MINI-SERIES REVIEWS...

cover #1The Falcon

(1983 - four issues, Marvel Comics)

Written by Jim Owsley. Pencils Paul Smith (#1), Mark Bright (#2-4). Inks: Vince Colletta (#1), Mike Gustovich (#2-4) .

The first issue of this mini-series was originally intended as a one-off story, but sat on the shelf for a while, until Marvel decided to devote a whole mini-series to Captain America's sometimes sidekick, the inner city hero, The Falcon. As such, the first issue is self-contained; the second, too, is reasonably self-contained, although laying the ground work (as the Falcon's relationship with a semi-reformed street gang deteriorates) for the final two issue story arc (in case you can't find the whole mini-series).

And strangely, I'm not sure why I don't like this more than I do.

I picked this up when it was first published, and read it a couple of times, but hadn't really thought much about it over the years (it's taken me this long to get around to re-reading it and reviewing it for my site!). Written by James Owsley (a.k.a. Christopher Priest) and the first issue is drawn by Paul Smith, the rest by Mark (M.D.) Bright -- both artists at the beginning of their careers, and would get better, but nonetheless deliver solid work.

And the result is pretty good. Owsley delivers a sympathetic, vulnerable Sam Wilson/Falcon -- social worker by day, super hero by night, though where his "secret" identity is public knowledge, and trying to redeem street punks as much as arrest them. Like with his later run on the Black Panther, Owsley gives the straight, black hero a comic relief white sidekick -- in this case, the unorthodox, street-savvy cop, Tork. The stories try juggling the gritty realities of inner city life, of dead ends and hoodlums who make bad choices more than they are bad people, with high-flying super hero action involving super villains and robots, and a guest appearance by Captain America. The mix maybe isn't always seamless, but it's a nice, refreshing attempt. Plus there's some funny bits, some quirky bits, and even an exciting cat-and-mouse duel with Electro in a parking garage.

All in all -- a good run of stories.

Admitedly, the intent sometimes exceeds the execution. In the first issue, Sam is trying to keep a ghetto kid out of trouble (and it's a tad awkward, having the Falcon stop him in the midst of an attempted rape, and still expect us to believe he's a good kid, just driven to bad things by booze -- but anyway) and the story ends suggesting Sam's succeeded...except it's not clear how the events in the story (involving an armoured man sabotaging a housing project) achieved this. And there are probably a few things like that -- dealing simply with complex issues. But, hey, at least it's touching on complex issues. But perhaps the problem is that for all the superficial (though earnest) desire to deal with ghetto life -- the denizens, the street kids and gang members, remain more plot devices than fully realized characters (granted, it'd be hard to squeeze much more into the issues).

So, as I say, re-reading it, it's decently drawn, at times cleverly and quirkily written, if sometimes obvious and hokey. And the Falcon is sympathetic hero. I'm just not sure why I'm not more enthusiastic about it. So maybe it's not a great mini-series, but it's certainly a good one. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise -- not even me!

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