It’s a great time to be a fan of the Avengers comics from the 1970s-1980s, as Marvel Comics continues to release new trade paperbacks collecting the adventures of the Avengers in preparation for the release of the Avengers movie on May 4
. This particular collection, Avengers: Solo Avengers Classic Volume 1, collects the first ten issues of the Solo Avengers title which started in 1987, featuring Hawkeye in a starring role. The concept behind Solo Avengers was a fantastic one- each issue would feature a story focusing on Hawkeye, and the back-up in each issue would focus on a different member of the Avengers, typically a less well-known character who didn’t have the benefit of his own solo title, like Captain America, Thor or Iron Man. As a result, this is a really eclectic collection of stories, running the gamut in terms of quality, but on the whole is a very enjoyable collection, well worth adding to any Avengers fan’s library. Each issue’s lead story featured Hawkeye, as the first few issues of this series delved further into Hawkeye’s history, introducing new characters into his backstory. It wasn’t until this series came out in 1987 that it was revealed that Swordsman wasn’t actually the one responsible for training Hawkeye in archery, but instead Trickshot, as DeFalco addressed the silliness inherent in the traditional origin story for Hawkeye, which had the well-trained Swordsman teach Hawkeye archery, and not how to handle a sword. The Hawkeye stories feature a steady continuity, as he travels to confront Trickshot, and later ends up working for Silver Sable in order to get back to the United States, taking him up against Red Skull II. DeFalco writes a classic version of Clint Barton, all bravado and bluster, and it makes for a very entertaining and enjoyable read. For fans of Hawkeye, this is a great compilation of stories, as he braves the odds, takes on Batroc and others, and eventually has to confront the ire of his wife, Mockingbird! The artwork on the Hawkeye stories is mostly done by Mark Bright, who gives the Hawkeye stories a very consistent visual style, and the action beats are superb. Illustrating a fast character like Hawkeye can be challenging, but Bright consistently proves himself up to the task, and it’s immensely entertaining.
The hidden gems in this collection are the various secondary stories featuring different Avengers from this time period, and the stories range from extremely well-written character studies to far odder stories which end up feeling clunky and oddly placed. Among the Avengers featured are Mockingbird (featuring very early art from Jim Lee), Captain Marvel (the Monica Rambeau iteration), Moon Knight, Black Knight, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Black Widow, Dr. Pym, Hellcat and Dr. Druid. As previously mentioned, some are extremely well-written, furthering the stories of the characters featured, such as the stories focusing on Moon Knight and Black Knight, whereas others add little to the character, and are lackluster stories which aren’t even solid enough to be called filler, as they lack even the heft to be called that. The art ranges all over the place, just like the quality of the stories themselves.
Overall, despite the quality on the back-ups being quite inconsistent, the quality of the main stories featuring Hawkeye make this book well-worth the price of admission, with the secondary stories providing an interesting glimpse into the Avengers of the late 1980s.