The Avengers: Endgame trailer finally arrived in time to break the internet last week. While it was light on plot details, the trailer did deliver the single most requested thing from fans: Hawkeye! Yes, Hawkeye is in this movie, and he is not doing OK. Rather than his trademark bow and arrow, Hawkeye is in a brand new costume wielding a sword, and it’s implied that he knows how to use it. This change might seem sudden to moviegoers, but comic book fans will recognize this as Clint Barton adopting his other alter ego, Ronin.
It’s long been rumored that Clint would be taking on a new costumed identity in Endgame thanks to some set photos of Jeremy Renner in costume. Other leaked promotional material backed this up, and now the trailer pretty much confirms it. But who is Ronin, and why is this at all significant? For superhero movies, the answer lies in the comics.
While Clint Barton is known in the Avengers franchise for being the bow and arrow guy, the character in the comics has actually adopted a few personas over the decades. For a time, he used Pym Particles to become a size-changing hero called Goliath, but his most famous alter-alter-ego was the ninja and samurai Ronin.
The origins of Ronin actually begin with an entirely different character. Ronin was first introduced in 2005’s New Avengers #11 and was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Joe Quesada. The character was teased on a few different covers before then as Marvel was building up a mystery around the identity of the person under the mask. The popular theory was Daredevil (which it was originally going to be), but it was instead revealed to be Maya Lopez, otherwise known as Echo.
For a quick and probably unfair synopsis on Echo, she’s kind of like the deaf Daredevil. The New Avengers met her in Japan investigating the Silver Samurai, and after the adventure, she joined the team as Ronin. However, as was customary on Bendis’ run at the time, her tenure was short-lived as the writer had to move on focus on the bigger Marvel crossover events.
Maya Lopez returned to Japan to spy on former Daredevil flame Electra Natchios, who was rumored to be the new leader of The Hand, a terrorist ninja clan. Long story short, Lopez was killed, resurrected, and brainwashed by The Hand after the conclusion of Civil War. The New Avengers (now boasting a different lineup) came to rescue her, but they had a surprise guest: Ronin.
This time it was Clint Barton under the mask, and he assumed the Ronin persona to help free Maya Lopez from The Hand. At the time, Barton had abandoned his Hawkeye identity due to complicated, existential reasons.
Let’s back up. In 2005, several Avengers were killed in a storyline called Avengers: Disassembled. Hawkeye died in an attack from a Kree invasion, which ended up being created by an insane Scarlet Witch. However, Scarlet Witch would eventually bring an amnesiac Clint Barton back to life in a new parallel world she created in a story called House of M. She ended up killing him again after his memories returned and tried to assassinate her, but she still did him a solid by resurrecting him when she set the world back to normal (minus most of the mutants).
Dying a bunch of times and the fallout of Civil War had wrecked Clint pretty hard at this point, and he fell off the map to collect himself. After doing some wandering, Clint decided to enter the fold once again to help the fugitive Avengers who were wanted for violating the Superhero Registration Act. However, he didn’t want to be Hawkeye anymore and instead became Ronin.
Ronin exchanged arrows for katanas and is known to be a much more close-range fighter than Hawkeye was. Clint Barton was trained by Captain America in close-combat, and this is where he uses the majority of those skills. Other than being really good at fighting, he has no other powers to speak of.
Clint Barton’s time as Ronin has usually signified a dark time for the character. Clint’s tenure as Ronin was during a bleak time for Marvel’s heroes, who had to deal with the fallout of Civil War, a Skrull invasion, and Norman Osborn taking over S.H.I.E.L.D. Clint would eventually leave Ronin behind and become Hawkeye again once all the problems were solved, and it was a brighter time for the Avengers.
As for why Ronin is making his movie debut, it’s not looking cheery. Rumor has it that things are pretty dark for Clint in the film. One has to figure it has something to do with half of all life fading away with the snap of a finger. The popular theory is that Clint lost his entire family in The Decimation — kids and all. This would obviously have a huge emotional impact and would explain why he’s taken to chopping down bad guys.
In the context of the movie, it makes a bit more sense for Clint to become Ronin than he did in the comics. He kind of just became Ronin because it was available. However, ronin is a Japanese term for a lone warrior. This could mean that Clint goes solo in the movie, shunning away his teammates. It makes more sense than in the comics, where he was on a team the entire time he dressed as a lone warrior.
Getting Nora Durst-ed (that’s a The Leftovers reference) would mess anybody up, but at least the bright side is that the switch to Ronin could signify that Clint is finally getting the spotlight. He’s never really been a main character in these movies, but hopefully, Clint will get the screentime and character arc that he deserves.
Not a whole lot else is known about Clint’s role or much of anything else about Avengers: Endgame. The movie will close the chapter on a lot of fan-favorite characters, and this could be Hawkeye’s last chance to shine. You can catch it when it hits theaters on April 26, 2019.