Writer: Christopher Priest
Penciler: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Marco Checchetto
Warning Contains Spoilers:
Christopher Priest’s (Black Panther, Deathstroke) John Walker: U.S.Agent #1 is a reminder that John Walker, the titular protagonist, may have carried the Captain America mantle but, he is no Steve Rogers. And in this comic, the townspeople of Ephraim, West Virginia let that be known when they are interviewed about what had transpired when the super soldier arrived. The townspeople also talk about how a corporation called Virago was affecting the towns economy by usurping their coal mine and how the presence of U.S. Agent gave them false hope since he resembles Captain America.
This is seen in the splash on page 5 where the townspeople are hurling insults at U.S.Agent and his new partner, Morrie (not Bucky), a Chinese-American agent with martial art skills.
John Walker is tasked with protecting Virago which was a front for S.H.I.E.L.D and the same organization that is sucking the town dry.
After meeting Morrie and stopping a bomber posing as a pizza guy, Walker comes across a little girl on a bicycle who gives him a message “Hope not ever to see Heaven…” which is a quote derived from Dante’s Inferno. The super soldier also has a flashback of a little girl we learn is his sister when he tells the girl to “beat it sis,” only to finish the quote by saying “I have come to lead you to the other shore.” It turns out that the little girl has a message from his handler which takes him and Morrie to Ephraim. After exchanging a couple dirty jokes on the way to the small town. Walker and Morrie are attacked by a group of masked assailants. The leader of this group is revealed to be John’s sister. Katie all grown up and armed with a pistol at the super soldier’s face.
Priest’s writing in this comic has a lot of dark humor. I have read some of his run on Deathstroke and the interactions between John and Morrie are very similar to Slade Wilson and Billy Wintergreen. And it Priest’s writing that is a reminder that this is not a Captain America story, this is a U.S.Agent story. John Walker is no Steve Rogers. He is a shoot ‘em up and hotheaded version of Cap and the type of soldier that Professor Erskine warned Colonel Phillips about. In several comics, U.S.Agent sometimes would come to blows with Captain America.
To some readers, this is also a story about a small-town vs a giant corporation, which is also a government cover up. And to other readers, with the inclusion of Katie, it is a family or sibling rivalry story.
When I read this comic, several questions popped in my mind. Why Ephraim of all places? Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. or the US Government, use a corporation as a covert front in a small mining town and take away the one thing that was helping the town thrive? There’s obviously more to the story here.
There were some funny moments in the comic. One notable moment was when Walker’s shield was destroyed when stopping the bomber’s car. Another was when Morrie outclassed him in hand-to-hand combat which reasserts that John Walker is not Steve Rogers. Priest, in a sense, almost makes U.S. Agent a parody of Captain America. Even a kid who Walker gives his shield to alludes this by saying that the weapon is a rip off.
The art done by Georges Jeanty frequently employs moment-to-moment and action-to-action sequences. This was notable in the panels showing U.S. Agent aiming his gun at every pizza delivery guy walking to his door step and in the panels showing him fighting Morrie. The coloring done by Matt Milla helps to tell the story that this is U.S. Agent from the black and red uniform to his U.S. shield.
As I write this, I can see how the story of a corporation going into a small town and taking away the jobs of small townspeople makes for an intriguing story. One of the former coal workers even admitted that he blew up Virago’s power plants which prompted the government to call Walker which make it appear that he is there to protect the interests of Virago and the government. Obviously, we will see what is really going down in Ephraim in the next five issues.
John Walker U.S. Agent #1 is out now and can be bought at your local comic book store.