August 12, 2008

American Eagle triumphant

In THUNDERBOLTS #114, the revamped American Eagle makes his public debut. Here's the setup:

As I said, the government has ordered all superheroes to register. It's hired the Thunderbolts, a group of villains and ex-villains, to round up unregistered heroes.

Like many heroes, American Eagle opposes registration on moral grounds. As with McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, he considers it an infringement of his constitutional rights

In Phoenix, an unregistered vigilante named Steel Spider has been beating up petty thugs, including Natives. Since the Steel Spider is operating in his area, American Eagle feels obligated to talk to him.

As he does so, the Thunderbolts appear to arrest Steel Spider. American Eagle decides he won't let them take Spider without a fight, even though the Thunderbolts may arrest him too.

The first thing you notice about American Eagle is his new costume. As with his personality, it's possibly the best revamp of a Native costume ever. It's basically a biker outfit, but it preserves the red, white, and blue colors of the original. It's topped off by a helmet with a glass shield in the shape of an eagle’s beak. The whole ensemble works well and is thoroughly cool.

American Eagle vs. Bullseye

In THUNDERBOLTS #115, American Eagle ends up facing Bullseye, the Thunderbolts’ secret weapon. For those who don't know him, Bullseye is perhaps the premier assassin in the Marvel universe. He's a master of unarmed combat who can turn any object into a weapon. American Eagle has never faced such a deadly foe.

Here's how it goes:AMERICAN EAGLE:  I've read all about you, Bullseye.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  Killing regular people. Fighting unpowered operators like Daredevil.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  Pick your targets carefully, don't you? Like some schoolyard jerk, looking for the little kids to kick around.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  You spineless little bag of crap.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  And here you are, in my town. At the same time, the Thunderbolts showed up. Funny, that.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  So let's see what you've got. You might do okay with those New York City boys.

AMERICAN EAGLE:  But you and me are in Phoenix, Arizona. So you take a swing at a real American and see what happens.

BULLSEYE:  You done?

AMERICAN EAGLE:  Not until I'm paddling in your blood, little boy. C’mon. First shot’s free.

BULLSEYE:  First shot’s all I need.


Bullseye lunges at American Eagle, but before he can connect, Eagle knees him in the groin. He then slaps Bullseye hard twice with his super-strength.

BULLSEYE (weakly):  What the first shot...?


AMERICAN EAGLE:  Now I'm all done taking it easy on you. You ready?
American Eagle unleashes his full might on Bullseye. Punch, kick, punch, with the final blow causing an audible crack. That's it for Bullseye. As his handlers later note, Bullseye "took severe head trauma ... and then his assailant snapped his neck."

Wow. This is a near-perfect scene. For once, the Indian character is the one who’s articulate, passionate, and in control. American Eagle doesn't fight fair because Bullseye is a mass murderer many times over. He beats Bullseye to within an inch of his life—but he doesn't kill him, as so many vigilantes might. He gives Bullseye about what he deserves: life imprisonment in the immobile shell of his body. (Of course, given the miracles of comic-book medicine, Bullseye will be back in action within a few months.)

Kudos to writer Warren Ellis and artist Mike Deodato Jr. for one of the best stories about a Native superhero ever. If they did an American Eagle series, I'd buy it and recommend it to everyone. Too bad the powers-that-be probably wouldn't consider it because (they think) it couldn't succeed.

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

1 comment:

L.B.H. said...

An emotionally powerful scene: almost captured the entire 'Civil War' in miniature. Paralysis is a terrible thing, but Bullseye ranks below smallpox in my opinion.
'American Eagle' simply couldn't make it as a solo comic, unfortunately... but it'd be nice to see him recruited into one of Marvel's big-name teams. (Maybe the Thunderbolts? That'd be irony.)