The following contains spoilers for Avengers #60, now on sale from Marvel Comics.
When the newborn Progenitor Celestial announced its intentions to judge whether the inhabitants of Earth deserved to continue existing, it wasted no time setting a lofty precedent for Judgment Day by deeming Captain America unworthy. With the man widely regarded as the world’s greatest hero declared a failure almost immediately, many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes and villains were at a complete loss on how to pass the Progenitor’s seemingly-impossible test.
However, during his one-on-one encounter with the Progenitor in Avengers #60 (by Mark Russel, Greg Land, Jay Leiston, David Curiel, and VC’s Cory Petit), the long-suffering “worst Avenger” Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, earned a passing grade from the judgmental deity by simply being the hero he’s always been. In doing so, Hawkeye proved that he was far from the worst Avenger while simultaneously making Marvel’s newest god question the legitimacy of his self-appointed mission.
Fresh off a mission that left him covered in blood, Barton took some time to clean himself up and grab a bite to eat at a diner, only to find himself face-to-face with the Progenitor. Assuming the form of Barton’s long-time teammate and on-again, off-again love interest Black Widow, the Progenitor explained his intention to judge the Bow-Slinger, only to be met with skepticism and causal dismissal. After a brief back-and-forth over the seemingly arbitrary criteria that the Progenitor used to measure humanity’s worth, the frustrated Celestial gave Barton the simple challenge of proving that his life is of greater value to the world than a nearby mailbox within twenty-four hours.
Rather than try and justify his existence by performing some grand act of heroism, however, Barton instead goes about his business like it was any other day. He stops by the office of recent Mayor-elect Luke Cage to discuss the events of Judgment Day and wrestles with his deeply-rooted insecurities over his place among the Avengers and the choices he’s made with his life. Deciding to end the day with a patrol of the cities’ rooftops, Hawkeye stopped William Cross, AKA Crossfire’s assassination of an arms dealer, deciding that he was content to spend what could be his last day doing what he can to help the people around him instead of wasting his time weighing the pros and cons of his every action.
Although Barton went to bed expecting to fail the Progenitor’s test, he awoke the following day to find a letter written by the Celestial that revealed that he’d won its approval. In it, the Progenitor (who had taken the form of Mayor Cage during the conversation with Barton) explained that the deciding factors in his success were his ability to recognize that he had no control over the ramifications his actions could have and his willingness to stay true to his convictions in the heat of the moment. Admitting that a person can never know the outcome of their choices and that Hawkeye had shown considerable personal growth during his time under its observation, the Celestial conceded that Barton had won their contest.
In admitting that Barton had passed his test, the Progenitor has seemingly revealed the one surefire way to pass the trial it has forced upon humanity. While the Progenitor’s judgment of individual heroes and villains may seem contradictory at times, for the most part the Celestial has favored those who either stay true to their convictions or show a willingness to change their ways. Whether it’s the Deviants who chose to fight by the X-Men’s side or the many everyday civilians who used their last day to make peace with their fate and mend fences with family and friends, the Progenitor seems to approve of those who are willing to look inside themselves and act accordingly.
By accepting his limitations and staying true to himself, Hawkeye has shown that anyone is capable of passing the Progenitor’s judgment. While other heroes have gone out of their way to try and change themselves to meet the Celestial’s standards, Clint Barton passed by simply doubling down on his guiding principles and staying true to himself.