Commentary: ‘Hawkeye’ And The Importance Of Superhero Mortality

It’s a notorious joke that deaths in the comics are meaningless. Stories like to make a big deal out of it in the moment, but pretty much any comic character that’s ever died has come back to life at some point. With the advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, storytellers have the potential to change that as actors eventually age out of roles. So far, that hasn’t been the case as we’ve seen several characters come back to life such as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Vision (Paul Bettany).

Hawkeye, however, feels different. Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) death in Avengers: Endgame might be a turning point. A constant theme of Hawkeye is Clint (Jeremy Renner) dealing with her death, circumstances made worse by the fact his family returned from the Blip. It feels very literal that he sacrificed his best friend for his family, and Clint is tortured by that.

This theme of mortality also plays out with Clint’s new protégé. Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) looks up to Clint. She very much wants to be him, and although she has skills, it’s clear she is not elevated to the status of superhero just yet. The two of them face very real danger, as we see by the fact they’re constantly dealing with injuries. And despite Clint’s persistence, Kate won’t back down. He promised her mother he would keep her safe, but with every episode it seems that promise is getting harder and harder to keep. “Being good isn’t always enough to keep you alive,” Kate’s mother tells him, a lesson he’s learned all too well as he calls his job merely “a game of managing loss.”

But the story side of keeping characters dead is only half the battle. The reason characters keep coming back in the comics is simple: money. If there are dollars to be made by keeping characters on screen, you can be sure Marvel Studios will continue to do just that. But it’s a bit harder when you’re dealing with actors, contracts, and financial disputes. Robert Downey Jr. and Johansson have been in their roles longer than anybody in the MCU. A lot of money has been made from their films. But if the MCU is to grow with powerful stories combining superheroes with actual mortality, then it’s better off their characters stay dead.

Hawkeye streams Wednesdays on Disney+.

It’s a notorious joke that deaths in the comics are meaningless. Stories like to make a big deal out ofCOMICONRead More

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