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‘U.S.Agent #1’ (review)

Written by Christopher Priest
Art by Georges Jeanty
Published by Marvel Comics

 

Wait, U.S. Agent has a new limited series?

For what reason would I want to read about the knockoff Captain America?  Especially when, as of this writing, the nation sits on the precipice of whether Donald Trump is reinstalled as president and the GOP continues its march toward a dream of single-party, counter-majoritarian rule?

Oh, it’s written by Christopher Priest?

The Priest who reinvigorated Black Panther and was a part of DC’s Black-focused Milestone imprint that gave us Static, and Icon and Rocket?

Are you telling me that I get a depiction of John Walker, the cracked-mirror version of Cap – in all the angry white male indulgence of this current, reactionary American life – from a legendary Black creative voice in the industry?

And penciled by Georges Jeanty, another Black creative, who has an Eisner Award on his shelf and has worked with Joss Whedon, Brian K. Vaughn and John Ridley?

OK, you got me.

The opening title page for U.S. Agent #1 states, “The fiercely patriotic John Walker uses his superhuman strength, agility and endurance – and his shield – to defend American values.”

The story opens with a group of West Virginians talking about how combinations of economic, governmental and technological factors led to the closure of the local coal mine, the dominant employer in town.

The Amazon-type super-retailer Virago moves in with a distribution center that leeches from the townspeople of Ephraim, until it is blown up. Surely, a series of events occurs leading up to that moment, and this issue sets up that the series will unspool that yarn for us.

We enter a world of small-time government operatives always on the edge of knowing anything, let along knowing what they’re doing. And that includes U.S. Agent, because apparently nobody likes him. Not his government handlers, not the people of Ephraim, who call him a jackass and “idgit” as Walker stands in a large crater amid rubble.

Hell, maybe Walker doesn’t like himself, either.

Priest is known for giving novel introductions to characters. We surely get that as Walker and traveling companion Morrie Watanabe’s meet-cute involves an assault rifle, a basement full of pizza delivery men, and some really disappointed kids.

Jeanty’s art is just this side of cartoonish, like newspaper caricature cartoonish. He draws the action well, and his panel work is decent if strange in its shapes from time to time. The only time the cartoonishness doesn’t serve him is in the opening with the Ephraim townspeople. His obvious drawings of reality TV star “Mama” June Shannon (vintage pre-From Not To Hot incarnation) and perpetual trucker hat-wearing comedian Judah Friedlander cut from taking these folks seriously.

Throw in some unexpected flashbacks, uncommon violence, and title cards straight out of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then mix in a blast from the flashback-heavy past, and some very breakable shields, and we’re in for a ride.

 

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