Who is Hawkeye Ronin – and what does a simple costume change mean for Avengers: Endgame?

Hawkeye Ronin

There's a lot of information to take in from the latest Avengers: Endgame trailer. Like, a little bit too much information. While the Internet-at-large scrambles for any clues as to how The Avengers might reverse that heart-breaking Snappening, we're a little more interested in one thing above all else: Just what in the world is going on with Clint Barton? If you're wondering what inspired that that new meticulously maintained haircut of his, well, it probably has something to do with Hawkeye Ronin.

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You've probably got a lot of questions, and that's why we've gone to great lengths to sift through 15 years of Marvel Comics history to get to the bottom of it all for you. That's right, if you want the lowdown on Hawkeye Ronin we're going to take you all the way back to writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist David Finch launch of the New Avengers. It's a series that saw Marvel attempt to deconstruct The Avengers and pump some new life into a series that was (at the time, least) struggling to make an impact on the market. In many ways, it's a series that helped sow many of the seeds that we are seeing blossom on screen today.

And listen, I'm not going to lie to you, deciphering comic book timelines can be a messy business. That's why we're going to do our best to keep this reading nice, light and easy to understand. So if you want to understand Hawkeye Ronin (as we are affectionately referring to Jeremy Renner’s new look) ahead of the release of Avengers: Endgame, the origins of the character's identity, his relationship with a young female archer named Kate Bishop, and, perhaps most importantly, what Hawkeye Ronin's introduction may mean for the future of the MCU you are going to want to keep reading on. 

This probably goes without saying, but you should expect some spoilers ahead for decades old comic book stories and, potentially, Avengers: Endgame.

Who is Ronin?

Oh, you had to ask, didn’t you? Right, Earth-616 was formally introduced to Ronin way back in 2005, in the pages of issue #11 of New Avengers. While the character had been teased on covers of the series for several prior issues this was to be our first glimpse at what the samurai warrior would be capable of. 

One of the interesting things about Ronin is that the character has no distinct powerset. That’s because a number of different heroes have donned the costume and moniker over the years – Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, is one such hero. That all said, some things never change. The Ronin outfit is almost always a rather fetching black suit with gold trim, complete with a mask and hood (perfect for hiding an identity). It’s the very same that you can see Jeremy Renner wearing in the Avengers: Endgame trailers – or from the leaked set photos, should you be that way inclined. 

Ronin has always proven to be a capable adversary to the denizens of the criminal underworld, displaying mastery over a wide variety of weapons, regardless of who is behind the mask. We’re talking anything you’d expect members of The Hand to wield with ease – katanas, throwing stars, nunchucks. Basically, if you’re getting a little bored of Hawkeye’s bow and arrow theatrics, Hawkeye Ronin should have a few extra tricks up his sleeve when he finally arrives in Endgame. 

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Then there’s also the origins of the name itself to consider. Yes, this is the part of the feature where we geek out over the history of words in an effort to get some sense of what Hawkeye Ronin’s story may be in Endgame. A ‘rōnin’ originally referred to a masterless samurai, somebody that is left to ramble on after the death of their lord or master during the feudal period of Japan. To dive even deeper into the etymology of the term, it can be translated literally to ‘wave man’; an idiomatic expression for a ‘wandering man’. That is to say then, somebody that is cast adrift after suffering emotional strife or having failed in their duty to serve and protect... 

Say, when was the last time we saw Clint again? Oh yeah, it was back in Captain America: Civil War as Hawkeye is coaxed out of retirement to help his old friend Cap, only to find himself under house arrest for violating The Sokovia Accords. Before that, in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the hero was set to hang up his bow for good to care for his wife and three young children. Given Hawkeye’s absence from Avengers: Infinity War – the status of his family unknown – you have to wonder what horrific events led to the hero donning a new identity.  

Hawkeye wasn’t the first Ronin

Hawkeye may be the most notable character to don the Ronin moniker, but he certainly wasn't the first. In fact, back in the aforementioned New Avengers #11, it was actually a little-known character by the name of Maya Lopez behind the mask. 

Maya Lopez was introduced through Brian M. Bendis’ run on Daredevil as a character by the name of Echo, a hearing-impaired dancer that was trained in the art of assassination by Kingpin – her photographic reflexes allowing her to replicate the fighting styles of others, making her a formidable foe for the protectors of Hell’s Kitchen. She was later steered away from a life of crime and drafted into the New Avengers by Captain America following the events of Avengers Disassembled, donning the Ronin moniker in the process. 

Funnily enough, that Ronin’s first appearance was in the streets of Japan. In New Avengers #11 we found Maya stalking Silver Samurai through Osaka, following a breakout from The Raft; it isn’t long before we see Ronin easily dispatch multiple members of Clan Yashida, goading any survivors to tell her what she needs to know less further pain be afflicted upon the criminal enterprise. Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that our first glimpse of Hawkeye Ronin in Avengers: Endgame came from a similar scenario. 

In the trailer, we catch a glimpse of a hooded Clint Barton wiping a katana clean on his tong. The camera cuts quickly to reveal numerous bodies by his feet, in those very same streets that readers were introduced to Ronin a decade ago. This scene doesn’t just pay homage to the character's origins, but may indeed give us but a small indication as to what the wayward hero has been up to since the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Hawkeye Ronin is clearly on the warpath – that concerned look from Black Widow is telling. He’s after something or somebody, although it’s likely we won’t find out what exactly that is until April.

How does Hawkeye become Ronin?

In the comics, Hawkeye’s stint as Ronin marked a pretty dark period in the hero’s life. Comic book continuity can get a little messy so I’m going to try and keep this as simple as possible for you. Ready? Okay, deep breath, let’s do this thing.  

