Saturday, October 20, 2007

#55 USAgent (Marvel)
Real Name: [John Walker]
First Appearance: [Captain America #323; November 1986]
Group Affiliations: [Omega Flight, Invaders, Avengers, SHIELD]
Class: [Champion] Last Opponent: [The Avengers]
Win Percentage: [33.33%] Features: [3]
Season 2006: [#128] Current Ranking: [#132]

The Story...
Having grown up admiring his older brother who was killed in Vietnam, John Walker grew to fullfil his romantisized goal of enlisting to honor his brother..
After eventually leaving the service, a directionless Walker learnt of the Power Broker; an individual specializing in the granting of super powers.

In order to pay his debts to the Broker, Walked intends to become a super-powered professional wrestler, but is instead persuaded to become the high-profile corporate sponsored hero, the Super-Patriot.

His arrogance eventually brings him into conflict with Captain America, but it would be Walker who had the last laugh, stepping into the coveted role during a period of despondency that saw Steve Rogers step down in opposition to the then current administration.

WALKER in his later self-appointed guise as CAPTAIN AMERICA, during his tenure with the INVADERS.Walker would actually be part of a smear campaign manipulated by the Red Skull, utilizing Walker's more brutal ethics to tarnish the ideological value of Captain America as a symbol. Having trained with the Taskmaster; Walker would be responsible for many deaths, and his bloody reign as Captain America would include the murder of his own parents.

Rogers would step back into the role, and the pair would swap positions, seeing Walker adopt a variation on Rogers' costumed temporary alias, The Captain.
As USAgent, Walker would be reassigned to the West Coast Avengers, where he would eventually be voted out before the dissolving of the team. Tony Stark would recruit Walker, along with other West Coast allumnists, for his support network called Force Works.

When Force Works was absorbed back into the Avengers membership, Walker would not rejoin. Instead, he would serve minor roles with various groups, until again being manipulated by a disguised Red Skull working from within the US government. The deceived Invaders would remain together, with Walker insisting on being referred to as Captain America once more, until eventually succumbing to the pressures of the mantle, and the status others believed it should entail.

In the wake of the Civil War; USAgent is shipped to America to become part of the final launch of Alpha Flight as Omega Flight. Walker is intended as a peace offering for the inadvertant spill-over the restructuring of the American superhuman community caused Canada. As a member of the team, USAgent would find a brief rivalry in the villain Purple Man, who stole his shield.

The Character...
USAgent's stature in the Marvel Universe was whittled away during the late nineties and early naughties, his fate with the New Invaders ill-fated along with most other characters in that title. Which is particularly unusual today, considering the mass of activity within the Captain America universe.

With an investment in the character, it really seems he should have had a greater role in the Civil War, as a Captain America style figure more than willing to submit to the government's requirements. Because, for me, I think that's one of the fantastic things that differentiates him from the legend by-whom he was overshadowed.

Both Walker and Rogers are staunch patriots, but for Walker loyalty to the government takes precedent over personalized emotions and motivations. It's a quality that allowed him to usurp the title in the first place, when Rogers would step down as Captain America on moral grounds, where USAgent could become the "good soldier" replacement that would flesh-out the idol.

I like to bring it back to a poignant comparison to lines from American Psycho, where Patrick Batemen refers to the illusion of commonality one might feel when 'shaking his hand.' The scene in a broader context implies the value of facade, and how a man can hide inside an iconic mould, while simmering away beneath with very different thoughts and desires.

USAgent is a great character because, speaking off-the-page, he's a Captain America you're allowed to break. He can fullfil all of those twisted, confronting aspects of the Captain America character, as good or as bad as you want, without Marvel ever really sweating out their investment. There are those negative undertones common to the Ultimate Captain America, but he just comes from a place that isn't as endearing.

For my money, Omega Flight did not serve the character. That was as frivilous a shifting of the character in real life, as it was within the pages of that book.
I've missed seeing many of the characters from New Invaders, but this appearance, no matter how it evolved, felt more like shoe-horning a vaguely recognisable character into an ill-fated franchise. Fortunately, for the USAgent character at least, Omega Flight was downgraded from on-going, to mini-series, and for the time being the character's fate is up in the air.

Which, to me, is especially good because of everything going on with Captain America. This is the corner of the Marvel Universe where USAgent has made the most sense, and probably where he's held his greatest importance.

I think it's fair to say Marvel "missed the boat" on the Civil War, but to fail to address John Walker after the death of Captain America, and the resurrection of the mantle with a new Cap, would be a downright travesty.

The Pitch...
John Walker, having served the country's debt in Canada, leaves the dissolved Omega Flight to return to the United States to rejoin SHIELD as a proponent of the pro-regstration team, and the Initiative. He returns with an entitled assumption that he will return to the iconic role of Captain America.

A lot of what I think could make the character so interesting boils down to a single scene in New Invaders [#6]; wherein Walker is thanked for his team's intervention as Captain America - only to be dressed down immediately by the Sub-Mariner - a man with the weight and familiarity with Rogers to have every right in doing so.

Much of what I would like to see done with the character would revolve around repositioning him in the urban thick of the Marvel Universe, while examining the underlying psyche of a character whose life has revolved around living in second-place, structured to assume feelings of accepted inadequacy stem from his childhood, where he lived in the shadow of his older brother, Mike.

As a solo special operative of SHIELD, the stories would see USAgent assigned to tasks in the urban sprawl, both specific and non-specific, allowing him to interact with company storyarcs, and facilitating interactions with other Initiative groups, such as the Thunderbolts. His unique position might even see him taking a similar tact to Ms. Marvel, occasionally leading small units of other registered characters for specific missions.

Behind all of this is an opportunity to look at USAgent as a personality; struggling to endear himself to his peers, to a normal and balanced life, to loved ones, to other human beings, and to a new Captain America. A manic character of volatile self-importance, and rampant anxieties and feelings of inadequacy.

Expected themes, scenes and guest spots:
- Deceptions in dating (How does John Walker make love?)
- Detective with no case (A long history of violence)
- Underground fighting (UCWF today)
- Thunderbolts (Super-Patroit: See no evil)
- New Captain America (Acid tests)
- Taskmaster (Old rivalries...)
- Winter Soldier (... New rivalries)
- Clint Barton (Of all the lives to be resurrected...)
- Family (A dead issue)

This would be a series making no bones about being a superhero book, but with the right artist, it could find a human and urban grounding in much the same way Steve Epting's work grounded Ed Brubaker's work on Captain America.

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