by Drew Baumgartner
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Falcon 3 opens with Sam and Rayshaun in prison. Denied any due process by the white mayor, it’s hard not to see the parallels to mass incarceration, a problem that disproportionately affects black men. Moreover, Sam and Rayshaun are powerless to do anything about it. They eventually escape, sure, but it’s only by the force of literal magic — there’s no other means available to them. It’s a potent symbol, the kind that makes Rodney Barnes and Joshua Cassara’s Falcon so refreshing.
And that opening can’t really be forgotten in the ending, where Blackheart sends Sam’s soul to hell, highlighting the other end too common for black mean: death. These are issues few other mainstream comics are tilting at, and Barnes and Cassara pick their moments well enough, but clunky dialogue prevents the issue from ever gaining any real momentum. It’s a problem that might be mitigated by simply limiting the amount of dialogue in the first place. Instead, balloons are crammed into every corner, whether the panel needs it or not.
This panel would be kind of a slog with only four balloons, but Barnes can’t resist cramming in that clunky Tupac/Suge Knight joke, made all the worse because we read it before we see what the heck Shaun’s referring to. I understand the impulse to characterize Rayhsaun beyond just saying “whoa” or whatever, but this line doesn’t work, and only further clutters an already busy panel.
“Cluttered” might be a good way of describing this issue, in general. There are a lot of ideas here, from a few epic fight scenes to wanting to establish some dynamics between these characters with witty banter, but there isn’t space to explore any of them properly. Even the image of Sam and Shaun in prison that I praised at the top of the piece isn’t given its due — Sam reminisces about promising his father he’d never end up in jail, but we never really get to see Sam grapple with what it means to him. Indeed, the symbolic power of him being in jail seems totally lost on him — it’s just another obstacle between him and his goal. Would that we could get more of that opening narration throughout the issue.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?