Now, there are a whole lot of things that are truly great about Avengers: Age of Ultron - most of which everyone deserves to be able to find out for themselves, whenever they get the chance to see the movie.
There's one, though, that needs to be aired as proudly and publicly as humanly possible: Hawkeye is now officially awesome.
And, I don't mean that in a 'he's got a much better part in the movie than he did in The Avengers' kind of way - though that's also true. Instead, I mean that Hawkeye is now such a notably awesome part of the Avengers franchise that he may actually have a competitive claim to being the coolest - if still far from the most powerful - Avenger of them all.
How, though - after his distinctly underwhelming role in The Avengers - did that happen?
How Did Hawkeye Become (Arguably) The Greatest Avenger?
Well, as it turns out, there are three (pretty much SPOILER-free) key reasons:
1. He's Been Our Everyman All Along
I mean, sure, Captain America makes a surprisingly great Everyman figure - but that really works best in his own solo movies. In the Avengers movies - and particularly in Avengers: Age of Ultron - it's Hawkeye who most naturally fits the role of 'hero we could plausibly imagine ourselves being.'
As he puts it, at the tail end of one of the movie's most recent TV Spots (and in the movie itself):
"We're fighting an army of robots...and I have a bow and arrow."
Were any of us to actually become an Avenger in real life, it wouldn't be because we became a super-soldier, or a gamma-monster, or even built a bad-ass suit of armor - it'd be because we somehow became really, really, really ridiculously good at one thing, just like Clint.
The point? He's essentially us, as an Avenger. And that makes him surprisingly easy to love. Of course, it helps that:
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron Just Ramped Up the Awesome
As several of the first critics to see the movie pointed out over a week ago, Hawkeye is arguably the best thing about Avengers: Age of Ultron:
Which, as it turns out, is all pretty much bang on the money.
Hawkeye very much is the break-out star of the movie, and - somewhat inevitably - him having a whole bunch of awesome things to say and do does wonders when it comes to turning a character we should really have loved already into one we actually do.
The biggest factor, though?
3. Joss Whedon Clearly Took His Cues From the Comic-Book Hawkeye
And, specifically, Matt Fraction's recent run on Hawkeye's solo comic - otherwise known as one of the most critically-acclaimed comic-book runs of the past few decades.
In Fraction's telling, Hawkeye turns from being a moderately successfully, but largely second-tier, Avenger...
...into a wise-cracking, grounded and bad-ass screw-up - who may just be the most engaging comic-book hero in a generation.
Whether its fighting alongside some of the Marvel Universe's biggest names...
Getting horribly injured and failing to take it seriously...
Having a kick-ass sidekick...
Having another (adorable canine) sidekick...
Or even jumping around while naked...
Fraction's Hawkeye - sorry, Hawkguy - has become something of a legend amongst modern-day Marvel readers.
And - having now seen Avengers: Age of Ultron - it sure does seem that Joss Whedon has taken a whole lot of Fraction's take on the hero to heart. Sidekicks aside, there's very little of Fraction's Hawkeye that hasn't made it into the film - and wouldn't you know it? He's ended up being completely and utterly awesome.
Which, quite frankly, is exactly as it should be...(Though, full disclosure, I've thought Hawkeye was awesome since I was eight, so I may be somewhat biased...)