Shiny Shelf

Captain America and the Falcon #9

By Jim Smith on 09 November 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Y’know, ‘Captain America and the Falcon’ is a terrific comic book. The first arc (Issues #1- #4) was a little inhibited by artwork that I, personally, found a little brutal and not terribly clear in the old storytelling department, but since # 5 the book has consistently proved to be one of the more thoughtful and characterful reads coming out of Marvel.

Christopher Priest’s dense, smart scripts are complimented perfectly by Joe Bennett’s crisp, seemingly effortless artwork and the result is a book which is never anything less than a real pleasure to read. Big ideas, big action scenes and good human writing crash together in a technology and conspiracy heavy book each issue of which really needs a couple of read throughs before it all sinks in. Like Priest’s earlier, brilliant shamefully neglected ‘The Crew’ it feels like it’s really going somewhere interesting and individual.

I am, as any regular readers of this site will know, not much of a Captain America fan, but he’s someone that work like ‘The Truth’, ‘Cap Lives!’ and ‘Homeland’ has enabled me to warm to in recent years. Here Priest seems, to my admittedly semi-ignorant eyes, to here be ploughing a similar furrow with similar degrees of success. Priest’s Steve Rodgers is a complex man in a complex job, an idealist and a realist, a humanitarian and a soldier. It’s an appropriate portrayal of a character who is never going to fit in our times without becoming a conduit for stories about the difference between reality and ideals.

The Falcon is a character I’d never read a comic book about a year ago. I had to look him up in my landlord’s childhood copy of ‘The Handbook of the Marvel Universe’ to get the skinny on him. (No, for real). He works, as far as I can see, excellently as a foil to Cap to my mind. Angry, impulsive and in some (obvious) ways disenfranchised by the society he fights to protect, he’s also someone people are suspicious of, the very opposite of the veneration they have for Cap. The relationship between them, though, seems strong, founded in a mutual respect which expresses itself as a combination of mutual back-covering and mutual antagonism. It seems just like real friendship in it’s unsaid, shrugging complexities; something that only the Batman/Superman relationship as written by Grant Morrison has really seemed to me to be before now.

The current storyline – which deals with drug dealing Rivas, military conspiracies and (the previously very silly, now very sinister) MODOK – is really a continuation of a long game plan which has been running since #1. While this could, I suppose, act as a disincentive to people who want to jump on the book, the sheer quality of the scripts and art should really compensate for this to all sensible readers. I mean, that’s what ‘the story so far’ pages are for, right?

Priest’s plot has dovetailed, with considerable elegance, into ‘Avengers Disassembled’ while pursuing its own course and without sacrificing its distinctiveness. Would that other tie-ins could be so impressive. The enticing prospect of a Cap/Scarlet Witch romance (backed up by some of the sexiest, fully-clothed line art imaginable) has been raised and then shelved without seeming contrived and a conspiracy which involves the US Navy and a ‘Super Sailor’ will, it seems, provided background for future plotlines. Just when I thought it was all sewn up.

With Bennett now exclusive to DC there are rumours of an end to this series, of it becoming simply ‘The Falcon’ or of Priest leaving it behind for pastures new. Only the second of these options is really acceptable, surely? Priest doesn’t deserve to have another great series cancelled from under him. He’s a distinctive voice in comic book writing and there aren’t enough of those. This is a distinctive comic book too, and there aren’t enough of those, either.

Oh, and check out those pages of Sam fighting underwater. If there are better fight scenes than those anywhere on the shelves this month, I’ll buy you all ice-cream.

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