It’s been a while since I’ve talked about comics. Sure, I’ve talked about comic book movies numerous times, especially with my reviews and editorials, but not a comic book specifically, again at least not for a while. This is kind of a review, it’s also more of me talking about a particular comic that I thought had potential, and it didn’t deliver on it. That comic was recent solo series featuring the Marvel Comics character, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon.
I believe that everything, even something that sounds remotely ridiculous, has the potential to be good. And sometimes it doesn’t become a success right away or it does. Or maybe years from now it’ll be looked back as an underappreciated work. Who knows. I don’t know if that could be applied to The Falcon comic, though. The character may be underappreciated by mainstream audiences, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have fans. I may not know too much about the character, other than what I’ve read in some comics, what I’ve looked up, and other media I’ve seen him in, and he’s a pretty compelling character. So why didn’t his solo series work?
Bear in mind, this isn’t the first time Sam Wilson had his own comic. Yes, he partnered with Captain America in that character’s solo series, even headlined a couple Captain America comics going under that moniker in recent years. He also had a 4-issue miniseries in the 80s and even a teamup comic called Captain America and the Falcon, both of them written by Christopher Priest, who audiences may know as being the writer who delivered what could arguably be described as the definitive take on Black Panther. All of these characters, including the team they are members of, The Avengers, are known and loved by mainstream audiences through films and other media. But again, WHY didn’t his solo series work? Sales weren’t so great and neither were reviews, but what else was the problem?
Personally, I thought the comic started out as a mixed bag, then it was fine and becoming somewhat decent, and finally it just became a drag. I do like the costume redesign, at least. The artwork was also kind of lackluster, unable to decide if it wanted to be photorealistic, like Alex Maleev, or exaggeratedly painted, like Tom Mandrake.
Because of recent politics and other stuff, Marvel thought it’d be a great idea to mix that in with Falcon. It’s not a bad idea…in concept. In execution, however, it left out a lot to be desired. It wanted to be this edgy comic that talked about race, crime, politics, corruption, and other stuff, and that’s fine, plenty of comics do that, even superhero ones. But then The Falcon had the demon supervillain Blackheart manipulating the events depicted in the story. It’s a superhero comic, yes, so there’s bound to be outlandish and/or fantastical elements, but the way it’s done is just forced. The dialogue also sounded cliched and ridiculous at times, with some characters sounding like they came out of a cheesy blaxploitation movie and others acting as if the writer has no idea how to write characters or anything resembling a human being, which is funny since a surprising amount of them in the comic are mutants, demons, or half-demons. Maybe there’s some kind of cosmic awareness that is going on and I’m only understanding gibberish and need someone to translate, who knows.
Sam Wilson himself isn’t even that compelling in his own comic, especially when it tends to not focus on him half the time. He does get some decent character moments, especially in issue #4, but the rest are few and far between. The other half is focused on characters that are downright annoying, like Rayshaun Lucas aka “the new Patriot even though Elijah Bradley is still alive so why isn’t he in this”?, or have no reason to be there simply because the plot says so, like Joaquin Torres. Then there are straight-up bizarre choices, like Damon Hellstrom aka “Son of Satan”, Blackheart, Mephisto, Doctor Voodoo, and Two-Gun Kid, who are surprisingly fitting for this comic, maybe because they bring some kind of excitement to an otherwise dull book.
I think the problem with this comic is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Or maybe it strives to be something but doesn’t know how to do it. Add to it, it doesn’t know what kind of audience it wants to sell to. It doesn’t know how to make Sam Wilson, as Falcon, a compelling character on his own without tying it in either to recent events in the comics or to the overall Marvel Universe.
When thinking about all this, there are two comics that I think managed to do this right and be successful at it: Green Arrow by Mike Grell and Black Panther by Christopher Priest. Both of them feature characters that would’ve been largely ignored by the masses, yet popular characters in their own right, so that creative people saw their potential and tapped into it. They did their own spin on the characters, made them stand on their own while acknowledging their roots and where they are in the fictional universes they occupy, and became not only successful, but influential titles that are still relevant for both the time they were made, current times, and the times to come. They also had their respective edges unto themselves that Falcon is sorely lacking, which kind of explains why the first five issues felt like such a slog to go through, even with good moments here and there. Maybe it wanted to be like those comics, but it didn’t know how to and it ended up being not very compelling, and the same goes for the character himself as depicted in it. And as part of Marvel’s attempt to harken back to some earlier time with their Legacy initiative, I don’t think that did anyone any favors, especially when Marvel seems to care more about being like their movie and TV division and not a comic book company. Nothing wrong with appealing to a movie/TV audience, but it’s also a comic, so ya can’t have your cake and eat it too in this case.
And that’s why I couldn’t continue reading the series. I wish it the best, but I don’t know if that’ll be enough to keep it going, as well as whatever Marvel and the creative team will do to keep pushing it. With this “Fresh Start” happening, who knows what the future will hold for Sam Wilson as a solo character and his overall place in the MU. He’s a great hero, it’s just that those currently in charge have no idea what to do with him. I hope that someday, The Falcon will take flight.
Oh, and as far as a rating goes for this series, I give it a 3/5.