Despite Marc Guggenheim’s comical abuse of the term “legacy” in recent issues of X-Men: Gold, there are two other corners of the Marvel Universe that I fully expected the publisher to focus on in this new initiative. And, appropriately, in Week 2 of Marvel Legacy, the camera pans wide to take in the scarred landscape of Captain America and The Fantastic Four. There may be no character dealing with more trauma from Secret Empire than Sam Wilson, and Falcon #1, by Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara, is an especially poignant opener to a series that refuses to stand up for the anthem, as it were.
Sam has given up the shield and mantle of Captain America, and he’s back in costume as the Falcon, patrolling the streets of Chicago with the new Patriot, Rayshaun Lucas. Their first order of business is an attempt at dealing with a simmering gang war, but their real mission statement seems much broader, and far more daunting. Nick Spencer did a fine job reflecting the sociopolitical turmoil in this country in the pages of his two Cap books, and deserves commendation for persevering despite backlash from racist retailers and closed-minded readers (I mean, fer crissakes, this just happened last weekend). But now he passes the torch to Barnes, and he’s not holding back, or sweeping anything under the rug. “Legacy” may be the operative term, but Marvel’s recent editorial shifts to diversify its character base and shake up generations of white male super-icons is not only admirable, it’s imperative.
Steve Rogers has his own shit to figure out; that’s not Sam’s problem any longer. He does, however, have to deal with the fact that the most trusted human being on the planet just committed the biggest act of betrayal, and, right now, disillusionment with the superpowered set is at an all-time high. Especially when you’re dodging bullets in the South Side.
Rodney Barnes may be new to comics, his first published work coming in a recent Patriot vignette from a Secret Empire anthology, but the man is no stranger to storytelling. His experience as a screenwriter and producer on shows like Cartoon Network’s The Boondocks shines through in a tight storyline, well-paced action sequences, and deft exchanges. A lot of help comes from some truly dynamic art by Cassara. Those panels of Falcon in flight are beautiful, and the gritty tone aligns wonderfully with this street-level focus. It helps that Sam already has an MCU counterpart, but I still want more people to recognize this name — along with folks like Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Amadeus Cho — and validate Marvel’s commitment to a diversified lineup of superheroes. This book should go a long way to doing just that.
As for what the hell happened to the Fantastic Four, it’s time to check in on that underappreciated oddball Unity Squad (ten times more entertaining since ditching Deadpool). In its first Legacy-dressed issue, Uncanny Avengers #28, by Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse, the Human Torch deals with his recent windfall inheritance. (Wait, so Reed, Sue, and the kids… are dead? But I read the Marvel Legacy one-shot, and what? Zdarsky & Cheung? Yes! Oh, this is going to be fun.) I’m a sucker for superheroes-having-coffee issues, and although it may not play well as a jumping-on point for new readers (it feels like an end-of-an-era issue rather than a start of one), I’m onboard for as long as it lasts.
Which… won’t be long, apparently. Marvel recently announced that the two offshoot Avengers books, this one and U.S.Avengers, will end and the three books will combine into a weekly. I want to be excited about this. I really do. But when has Marvel ever successfully pulled off a weekly comic? Bated breath, True Believers.