by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The Marvel Universe is full of odd little corners that don’t always interact. I mean, sure, the X-Men will show up for the big summer crossover series, and Wolverine shows up in everything (even when he was still ostensibly dead), but they largely exist in a world separate from Spider-Man or Thor. Likewise, Spider-Man and Thor occupy worlds separate from each other. This obviously falls out of some practical concerns — plans for certain characters may not facilitate their appearances elsewhere — but there are also important aesthetic ones, as well. Chief among them is concerns of “fit” — while it might be fun to see a cosmic-level hero take a side adventure into some street-level action (or vice versa), it’s not exactly what fans of their series signed up for. So: team-ups between, say, Silver Surfer and Hawkeye are few and far between. I found myself thinking a great deal about fit as Falcon 2 emphasizes the demonic threat Sam is up against.
I’m probably in the minority of folks wanting to see Sam mired in a crime procedural, but I was hoping leaving New York behind meant this series was stepping away from the mustache-twirling villains that tend to inhabit it. More importantly, that first issue tilted at some villains that few series ever actually address, villains like political systems, police tactics, and cultures of violence. It’s heady stuff for a superhero comic, but Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara pulled it off beautifully, reminding me more of an episode of The Wire than anything with tights and a cape. But this issue veers hard into the magical villain Sam is battling, ultimately focusing on stakes entirely different from gang violence in Chicago.
I appreciate that Barnes is taking Sam out of his comfort zone, but since Sam’s comfort zone is already so unique, I kind of wish we could just watch him struggle with implementing new solutions to old problems. As it is, there’s not much room for Sam or his problems — this issue devotes several pages to Blackheart, Doctor Voodoo, and Blackheart fighting Doctor Voodoo — so things like mentoring Rayshaun or grappling with Steve’s legacy or struggling with city politics all feel crammed in at the margins.
By the end of the issue, the focus is back on topical subject matter — check out that militarized police force — but it’s no longer clear which is the cart and which is the horse. Will Sam’s battle with militarized police amount to more than a literal fight? I’m no longer sure.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?