This volume cuts deep. We start out with Barney and Clint catching frogs. Cut to them arriving at home anxious because their foster father will get home and won’t like that they’ve not cut the grass. Inferring here, the boys are in the foster system because their parents died. Also they live in Iowa. I find it interesting that a lot of these characters either come from New York or the Midwest. I’m still waiting for the West Coast or Southern superhero. I digress. The foster father shows up and he’s a mean cuss. Starts knocking them around. The boys take off and find a circus to go hide in.
This opening fills in a lot of gaps that have been hinted out in previous volumes. We’ve known they were both carnies, but now we know why they ended up there. We also know how they met up with Jacques Duquesne aka the Swordsman (and why he and Clint had a falling out) and how both of them ended up on the paths that we’ve seen them as adults. I’m starting to learn that if look at a superhero’s story as one long canvas, chunks of it are given to a writer and illustrator team and they take the loose threads from previous writers, create their own connections , as well as loose endings, and then pass the torch to someone else. I think to really get the full picture (see what I did there) you have to read ALL of the works for a specific superhero, a daunting task unto itself.
What’s touching about the story arch that Lemire and Perez have picked up on is that they are giving us the awful childhood of the Barton brothers and mixing in the contemporary storyline that both shadows and echoes what happens. It gives depth to what Clint is feeling as he navigates the trauma and damage, both physical and emotional, in his attempt to be a better person. Lemire does this all without making Clint seem too dour nor making the audience feel forced sympathy. Instead, Lemire has been able to strike the right balance between empathy and humanizing a superhero all at the same time. Lemire and Perez are definitely off to a good start with this volume.