U.S. Agent #1, available from Marvel Comics on November 4th, reintroduces the pseudo-hero fallen on hard times and taking low-status military assignments just to get by. Christopher Priest’s story and the art team of Georges Jeanty and Karl Story bring readers a satirical take on the life of a has-been hero that’s more Deadpool and Wolverine than Captain America.
Marco Checchetto’s cover is deceptively excellent. The subtle punches of red and blue in Agent’s suit make him stand out from the heap of bodies surrounding him. Agent’s simple “skol” toast projects haughty energy, and the pinpoint gleam off his shield reminds the reader that despite his gruff exterior, Agent is an unapologetic patriot.
Priest’s writing style of late has been a challenge to get through. The scene transitions are very jumpy, and the dialog between characters is sometimes punctuated with dated references. Referential humor can be hit or miss. I thought there was a bit of both in this issue. I was amused with some scenes but rolled my eyes painfully at others.
In a recent Syfy interview, Priest explained how this was an opportunity to show multiple characters with multiple points of view, sometimes leading to uncomfortable moments. To that end, Priest succeeded as Agent is decidedly not politically correct – stopping just short of being overtly racist. To keep things in balance, Agent’s partner in this mission (an Asian government asset) is no better in a completely different but equally offensive way. To be clear, this is not an offensive book, but everyone in it is, in some form or another, is a terrible person. Think Archie Bunker (if anybody today even remembers who that is) with shields and guns, and you’re on the right track.
Did I enjoy the story? I enjoyed some of it. The humor is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and the jumpy narrative style lacks focus. In short, U.S. Agent #1 is a mixed bag.
Jeanty ad Story’s art is a fantastic match for Priest’s tone and tenor. From the interviewed mine workers to the detained pizza delivery folk, all the characters have a slightly exaggerated quality to their designs. Those exaggerations don’t rise to the level of cartoonish caricature, but the designs add an element of surreality to the situation, which enhances some of Priest’s humor.
It’s easier to laugh at a joke when the butt of the joke looks like a joke. But it’s not just humor that works in this issue. The action is kinetic and bone-crunching. Shields and bodies fly in all directions, but Jeanty and Story wisely keep the action serious instead of slapstick. The juxtaposition of action and humor through the art makes this a very visually pleasing issue.
Matt Milla’s coloring work is bold and eye-catching. In particular, the coloring on the costumes, both hero and civilian alike, stands out against the backgrounds for some enjoyable pop.
VC’s Joe Sabino’s lettering work is excellent in this issue. The punchy, humorous dialog is rapid. Sabino keeps the dialog moving and breaks the bubbles up at just the right points for the jokes to land with maximum effect. This is nice work by Sabino.
U.S. Agent #1, available from Marvel Comics on November 4th, is an irreverent take on the Captain America wannabe whose latest assignment suffers from his lack of finesse. The jumpy storyline has some strong moments and jokes that hit more than miss, and the art elevates this issue beyond the sum of its parts. U.S. Agent #1 is a recommended read.