Hawkeye: Kate Bishop’s Backstory Bucks an Overused MCU Trope
Robert Vaux
Hawkeye Could Solve Kate Bishop's Biggest Marvel Comics Mystery
Hawkeye Could Solve Kate Bishop's Biggest Marvel Comics Mystery
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Hawkeye, now streaming on Disney+.
From the first scene, Hawkeye centered its spotlight on Kate Bishop: Clint Barton’s would-be heir and official ruiner of an Avenger’s vacation. The new series opens with a slick explainer covering how Bishop became obsessed with the archer and what led her to follow in his footsteps. It includes many tropes that go very much against the grain, especially for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet in doing so, Hawkeye makes her all the better a character for it, as well as putting a well-worn cliché to rest.
Bishop loses her father during the Battle of New York in 2012, a casualty of the heavy fighting between the invading Chitauri and the freshly minted Avengers. Hawkeye opens with a terrifying retake on the battle from her point of view, culminating in Barton unknowingly rescuing her and her mother by shooting down an alien raiding party. The go-to outcome for the violent loss of a parent is to blame the nearby hero, which the MCU has turned to time and again. Bishop goes in the opposite direction and becomes much more compelling as a result.
The traumatic death of a parent is nothing new in comics. The cliché has become so pervasive that its absence garners more notice than its presence. Best-selling figures like Batman and Spider-Man -- both prompted to become superheroes by the murder of a parent figure by a street criminal -- produce a trend, which becomes a tradition, which eventually becomes all-too-predictable. Villains make a particularly easy fit for this trope because they require no other reason to hate the hero and plot their destruction.
The MCU hasn’t been immune to it. The most prominent example is Baron Zemo, who orchestrated the events of Captain America: Civil War after his family was killed during the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Whiplash, from Iron Man 2, saw his father help design Howard Stark’s arc reactor, only to be deported at Stark’s word and essentially drink himself to death. Ant-Man and the Wasp features the Ghost, whose parents were killed after a fallout with Hank Pym. Villainy, it seems, loves an orphan just as much as heroism does.
Bishop herself could fit into the easy mold of the sinister double too, with abilities and drive similar to Barton’s along with a competitive streak that could spin into obsession without a second thought. Instead, she sees the situation in 2012 for what it is and takes inspiration from it rather than casting blame. Barton -- a distant figure on a rooftop during the attack -- saves her before she realizes that her father is dead, and is nearly killed himself by the same explosions rocking young Kate’s house. At her father’s funeral she resolves not to settle some kind of nebulous score, but to protect her mother and make sure nothing happens to her, an arc frankly closer to Batman’s than any of her fellow Marvel heroes.
It's also in keeping with the MCU’s in-world lionization of its heroes. While Spider-Man may end up paying a steep price in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the Avengers are lauded, a fact that Barton himself is clearly uncomfortable with during Hawkeye's Steve Rogers musical. It’s only natural to assume that inspirations and copycats will arise, and since Barton’s public profile in the MCU is comparatively lower than many of his fellow heroes, an heir apparent would have to be exceptionally devoted to the pursuit. Bishop, who seeks to emulate the abilities of the Avengers' sole non-powered member, fits the bill to a T.
In the process, she allows the MCU to buck what has become an extremely predictable trend. Bishop’s need to protect her mother leads her -- and ultimately Barton -- straight into Hawkeye’s main plot against members of the New York underworld. Indeed, Season 1, Episode 1, “Never Meet Your Heroes” focuses almost entirely on her actions rather than his. She’s quite good at it, and the inspiration that led her to acquire those skills helps connect the show’s two protagonists all the more closely. The change of pace pays dividends and makes Bishop as much of a draw as her idol.
To see Kate Bishop break out, the first two episodes of Hawkeye are available to stream on Disney+.