As you may recall, I wrote about American Eagle's resurrection in a series of postings:
American Eagle Triumphant
American Eagle Reborn
Background on American Eagle
Now here's the story on the comic. The hype:
Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1
Except they haven’t actually done that--the bulk of this series appear to be reprints of original stories from Marvel’s Digital Comics Online service. There’s a wacky framing sequence set in the Marvel bullpen that’s packed with in-jokes and self-referential moments, more fitting of the assistant editors’ tradition, but the tone of the actual stories collected doesn’t quite mesh with that.
That’s not to say they haven’t tried--characters like D-Man and American Eagle aren’t high up anyone’s list of credible characters, but rather than go for laughs, the stories themselves play things dead straight, and that causes a harmful rift between reader expectations, and the credibility afforded the book’s super-heroes.
When Assistants Attack
Written by Jason Aaron with art by Richard Isanove.
"When the fancy-pants superheroes descend into his country, American Eagle teaches them a thing or two about real justice," declares Lauren Sankovitch.
"Besides being able to take down notorious baddies like Bullseye without breaking a sweat, the Eagle's had a veritable parade of some of the most horrid and offensive costumes in comicdom. Luckily, the costume does not make the man."
This story is actually a trifle: a nine-page story that could've been done in six or seven pages. But at least it's a good trifle, not a bad one.
The premise is simple. A villain named Cottonmouth flees a crime scene with a little girl as a hostage. American Eagle follows them across the Navajo rez.
Why is it good? For once Aaron writes a Native hero who doesn't punch, slash, or kill his way to victory. Rather, American Eagle enlists the girl to deliver a well-aimed kick and quickly subdues the villain.
Not only is this a welcome change, but it seems consistent with American Eagle's revised character. This hero doesn't do the usual macho posturing; he's all about getting the job done with no fuss or muss.
Even better, the story ends with American Eagle forcing Cottonmouth to make amends for his crime. This is a traditional value you almost never see in Native-themed fiction. Kudos to Aaron for the idea.
A few quibbles
The story claims the federal agents can't follow Cottonmouth onto the rez because it's sovereign territory. In the case of a felony such as kidnapping, yes, I think they could. But I'm not sure about that and it doesn't harm the story.
Richard Isanove's version of the rez consists of bright red, orange, and yellow backgrounds with no detail. The splash page below gives you the idea. The message is that the region is a wasteland of sun, heat, and sand, not a network of towns and roads nestled in a range of desert and mountain ecosystems.
American Eagle is dressed in his motorcycle leathers but doesn't wear his spiffy new helmet. It makes sense that he wouldn't wear it on his home ground, but it reduces his "cool" factor by about 50%.
P.S. I think American Eagle had only one costume before the revamp, not a "veritable parade." It would've been a good costume for a Plains hero named Super-Chief, but it was badly stereotypical for this Navajo hero.
For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.