There’s a lot I like about U.S.Agent #1. There’s also a lot I struggled with in a mixed debut issue. John Walker is back but he’s no longer an official agent of the government. Instead, he’s a government contractor hired out to do whatever his employer wants. The conflict of this debut revolves around a small town and a conflict with a mega-corporation that has moved in. There’s a lot of potential with just that but with some twists and turns what should be a simple commentary on the state of Middle America turns into a rather muddled and confusing debut.
Written by Christopher Priest, U.S.Agent #1 has a premise that should be easy. It’s themes are an easy layup and its focus should be clear. The concept of a small town having to deal with a mega-corporation destroying their life is something that is well worth discussing. It’s a real-world event that happens over and over and there’s so much material to mine. Instead, Priest mixes in former S.H.I.E.L.D. operation centers, Walker having a partner to tag along, and kidnapping pizza boys!? Yeah, the last part is a bit over the top, even for a character such as Walker.
But, where Priest really drops the ball is Walker himself. The man is beyond bigoted and racist. As depicted, he has absolutely no redeeming qualities. He’s completely unlikeable. I’m given no reason to cheer for him in succeeding or even redeeming himself. He’s a complete asshole and at this point I would love to see him just take a bullet and get it over with.
Georges Jeanty‘s art delivers a little pep to the debut with a style that fits the more comedic tone of the debut. A lot of the art leans on to stereotypes, especially when it comes to the small town. Joined by Karl Story on ink, Matt Milla on color, and Joe Sabino on lettering, the opening few pages features individuals who live in the small town. Each is a bit too similar to each other with the same positioning of their head and even mouth and teeth that look like they’re repeated. I’m not sure if this is done on purpose to make a point or if it’s just the style. But, we’re told they’re small town folk by their hats, clothes, and the slightly dirty look to them all.
But, not all of the art is frustrating. The action has its moments and when the comic wants to play for laughs, Jeanty’s style really fits the moment and the pacing delivered with each panel plays a comedic action comedy beat. If the comic went more in that direction and stuck with it, the art might pull the comic up to a point I’m more excited about it but there’s just too much that doesn’t click in both narrative and visuals.
U.S.Agent #1 feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. There’s part of it that’s action/comedy starring a racist. Part of it is a spy/action story… also starring a racist. Then, there are hints there are some psychological things at play and it’s an exploration of John Walker himself. It can be any of those things and if it focused on one of them it might be really good and interesting. As presented, it comes off as a choppy debut that never quite gets its bearing or finds its voice.
Story: Christopher Priest Art: Georges Jeanty
Ink: Karl Story Color: Matt Milla Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.4 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Read
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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