That Time Hawkeye Beat The Starbucks
“Their green grass is green; our green grass is brown” – Mos Def
If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you know all about the Avengers. You may have noticed the archer of the group, Hawkeye aka Clint Barton and thought, “Why is that man out here fighting folks with a bow and arrow?” A lot of people make the joke that he is the wackest Avenger. Lemme tell you something, when Matt Fraction and David Aja put out Hawkeye’s comic book in 2012, that man went from clowned to crowned in the streets. Fraction and Aja gave Hawkeye the hottest series in the game not by having him fight space aliens or any big name villains. They had that man with bow and arrow in hand in the middle of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn fighting landlords raising the rent.
The way this book was crafted by Matt Fraction and David Aja is incredible because at the root of it is the theme of an injustice happening in regards to housing. Clint sees his neighbors being harassed by the landlord, Ivan, to pay an outrageous rent increase, but what can you do when it’s legal for this to occur? You could try and get a good lawyer that’s willing to work the case, or you can do what Clint Barton did. Which was to show up at Ivan's casino night, dump a duffel bag full of money on the table on some real rap s****, and pay the rent for everyone in the building. Ivan states that they can make more money emptying everyone out one by one and then selling the building. This is a great example of not only greed and capitalism but profit over people.
Lookin back at this series now, while living in Brooklyn and it’s three years into Covid, I’m reminded of how suddenly there were places available for those that were homeless which weren’t present before. Fam, it took a global scale pandemic for homelessness to be handled outside of having police relocate them. Some buildings had a rent freeze because not everyone was remote at the time, so they had to go into work. However, there were still places where the rent did not freeze. So those who didn’t have housing issues before were now having to suddenly deal with it. The systems in place bandaged up housing issues but did not stop the wound from bleeding.
Now when Ivan told Hawkeye he wasn’t goin’ take his money, he had his Tracksuit Mafia goons step to him and start unpacking their heat. Ya mans and dem Hawkeye showed Ivans and his henchmen that he got that dog in’em (labrador retriever specifically) as he mopped them up, and forced Ivan to not only take the money but to get out of town as he tells him, “I take care of my people.'' That phrase means so much in the story since the majority of people in that building and neighborhood do not look like Clint. The story then pivots to point to an aspect of community. Clint let Ivan keep the money but that doesn’t stop Ivan from sending men over to intimidate and harass the building owners. In the real world, property managers use even more money to either buy people out, buy the property, or buy up the land surrounding the property. The comic books make this story jump by giving Hawkeye someone to hit but when it comes to issues of redlining, lack of affordable housing, and increased police presence in Black neighborhoods. There’s no physical manifestations of the systems of oppression creating the housing injustice to attack physically. However, there is a solution for being able to house more people by making the housing more affordable.
When Clint doesn’t back down from the harassment, one of his arrows accidentally knocks out a neighbor’s satellite. We later watch Clint learn the issues that come with owning a building. The cable repairman that arrived for the satellite says, “My job is to fix equipment failure. The satellite didn’t technically fail. It was damaged.” This technically thereby alleviated the Cable repairman of his duties. While trying to get the issue sorted, Clint asks for new equipment to be left so he can fix it himself and then invites his neighbor Simone and her two children over to his place so they kids can watch TV. There’s a sense of community here being shown as well. It seems just a small gesture but it is a great display of how it should be and could be.
Once Clint owns the building, we aren’t told what the rent is for the tenants or if he is even charging at all, however, for the sake of realism (or capitalism?), let’s say that he is. It’s incredibly safe to say that Clint has provided affordable living to tenants in a section of Brooklyn (do or die Bed-Stuy) that is facing gentrification. I didn’t really gather the weight of this when reading the series the first time around but everytime I go back I’m amazed at this level of depth and thought that Matt Fraction and David Aja put it into a series for a street level hero that most considered a joke.
I will always gravitate towards a story that’s more reflective of actual struggles occurring that people are going through. It never occurred to me that the root of this story in Hawkeye is legitimately centered around affordable housing and the villains behind the scenes that can’t let that stand because it affects their plans and profit.
The irony of this is Clint is just trying to do the right thing. He isn’t a businessman, he was raised as a carnie and a thief. He’s been a criminal and a f**** boy with a heart of gold. He is the last person you’d expect to be doing this but, isn’t that what a hero is supposed to do? Challenge the laws and rules in place when people are suffering under them?
Things come to a head when Ivan returns, yet again with a whole gaggle of goons to run up on Hawkeye with baseball bats. When they subdue Clint and take him to one of the bosses behind Ivan, he then gives Clint an out. Either he leaves and they go back to tripling the rent for the tenants or they start killing people in the building. Simple as that. Clint is then faced with the choice of fight or flight. Similar to folks in buildings where the rent is jacked up and they are protesting to garner attention to an unfair situation. It gets to a point where you ask, am I fighting a losing battle here or do I stick it out to the end, unsure if any change is to come?
We see Clint consider getting ready to walk away. He’s all but ready to take himself out of the equation until his friend Kate Bishop reminds him that his running away is the worst part of him. We then turn the page to see one of Ivan’s Tracksuit Mafia outside the building then pointing his finger as a gun, and with another turn of the page, we see what he saw.
Hawkeye with long bow in hand, standing out in the snow in front of the building, ready to scrap with nothing but that Wolf of Wall Street “I’m not f****** leaving” energy and Buddy Lee jeans. He’s making good on when he said, “Taking care of my people.”
As the story concludes, the narrative shifts from Clint Barton solely being the ones to defend these tenants, to his friend (Kate Bishop), brother (Barney Barton), and the other tenants joining the fight. We once again see the theme of community come together at a crescendo where everyone is involved in this battle. Which is how it should be when facing aspects of housing discrimination. It takes a community within a neighborhood to stand up to the discrimination with the hopes that those upholding the practices which put people in a bind have to acquiesce and keep loosening that grip.