhero as she collects various weapons and costume pieces scattered throughout the mansion. She finds Mockingbird’s old mask and batons, Hawkeye’s bow and quiver of arrows, and Swordsman’s sword. She also makes nice with Patriot by giving him Captain America’s first shield.
As it turns out, Kate Bishop comes from a tremendously wealthy family and has been training to be a superhero her entire life. She is an expert in archery, swordsmanship, a few forms of Martial Arts and is more than capable of taking care of herself in any fight. As such, though Captain America and Iron Man shut the team down due to how young they are, Bishop goes behind their backs and reforms the team, using her family’s wealth to acquire new costumes and a new base of operations in the old, abandoned Bishop Publishing building.
It’s not until Young Avengers #12 where Kate Bishop is first referred to as “Hawkeye” by Spiderwoman as she fights the Kree and Skrulls alongside her. However, at the end of the issue, it’s made official when Captain America gifts her with Clint Barton’s bow and arrow, calling her Hawkeye.
In 2008, we got a series called Young Avengers Presents, which revisited all of the Young Avengers at that time and gave a bit more information on their relationship to the legacy characters to whom they were related. It’s here that we get Wiccan and Speed learning of their true mother as the Scarlet Witch, where we get Patriot paying Bucky a visit for the first time to learn about his heritage as a super-soldier, and it’s here that we get Kate Bishop meeting Hawkeye for the first time – though obviously, it’s more complicated than that.
Why is it complicated? Because Hawkeye died when Scarlet Witch killed him, but he was resurrected in House of M #8 when she returned reality to what it had once been. He reappeared in New Avengers #26, eventually taking on the mantle of a hero known simply as Ronin. As Kate and Patriot ride through Central Park on their first date – which is going terribly – Ronin surprises them and attacks Kate – but it’s all just a test to see if she’s as good as he’s heard. She meets him the next day at Avengers HQ where she first learns that he is alive. Though they squabble over his bow, in the end, Barton lets her keep it.
From here, the two of them create a wonderful friendship and partnership, which we pick up in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye #2. Barton describes Bishop as “…the finest and most gifted bowman I’ve ever met but she’s like nine years old and spoiled rotten. She’s pretty great.”
In fact, in their first adventure together, Clint gets himself captured by the Circus of Crime and Kate saves him in such a cool way – by dressing up as one of the acrobats and hiding arrows in her hair. And she proves herself to be every bit as good at being Hawkeye as Hawkeye does.
It’s in the Matt Fraction run that we start seeing just how beat up a Hawkeye can get when we start seeing all of the bandages all the time. It’s also in this run that we start seeing Kate drive a Vespa and wear purple suits. It’s also where, in Hawkeye Annual #1, we see Kate come up against a villain that would go on to become a bit of an arch-nemesis to her: Madame Masque. It’s in that issue that Kate first moves to Los Angeles – a place she will return when she gets her own series written by Kelly Thompson and drawn by Leonardo Romero. And, by the by, that run is fantastic and you should absolutely read it.
But in all of this summarizing, have we actually told you who Kate Bishop is?
A bit, sure, but not the most important part of her. What makes Kate Bishop “Kate Bishop” is how much she loves being a superhero. It’s been in her DNA since her first appearance in Young Avengers #1 before she even had a superhero name or a bow and arrow. When Wiccan, Hulkling, Patriot, and Iron Lad crash into the wedding to save the guests from the hostage-takers, it’s Kate Bishop – in nothing but her bridesmaid dress – that saves the day. Wiccan can literally do magic, Hulking is a shape-shifter with super strength and Iron Lad is wearing a suit of armor from the 30th century – and they almost got people killed until Kate Bishop saved them with some quick thinking and one of Patriot’s throwing stars. When Clint Barton first confronts her as Ronin, she so impresses him that he lets her keep his bow. And when they team up for the first time to fight against the Circus of Crime, it’s Bishop that saves Barton.
What makes Kate Bishop such a damn great character is that she is the absolute reversal of a damsel in distress. She comes from money, is spoiled rotten, has never held down a job or had to work for money.
She is young.
She has no superpowers.
She has sass and attitude for days.
She is the very image of a damsel in distress; and yet, she is the one that does all the saving.
Not just some of the times; all of the times.
She is both the ultimate utility player and the ultimate leader. If the team needs her to be a distract Kang with a direct assault, she can do that.
If the team is going to disband because they don’t have uniforms, weapons, or a base of operations, she will figure out a way to get everything and then some.
If Barton needs her to drive his sporty vintage car while he shoots his trick arrows, she can do that; but she can also do the shooting while he drives.
And if she needs to help her one-night-stand-that-becomes-her-sorta-Kree-warrior-boyfriend escape his very own spaceship after Skrulls infiltrate it, as she does in Kieron & Gillen’s Young Avengers Vol. 2 #1 – she can do that.
And as she does it, she will exclaim:
“I have no powers and not nearly enough training, but I’m doing this anyways. Being a super hero is amazing. Everyone should try it.”
Because Kate Bishop’s super-heroics are not born of her adroit skills with a bow and arrow or her expert fighting skills: those are merely symptoms of her superpower. Her actual power is focus and determination to live the life she wants to live, and the only life she’s ever thought of living is the life of a superhero. So she taught herself bow and arrow, taught herself how to fight, and taught herself to laugh at her limitations and just jump. She is unstoppable and cannot be deterred.
The biggest difference between Clint Barton’s Hawkeye and Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye is that Barton doesn’t necessarily want to be a superhero, but Bishop wakes up every day excited for that life. Barton’s drive is to save people who can’t save themselves and fight for them when they cannot, but he is still more of a reluctant hero in a lot of ways. He’s been beaten down by the life. But for Bishop, she wants to be the hero, wants to be the person who does the saving, the hero who wears spandex and leaps before they look. She trusting herself enough to figure out how to save everyone and herself as she tumbles through the air with nothing but a bow and arrow.
And that’s the quick and dirty on Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye.
Next week, we’ll cover Ant-Man’s daughter, Cassie Lang, aka Stature!