The 2004 Avengers Disassembled event upset the status quo, kickstarting a series of events that would lead to such stories as House of M, Planet Hulk, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and Seige. You have likely heard of a few of these storylines, especially as many of these have been the basis for stories in the wider MCU over the last decade. 

The only one you need concern yourself with for now is House of M, a story wherein Scarlet Witch – following a heartbreaking loss – loses control of her powers and resets the Marvel timeline, killing half of the Avengers in the process. Throughout this storyline, Hawkeye is compelled to sacrifice himself to take out a Kree starship, though he was later resurrected by Scarlet Witch but decided to keep that fact a secret from the Avengers and the rest of the world. It was during this period that he donned the Ronin identity, giving him the space to deal with the trauma over his own brush with death and the feelings it unearthed over the death of his wife – Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird. 

Why hasn’t Hawkeye Ronin shown up in the MUC before?

I’ll be honest, I thought that we would have seen Hawkeye Ronin back in Captain America: Civil War. In case you didn’t already know, there was actually a Civil War comic book mini-series back in 2006, the events of which divided the superhero community due to the S.H.I.E.L.D. mandated Superhero Registration Act. Barton, eager to help his friends but eager to keep his identity and status a secret, went to ground with the New Avengers and continued to act as a hero, albeit in secret. 

Now, the Superhero Registration Act does technically exist in the MCU, it inspired the Sokovia Accords that were introduced in Captain America: Civil War – forcing the heroes to pick a side between working for or against the government. Hawkeye decided to side with Captain America, making him an enemy of the state; it would have made sense that Clint, eager to protect his family, would don a costume that allows him to act in the world without drawing suspicion. That didn’t happen, of course, and instead, he found himself under house arrest after defying the Accords. 

Is it possible that his adoption of the Ronin costume and identity in Avengers: Endgame has been made in an effort to continue dodging the Accords? I mean, it’s possible, but given how Thanos clicked his fingers and decimated 50% of all life in the universe I’m not sure how much weight that law would really carry six months on from the world-changing event. 

What’s Hawkeye Ronin role in Avengers: Endgame? 

It has been suggested by the Russo brothers that Hawkeye was on his own journey during the events of Infinity War. We don’t yet know what the journey is or whether Clint Barton was operating as either Hawkeye or Ronin during this period. 

Avengers: Infinity War had just two notable absentees for the battle to save the world. Scott Lang’s disappearance was explained away in Ant-Man and the Wasp – he was stuck at home under house arrest, only to then become trapped in the Quantum Realm by the time the Decimation came to pass. It has been suggested that Clint took a similar deal, although he’s already shown that he is more than capable of slipping out of his ankle monitor when the situation requires it. 

What spurs on his transformation? Could it be the death of his family, forcing him to go to ground looking for answers? Could Clint – who already has an intimate relationship with the Mind Stone following his stint as a mind-controlled servant of Loki back in The Avengers – have been affected differently by the Decimation to the others, either losing his memory or suffering from some kind of break during the snap? There’s a whole host of reasons that he may now be questioning his own identity, role and position on a larger team – there’s a precedent set in the comics for any and all of these to be true, the Russo brothers have a pretty broad legacy to draw from in this area.

Will there be a new Hawkeye in the MCU? 

The MCU is going to be incredibly different post-Endgame. Marvel actors are out of contract and expected to leave the long-running movie franchise, while the arrival of Captain Marvel is expected to shift the scope of MCU stories as the balance of contorts. It means a whole new generation of characters are going to be introduced in the coming years and there’s one long-running rumour that has gotten us pretty excited. 

Reports are swirling that Marvel is developing a script for Young Avengers. As a comic book series, it also emerged out of the events of Avengers Disassembled, alongside the New Avengers back in 2005. Looking at it broadly, Young Avengers sees a group of teens and young adults adopt the identities and costumes of their favourite heroes, uniting to take on the threats that nobody else can. 

Would it make sense that a group of new heroes would join forces after the events of Infinity War and Endgame – that they would be inspired after seeing some of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fall in service of protecting the galaxy? I think it would, and there’s also a direct implication that ties in with Hawkeye, Ronin, and the future of that particular character in the Marvel U. 

In Young Avengers a character named Kate Bishop emerges. While she has no superhuman abilities of her own, she is highly skilled with a bow and arrow – not unlike Mr Barton. In the comics, she adopts the Hawkeye moniker with the blessing of Captain America – who also bestowed onto her Hawkeye’s weapons following the supposed death of the character. Later, when Clint returns to the fold in New Avengers, he gives Bishop his approval to continue acting as Hawkeye out in the world so that he can continue working under the radar as Ronin. 

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Could we see a similar situation emerge in the MCU? With Clint Barton transforming himself into Ronin, opening up the possibility of Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye emerging alongside the likes of Hulkling, Iron Lad, Patriot, Wiccan, Vision, and Stature – a character many believe will be introduced in Avengers: Endgame by actor Emma Fuhrmann, playing an older Cassie Lang? 

Given that we've already caught a glimpse of Clint training a young woman with a bow and arrow in the latest Avengers: Endgame trailer, this only throws further fuel on the fire that somebody else could be preparing to take on the Hawkeye mantle in the future – be it Kate Bishop or perhaps even Clint's daughter, Lila Barton, though she was just a child the last we saw of her in Avengers: Age of Ultron.  

It’s merely speculation at this stage, but then so much of this is. Here’s what we do know for certain, things are going to change for Clint Barton and for the rest of the MCU in the next few months. Hell, we could be way off on this one and it may turn out that the real Clint Barton has been working in the shadows as Ronin this entire time – the Hawkeye we’ve come to know and love over the last decade secretly a Skrull in disguise. It’s about to get real, folks. 

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