It’s the question right on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Marvel’s not been shy about promoting Avengers: Infinity War as the ultimate superhero crossover: it’s the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the heroes of Wakanda - all teaming up to defeat the ultimate evil in Thanos.
20 heroes! 30 heroes! The entire population of Reykjavik! Posters packed to the brim with increasingly tiny figures, faces upon faces. And yet nowhere can be found one of the central, original Avengers. Where, oh where, is Hawkeye?
It’s an observation that’s gone from joke, to genuine concern, all the way back to joke again. Though Jeremy Renner is certainly credited with an appearance in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4, he’s been absent from every single trailer and poster for the first of those films.
The only inkling of Hawkeye’s future comes from the giant Vanity Fair spread to celebrate a decade of Marvel, which sees him sport a largely unaltered costume, but a fancy new haircut.
Now, there may be a disappointingly straightforward answer to all this: Clint Barton has a family now. He technically retired at the end of Age of Ultron, and it was significant that he broke that promise to embroil himself in the events of Civil War.
He’s already disconnected from the group and since it looks like Thanos’ arrival means a lot of things, happening very fast, it may not exactly have been everyone’s first instinct to phone the guy with the bow and arrow to fight against the giant purple space being.
Thankfully, Infinity War’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo have broken their silence on Hawkeye’s absence. It’s a vague answer, which consists only of (via SlashFilm): “Hawkeye coming out of Civil War is in the same position that the Cap and Falcon are in at the end of that movie.”
As Joe Russo continued: “And Ant-Man. And coming into this movie, characters on Cap’s team [in Civil War] made certain decisions and others made others decisions that led to different paths in them dealing with oversight in this movie in a different way. So Hawkeye’s on his own journey in this movie.”
“He has a unique reaction to the Civil War situation that puts him in a special spot in this film,” Anthony Russo agreed.
Their comments lend weight to the idea Barton may simply be in hiding like the rest of Team Cap, but that wouldn’t explain why he’s been quite so deliberately hidden. Has he, perhaps, undergone a major change in persona? In the comics, Barton’s family gets brutally killed, and he does a bit of a Bruce Wayne move in reaction - taking on the vigilante identity of Ronin.
Those theories are immediately bolstered by several set photos which caught Renner wearing boots very similar to what Ronin is depicted as wearing.
Other photos suggest, at some point during Avengers 4, the story will take us to Japan; Ronin was used during Japan’s feudal period to refer to a samurai who was without a master or lord, although the MCU diving headfirst into the deeply trope-y minefield of “white guy pretending to be a samurai” seems a little ill-advised.
However, that would all bolster the sense that Hawkeye may not have a role to play in Infinity War until late in the game, or practically until Avengers 4.
“We sat down and we found a way to work everybody in – but we have two movies that we’re working with,” Joe Russo told the Radio Times. “So we figured out a way to bring everybody that we wanted to bring into the storytelling, I think in ways that felt satisfying to us, and so we’re happy with who we got to work with.”
Or, what if there’s an even bigger surprise in store for Hawkeye fans? Let’s quickly flash-forward to the release of Captain Marvel, which has been revealed to feature the Skrulls as its central villains: extraterrestrial shapeshifters who have a history of posing as some of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
What if, all this time, the Hawkeye we knew wasn’t really Hawkeye at all? Cue Joe Russo telling JOE: "We keep saying, 'Patience is a virtue'. We did not forget the twice-nominated Jeremy Renner. We cooked up a story for him that is a little bit of a long play. Not a short play."
Well, all we can do is trust it’ll be worth the wait.
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