All six of MCU Clint Barton’s fans can rest easy today, having seen their favorite archer finally return to the big screen in the Avengers: Endgame trailer–but it seems like his time away from the spotlight has left him a changed man. Gone are the days of the bow and arrow and the purple(-ish) costume. Hawkeye is gone. Meet Ronin.
We’ve known Clint was going to get a codename change up for a while now, thanks to some leaked set photos featuring Jeremy Renner in a new costume, but the trailer provided all the confirmation we could hope for: a dramatic scene in the rain on the streets of Tokyo, Clint wielding a katana, not an arrow to be found. It’s all pretty on the nose, and something the MCU is lifting directly from the source material.
Clint’s transition from Hawkeye to Ronin over in the comics actually happened following Clint’s death and resurrection around the House of M and Civil War events in the early 2000s. It’s all a little messy (and involves Scarlet Witch literally deleting Clint from existence more than once–don’t worry too much about it) but the end result of his brushes with morality and non existence were, unsurprisingly, a bit of an existential crisis. Rather than jumping back into the fray as if nothing had changed, Clint took on a new identity and went off on his own for a while, adopting the name and costume Ronin from the original Ronin, a woman named Maya Lopez, who had since started going by Echo.
Clint operated as Ronin with the New Avengers, keeping his identity secret from most everyone for a not insignificant amount of time, before he eventually came clean, unmasked himself, and allowed Kate Bishop to take over as the new Hawkeye officially–think of it as a sort of codename musical chairs game, if that helps. He stuck with the Ronin identity through the Dark Reign and Siege events, before finally returning to his old archery-themed self during The Heroic Age, circa 2010.
So what does that mean for the MCU? Well, possibly a couple major things.
Clint’s Ronin-shift in the comics is pretty contingent on issues involving death, rebirth, and memory. Having no real idea what, exactly, Clint’s been up to since Captain America: Civil War, it’s hard to say how those big concepts could come into play, but given Clint’s history–and connection to the Infinity Stones (remember Loki used the Mind Stone to control him back in The Avengers) it’s not totally out of line to say that Thanos’s snap could have affected him differently than the other heroes in the mix. He may not have literally died and came back, and he may not literally be suffering from amnesia, but there’s the potential for some problems there, any of which could have lead him to question his own role and identity.
Of course, it’s probably worth noting that there is a pointed bit of voice over in the trailer about losing “parts of ourselves” when Clint is revealed so there’s also the chance that Clint literally is just suffering some sort of Stone-related mental breakdown and doesn’t actually recognize Nat after she tracks him down. That would certainly explain why he’s off fighting thugs on the streets of Tokyo on his own rather than working with the survivors.
Though, with Captain Marvel about to introduce the shape shifting alien Skrulls into the mix, it’s probably worth mentioning that we could be well on our way to an even more shocking reveal. After all, who can really say that the real Clint Barton hasn’t been Ronin this entire time? The person we’ve known as Hawkeye since 2012 could, honestly, have been an imposter all along.
It’s definitely best not to count anything out just yet–and to keep your eyes peeled for more Ronin/Hawkeye clues in the future. There’s definitely more to this story, but the puzzle pieces have yet to be totally revealed. For more, check out our Avengers: Endgame trailer breakdown.