Marvel's new U.S.Agent series takes on the controversial character of John Walker at an… interesting time in the political landscape. Writer Christopher Priest, who can turn even a story about Vampirella into a layered saga about politics, seems uniquely suited to write an impactful, interesting, nuanced U.S.Agent story. But does this tale of the one-time Captain America start off as strong as readers would expect?
Priest's writing grabs the reader — there's no doubt about that. The problem with U.S.Agent, though, is its pace. The choppy plotting jerks readers from scene to scene with conversational scenes that seem like they're about to give the reader something they can grab onto so they can orient themselves — and then the scene abruptly ends. This makes for a confusing read where we don't get to know much about anything or anyone. There is intriguing character work with Morrie, who is a pizza delivery man with the skills to kick U.S.Agent's ass, but the brevity of the scenes and the topic of conversations that we see the characters discuss leaves the reader at arm's length from every character.
Priest is joined on this title by longtime Buffy the Vampire Slayer artist Georges Jeanty, inker Karl Story, colorist Matt Milla, and letterer VC's Joe Sabino. Visually, the comic is a mixture of talking heads and ground-level action, and the team handles both well, using limited space to visually develop the townspeople of Ephraim. The best action scene is a brawl between Morrie, the pizza delivery man, and U.S.Agent, which is exciting and funny. Sabino does a neat trick here where, when Walker is flipped; his dialogue balloon is positioned upside down. Overall, it's a good-looking book, but Jeanty's faces lose a lot in the action and in medium shots. He's fine in wide shots and terrific with close-ups, but it's the medium shots where the characters' faces look deformed.
Personally, I went into this more excited than I've been for a Marvel comic in months and left feeling uncertain about what exactly happened in this comic. This could be a case where U.S.Agent is going make for a terrific trade once the full story is out, but as the first issue of a new series, this doesn't do much to make readers want to find out what happens next.