U.S.Agent #1 Review

by Charles Martin on November 04, 2020

U.S.Agent #1 Review
Writer: Priest
Penciller: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Karl Story
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

John Walker, quondam Captain America, current U.S.Agent -- he's the shield-slinger you love to hate. The jerk with a heart of gold who's also quite a jerk, Walker comes from the depths of the Dark Ages. He's managed to cling to the edge of the Marvel universe for decades, always ready to add an unseemly "bastards can try to be heroes too" edge to a story.

Now he's launching into a miniseries of his own, and the first thing to report is that he could not be in better hands, creatively speaking. Priest and Georges Jeanty are on the same wavelength when it comes to tone. They bring cinematic speed and impact to both the words and the art.

It starts in a dying West Virginia coal town, where a new retail distribution center has failed to revitalize the economy. So the locals blow it up. U.S.Agent and a mysterious new sidekick come in to save the day. Smash cut to them standing in a crater, being reviled by the townsfolk for their incompetence.

First Priest comic? Get used to the non-chronological storytelling. If you roll with the jumps, it's highly rewarding.

The balance of the comic shows how Johnny met Morrie, his acerbic new partner, in the middle of a low-rent bodyguard gig. And the finale introduces a fresh complication bridging the gap toward the coal town part of the story, a surprising personal connection for John to grapple with.

Mr. Priest's ear for dramatic timing and snappy dialogue remains sharp as ever. In terms of plot development B evolving naturally from plot development A, this is a pretty choppy comic. But when you relax into the flow of the script and trust the author, the ride becomes smooth as silk. 

The narrative dances from moment to moment at the direction of a master storyteller. Is the import of every moment instantly clear? No, not yet. But every moment inspires confidence. All of these pieces are going to matter.

As noted above, the script's acrobatics are matched in the visual arena thanks to Georges Jeanty and his partners, Karl Story and Matt Milla. There is some slight exaggeration to the faces so they can emote better, but the action scenes are emphatically not exaggerated. The artists pick their moments with care, capturing dynamic motion and emphasizing brutal impacts in combat.

The finish work in this comic is top-notch. Mr. Story's inks preserve the organic quality of the pencils while picking out fine details and delivering an impressive level of polish. Mr. Milla's colours emerge as a powerful scene-setting tool, with each location receiving a naturalistic palette that grounds the characters in an instantly-believable world.

Speaking of characters, the #1 talking point for this issue is going to be the spiky relationship between Walker and Morrie. Morrie's a deadpan snarker who sharpens Johnny's own sarcasm. They're also unafraid to load their verbal knives with racially-charged poison, in a way that stops just shy of offending the reader.

Are these characters and their dialogue offensive? No. Are they realistic? Yes. Once you accept that these are two thoroughly unpleasant men intentionally goading each other, their words become enjoyable -- possibly even brilliant.

John Walker's miniseries gets off to a boisterous, gritty start. It's the usual Priest smattering of chronologically-separated scenes. The plot is opaque for now, but the story is engaging and the characters compel interest if not admiration. Combined with confident, dynamic art, the sharp script succeeds in both entertaining and provoking thought.

Our Score:


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I admit, mentioning Charlie Chan is a bit retro. But then, bigots tend to be a little behind the times in their pop culture references.