The Falcon can fight, but the problem is his writers, not the character’s abilities.
In addition to rising to another murder of a Black person, I had to sit through a character assassination of Sam Wilson by a writer who insisted the character of the Falcon was a poor fighter and was taken to town in every confrontation he participates in.
He then proceeds to provide video clips of every drubbing the Falcon has every experienced as evidence of the character’s inability to provide meaningful resistance to getting his ass handed to him.
I refute every one of those beatings because Sam Wilson is only Human, and as a Human using a technology designed for stealth infiltration, not combat assault, when Sam is confronting superior technology or lacks proper intelligence, he doesn’t back down, he attempts to muddle through.
Given the nature of his job, it should be clear to anyone, he has been trained to fight and showcases this ability whenever he is fighting normal military forces who are not utilizing super serums or fight enhancing technology. Some of the Falcon’s opponents were so outside of his league, to leave the battlefield at all is a testament to great skill.
The real problem isn’t Sam’s fighting prowess. It is the poor writing which has Sam engage opponents he shouldn’t, not armed in a way he should be and effectively unprotected against enemies who were designed to fight opponents far tougher than Sam Wilson and the EXO-7 stealth suit.
In every featured instance, Sam Wilson is fighting against someone who is using advanced technology or superhuman ability. The EXO-7 armor being used by Sam is not like Iron Man’s armor which would be considered an assault platform.
The EXO-7 is a flying, stealth armor designed to allow fast entry and exit from the battlefield. It is meant to be an extraction, assassination and retrieval tool, not an assault platform. And as such, he shouldn’t be expected to win against overwhelming superhuman resistance.
A super-soldier, utilizing the Super Serum no matter what version means normal men, even highly trained and well armed individuals, even if they are trained and coordinated are no match for an experienced user such as Captain America (Steve Rogers).
There are at least four known variants of the Super Soldier Serum. Steve Rogers was enhanced with version 1.0 which included a radiation bombardment which transformed Steve Rogers from a 98 pound weakling into 220 pounds of highly-coordinated, physically-enhanced PEAK HUMAN with the capacity to run 35 miles an hour for an hour without appreciable fatigue, to fight dozens of unarmed men whose abilities include being highly trained in a confined space (an elevator) and have them defeated in the time it took to reach the ground floor. The super soldier serum knockoffs produced by the Soviets and HYDRA are almost as good, allowing the Winter Soldier to hold his own even against Captain America.
Versions 3.0 which was given to Isiah Bradley allowed him to fight and win against an actively murderous Winter Soldier (as described by Bradley and tacitly acknowledged by Barnes) as his only defeat as the Winter Soldier.
Version 4.0, which was remaster from 3.0 gave all of the capacity of the previous version without physically requiring the visual change of the subject’s appearance. It was elegant, without revealing its existence, which is why all of the Flag Smashers appear to be normal, un-modified Humans, until they open that can of whip-ass on you.
The simple facts are, in almost every case, Sam is outclassed, out-gunned and still manages to live to the end of every one of these confrontations is amazing. This doesn’t mean Sam can’t fight. It means the writers won’t allow him to win those fights, partially because it wouldn’t make sense for him to win, unless he was very creative or very lucky.
Sam’s survival in these battles are a testament to real skills which are simply not being appreciated by the reviewer in question. Here are my notes on each fight and the participants in question.
- JOHN WALKER – When the Falcon and the reformed Winter Soldier are fighting against John Walker, to recover the shield from him, both Sam and Bucky are trying to be kind. They don’t want to hurt John, they just want to recover the shield. Walker, newly exposed to the Super Soldier Serum version 4.0, is much stronger than the Flag Smashers because he was in far better shape and is better trained than any of them. Walker is reckless with his strength and because of their restraint, they both get hurt. If they were fighting to win, not subdue, they would have both done much better in that fight.
- CROSSBONES – Utilized superhuman strength created through technology. Harnessing the hydraulic functions of his specialized gauntlets, Rumlow gained superhuman capability. They boosted his physical attributes enough that he was briefly a match for Captain America.
- THE WINTER SOLDIER – Utilized the Soviet Super Soldier Serum. It’s a knockoff, but a good one making The Winter Soldier able to, using his cybernetic arm to be able to hold his own against Captain America and in more than one confrontation, Barnes was a force to be reckoned with. 80 years of murdering people as one of the most dangerous assassins on Earth is nothing to be sneezed at. Only his newfound morality limits the murderous abilities he is certainly still in possession of.
- THE FLAG SMASHERS – Every one of them is using Super Soldier Serum 4.0. They are strong, athletic and fast. They aren’t great fighters but when they connect, it is brutal. Battlestar who was also unenhanced paid for that differential with his life, and he would have been considered an elite fighting man against any other Human opponent.
- SPIDER-MAN – Spider-Man outclasses both the Winter Soldier and Captain America in both his physical strength, agility, reflex time and with his precognitive spider sense, most of the Avengers, even those with superior fighting prowess are outclassed because of his metahuman abilities. You beat Spider-Man with tactics, not with strength.
ANT-MAN – Despite how stupid the power appears to be, utilized properly, it made Hank Pym who was never a fighting man, and had no real training, able to, just by being able to change his size and alter his mass specifically, to take down multiple opponents with alarming ease. I don’t fault Sam in that fight, he had no idea what he was up against and confused size with mass. Hank Pym can weigh 170 pounds and be six inches tall. No normal Human can prepare for the immovability of an object with such flexibility in mass.
- BATROC – The only Human opponent among Sam’s fights and he was a master of his fighting style. Batroc dared to fight Captain America and held his own, at least for a moment, meaning he isn’t your ordinary fighting man. But Sam held his own against multiple opponents and managed to fight effectively against Batroc and his men.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series opens with Sam showcasing his flying, tactical and combat awareness. He is shown to be a skilled combatant and capable user of the EXO-7 flight suit, both in the air and in hand to hand combat.
He utilizes fighting techniques which take advantage of his mobility and aerial agility offensively and defensively. The flight suit was not meant to be used quite the way Sam used it and yet he made excellent use of it when writers choose to showcase it, as they did during the series opening scene.
This is not about Sam’s fighting ability, this is about the writers putting Sam in a position to not look his best and placing him against enemies who clearly outclass him physically. Yet Sam is a soldier and takes on the challenge knowing in most cases, he expects teamwork to help him win the day.
Writers need to stop blaming the character for the scriptwriter’s and showrunner’s inability to allow him to win confrontations because if the opening sequence to the series was any indication, Sam and the EXO-7 do exactly as they were intended.
Sam utilizes the EXO-7 as a force multiplier designed to allow a single agent to fight against other human opponents, utilize stealth to access battle arenas, accomplish missions and get out, quickly and quietly.
The opening sequence of Falcon and the Winter Soldier showed the EXO-7 and its pilot performed their job with aplomb and alacrity.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.