For too many fans, Sam Wilson, the high-flying superhero, is known simply as a secondary character that supports much more capable heroes. Without the super soldier powers of Steve Rodgers or the biomechanical enhancements of Bucky Barnes, some see him as an ineffective teammate at best or a liability at worst. With a world full of beings that can lift cars, topple buildings and fire energy blasts from the palms of their hands, non-powered heroes like Sam are often overshadowed.

However, if one takes enough time to unpack his character and history, it’s clear that Sam is one of the most talented and capable fighters in the Marvel Universe. His long list of experiences across countries, planets and galaxies, coupled with his impressive battle feats, have turned him into a force to be reckoned with. In fact, his martial prowess makes him a greater fighter than most characters in superhero comics.

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Sam Is a Fast Learner and Self-Trained Fighter

Before becoming a superhero, Sam never had a trainer to help him develop his fighting or tactical skills. In fact, the hero didn’t even begin any form of extensive training until he left his home in Harlem, disillusioned with the violence in his neighborhood that left both his parents dead. This led him to become a social worker and eventually travel the world to learn how to address injustice, using only his innate talents and quick wits. Soon enough, this would include learning how to fight the Red Skull’s allies on Exile Island in the Caribbean.

While on the isolated Island, Sam spends time building his physical prowess to survive off the land and defend himself against the Red Skull’s expatriate allies who take up residence there. Learning how to navigate the dense jungles and outwit his foes with Redwing helps him survive, but it’s Sam’s determination to become an effective fighter that enables him to thrive. Without these skills, Sam would never have lived long enough to eventually meet Steve Rogers, develop his fighting prowess and ultimately team up to take down the resurfaced Red Skull.

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Sam Has Trained Extensively With Steve Rogers

While Sam develops many of his fighting skills traveling the world and spending time on Exile Island, he greatly improves his martial abilities when training with Steve Rogers. To help Sam defeat the Exiles that were causing trouble on the island, Steve spends weeks training him in every form of combat he knows — and with his years of experience in the military as well as fighting supervillains, from Baron Zemo to the Red Skull, the Avenger has a smorgasbord of techniques to impart. Combined with Sam’s quick learning, this helps turn the already capable fighter into a force to be reckoned with.

Training with Steve not only helps Sam become a stronger and smarter fighter; it also instills a deeper wisdom within him that enables him to become one of the most influential leaders in the Marvel Universe. Knowing how to physically defeat the villain of the day doesn’t always mean that a hero knows which tactics will bring about the best result, whether it’s preventing the most deaths, negating property damage or reducing the chances of the villain striking again. The lessons Sam learns while training and later fighting alongside Steve around the world helps the hero use his strong moral compass to choose the best tactics when engaging with dangerous foes.

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Sam Has Gone Toe to Toe With Much Stronger Foes

Despite not having any superpowers, Sam is rarely one to shy away from a fight with someone stronger than him. Whether it’s Baron Blood, a literal vampire or the Red Skull with the reality-warping powers of the Cosmic Cube, the Avenger uses his tactical maneuvers and fighting skills to take down opponents that often give much stronger heroes problems. For instance, in Falcon #4, created by Jim Owsley, Mark Bright, Mike Gustovich, Stephen Mellor and Clem Robins, Sam finds himself face to face with the electric-powered supervillain Electro. With no specific solution for incapacitating the villain, or even protection from the electricity, Sam finds a way to combine his fighting skills with Redwing’s tricks to subdue Electro.

Sam has also proven himself capable of giving powerful allies a good fight when the time comes. For example, in the recent Captain America: Symbol of Truth #5, created by Tochi Onyebuchi, R.B. Silva, Julian Shaw, Jesus Aburtov and VC’s Joe Caramagna, Sam fights T’Challa, aka Black Panther, in Wakanda over an impending terrorist attack in the country. Knowing that he has been moving his operations to the nation without permission, T’Challa confronts Sam in full Black Panther gear while the hero is wearing simple civilian clothes. Despite this disadvantage, Sam not only holds his own in the ensuing fistfight but almost defeats the Wakandan warrior. This ability to read his opponents’ fighting styles and determine the most optimal way to subdue them makes him a force to be reckoned with.

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Sam hasn’t kept to the same fighting method throughout his history. In each stage of his life — from his days on Exile Island to his time as Falcon and later Captain America — the hero has taken on new combat styles that mesh well with his inherent talents and the needs of the moment. In the early days, Sam relies on his physical fighting skills to take down opponents. Later, he develops combination attacks with Redwing and his ever-popular Falcon wings. What’s more, after adopting the mantle of Captain America, he adds even more tactics and tools to his repertoire, such as the famous shield fighting.

In these ways, Sam has proven himself to be one of the most adaptable combatants in Marvel Comics. The Avenger is constantly encountering much stronger foes in his fight against injustice throughout the world and the cosmos. To overcome such threats, Sam uses a brilliant combination of physical combat abilities, special flying skills and sheer force of will to stand up to those with otherworldly powers. As a result, virtually every Marvel hero has been more than willing to have such an incredible ally on their team.

 While Sam Wilson has no specific strength-enhancing abilities, he’s still one of the most talented fighters in the Marvel Universe.  Read More