The following contains major spoilers for Wonder Woman #1, now on sale from DC Comics.
Apart from its high-flying and colorfully costumed heroes, the DC Universe has always been home to dark and ominous figures whose names are heard more frequently in hushed tones than in boastful battle cries. While Amanda Waller has certainly become DC’s prototypical shadowy government agent, she is far from the first to take on that role. In fact, her earliest predecessor was nothing like her at the start, although the Sargent Steel of today is absolutely the kind of villain that Wonder Woman, Waller, and the rest of the world need to worry about.
After an Amazon in the United States turns a dive bar into a slaughterhouse for being accosted and groped by a male patron, the United States government is swift in enacting the so-called “Amazon Safety Act.” This law not only shuttered the Amazonian Embassy and banned any Amazons of Themyscira from entering the country, it immediately criminalized any Amazons already on United States soil. As seen in the pages of Wonder Woman #1 (by Tom King, Daniel Sampere, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles), to ensure that this law was enforced in the most extreme manners possible, an exceptionally ruthless hand was needed to guide it. Unfortunately for the Amazons, there is no hand more cold and unfeeling than that of Sarge Steel.
Who is DC’s Sarge Steel – And Where Did He Come From?
Sergeant, or Sarge Steel, first appeared all the way back in 1964’s “File 101: The Case of the Pearls of Death” (by Joe Gill and Dick Giordano, from the pages of Sarge Steel #1). A Chartlon Comics production, Steel wouldn’t make his way into the DC Universe until after he had established himself as a private investigator with an exceptionally heavy steel hand. Throughout his early adventures, Steel took on a variety of organized criminals and masked menaces. His career as a PI was always tinged with an air of uncertainty, however, which made him a prime pick for the C.I.A.’s next great agent.
After being recruited for the C.I.A., Steel’s adventures only grew in scope, becoming more outlandish with each issue the character appeared in. Before long, Steel was regularly appearing alongside the likes of Judomaster in his own self-titled series, all while building up a reputation as someone who was fit for any fight that came his way. Like Judomaster himself and the rest of their contemporaries, however, Steel’s time in the pages of Charlton Comics wasn’t meant to last. Once DC Comics acquired the rights to the Charlton library, nearly all the latter’s classic characters were folded into the former’s sprawling universe.
How Sarge Steel Has Evolved Over the Years
1987’s Legends #3 (by John Ostrander, Len Wein, and John Byrne) reintroduced Sarge Steel in a wildly different form than fans of the character were used to. Rather than being an investigator turned extraordinary agent, Steel had risen through the ranks of the C.I.A. to the point that he was largely in charge of the government’s direct response to superhuman activities. In his first appearance in the DC Universe, Steel attempted to enforce a presidential edict that would have criminalized the Teen Titans. Instead, the heroes simply walked away from his directives, setting the stage for what would be a lifelong distrust and, occasionally, an outright hatred for anyone more than merely human.
Between his personal problems with the superhero community and his infrequent colleague Amanda Waller’s frequent use of them as part off her Task Force X, better known as the Suicide Squad, Steel also developed a deep disdain for The Wall. In the years that followed, Steel would lend his services to the Department of Metahuman Affairs, the short-lived L.A.W. squadron, and even DC’s ominous Checkmate. All of these efforts were in an attempt to further his war against the metahumans Steel saw as a blight upon the world at large. Rather than Waller’s similar crusade, Steel isn’t concerned with games of espionage or subterfuge when he could instead simply lay waste to his enemies who, tragically, now include Wonder Woman and every other Amazon on Earth.
Why Sarge Steel is Wonder Woman’s New Biggest Problem
With full reign to capture, imprison, and ultimately kill any Amazons on American soil, Sarge Steel has never been more dangerous. At this point, his transition into an abject villain alongside the likes of Waller is complete, with no room left for him to redeem himself in the eyes of DC’s true heroes or readers. Of course, it is hard to imagine why Steel would want to be anything other than himself, even if holding back would put him in a better position overall. Steel has never been one to back down from a fight, no matter how outmatched he might be. If anything, Steel is ready and willing to put himself and the soldiers under his purview through as much hurt as necessary to win the battle at hand, or at least to paint the opposition as criminal foreign agents for defending themselves.
This doesn’t just make Steel a problem for Wonder Woman or the superhero community as a whole, but for Waller and her own endeavors as well. While Steel is focused solely on the Amazons for the time being, there is no chance he won’t turn his attention elsewhere when the dust has settled. Assuming Steel is still standing by the time that happens, gutting the likes of Task Force X and any other team that would legitimize metahumans would both be a major win for Steel personally and further propel him through the ranks of the agencies he has made a home within. As bad as Amanda Waller is, she at least knows how to keep a low profile, whereas the current Steel would much rather get the job done as loudly as possible, even if only to remind the world just how deadly he truly is.
A classic comic book antihero is back in action in the DC Universe, and he is about to become Wonder Woman’s personal Amanda Waller. Read More