The U.S. Agent is back this week in an all-new series by Christopher Priest and Georges Jeanty. We haven’t seen this character in a long while, but rest assured his duplicitous ways are a big part of this new series. Originally serving as a stand-in for Captain America, the character has always had a complex identity that was never quite his own. He’s certainly taken charge, but he’s also lived in Cap’s shadow. In the new series starting this week, the character is on his own in a mission that ties to domestic business and its abuse of citizens as John Walker tries to take charge.
“American Zealot” kicks off the 5-issue story arc and you can tell from the main cover the character is more than happy to be hanging with lowlifes and drunks. There’s a prevalence in this first issue that shows Walker as a man who wants to do the right thing and actually beat the bad guys, but can’t seem to. Either too slow, or just not equipped, there’s a rage inside him that wants to show the world he’s a hero we deserve, but unfortunately for him, he can’t cut it. That makes for an interesting angle for a hero who is frustrated and impatient.
You see it in a scene where he fights a pizza delivery man but can’t seem to get a punch in. He’s certainly equipped to fight, but talk about embarrassing. It makes you root for the character until you notice he seems a bit racist. That racism extends to an Asian man in the story, which at times seems a bit too overt, but considering Walker isn’t supposed to be the most likable guy it suits the narrative.
Another element that works in this series is how it takes on the bad guys who are clearly a stand-in for Amazon. What happens when a corporation — in this case, one called Virago — gains the trust of a local township only to cut itself off from their economy and do everything themselves? It’s problematic and an interesting angle in the story. Since the story takes place in the middle of nowhere America, it also makes sense U.S. Agent would be on his own. Reading the solicitation for the third issue out in January, things appear to be getting even more political.
The art by Jeanty is good with dynamic cuts to action and a strong sense of control of the pace. That goes for reaction shots of straight-up fight scenes. There is a funny nine-panel grid that does well to show the calm in the pizza delivery guy and the clunky way Walker is about ordering him around. For a book about a guy with a shield and no superhero with powers to speak of, the art works well to hone in on the smaller moments of regular living.
U.S.Agent is an interesting new series that feels entirely different from anything else Marvel Comics is putting out today. The character is questionable as a hero and also not the best at what he does either, but dammit he still wants to do the right thing. It’s hard not to root for him, even when he’s ignorant and his personality seems to suit the location of middle America. This is decidedly an American comic set in an America many of us can relate to as a mega-corp takes over.
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