A few years ago, when writing about Matt Fraction and David Aja’s run of Hawkeye, Humphrey Lee of Ainticoolnews explains why he prefers B-list characters to the A-listers like Batman, Superman and Spider-Man.
This may be one of those occasions where I’m just blowing smoke up my own ass, but I’ve always felt that a book like HAWKEYE here, where a top-tier writer is basically doing what they please with a middle-tier character, is really where franchise comics shine. It has just always felt like these types of characters get all the benefits of being in a comic book universe – being able to draw from the long history of the universe, dragging in the occasional team up, playing off events that take place in the big crossovers without having to be a direct part of them, etc. – without any of the drawbacks of being a major player in that universe. The biggest drawback of the Spider-Mans, Supermans, and so on of the comics world is that outside of an Elseworlds tale or some other out of continuity romp, you cannot go terribly crazy with the characters. Well, you can, but I believe that history has shown when you get a bit far off the beaten path with the big players and the characters wrapped up in their worlds the fans will rip your head off for it. Obviously I’m speaking in generalities here, and there’s exceptions to every rule, but it’s really not in much dispute that the Big Two have a lot more riding on a Spider-Man than they do a Daredevil and thereby have to play things a little more conservatively with the former than the latter.
Now, HAWKEYE does not exactly go to the lengths that some of the secondary character classic runs have done or are currently doing. It’s not a DAREDEVIL where Frank Miller or Brian Michael Bendis are stripping the character down to the core, and it’s not ANIMAL MAN or SWAMP THING where guys like Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder are carving a horrific swath through their own little section of the DCU. What Matt Fraction and David Aja are doing is taking a character that is a highly skilled badass with a checkered past and telling uber-stylish tales about him being a highly skilled badass with a checkered past. I particularly loved, loved, loved the first issue, which was a great take on the idea of the street level hero and what they go through to bring a little justice to the world. They get their hands dirty, they break bones and have to spend time recovering, and they tend to touch lives a little more intimately than the heroes that do their bit helping the world by throwing large parts of it at each other.
Some of the material he described could happen in an A-list book, but there is definitely greater flexibility with lesser-known series. Though it does seem to have been a while since there was a legendary run on one of those books.