There’s been a lot of talk about Marvel and diversity since their VP of Sales, David Gabriel, made a comment that appeared to blame diversity for Marvel’s recent sales slump. Though he later clarified that he was referencing complaints from two retailers who mainly took issue with the new young and black Iron Man, RiRi Williams, it still put their series led by women and people of color at the center of much speculation. One alternate explanation is that Marvel’s most popular titles in that category (Black Panther and Ms. Marvel), are written by people of color: Ta-Nehisi Coates and G. Willow Wilson, respectively. And while I think there are several factors at play, it’s hard to ignore the authenticity and intricate world building that Coates and Wilson brought to their titles.
If authenticity is key to a successful series, then America is in for a long run. A former Young Avenger, America Chavez is an 18-year-old queer Latina with an impressive array of superpowers. Check out a portion of her character bio courtesy of Marvel’s Wiki:
America Chavez was raised by her mothers in the Utopian Parallel, a dimension out of time and in the presence of the Demiurge. She appeared to have inherited or absorbed some or all of her superpowers from the Demiurge’s ambient magical presence. When America was approximately six-years-old, the Utopian Parallel was threatened by destruction. America’s mothers heroically sacrificed themselves to seal the black holes pulling Utopia into the common Multiverse resulting in their particles being smeared across the Multiverse itself.
YA novelist Gabby Rivera is the writer behind America, and she also happens to be a queer Latina. She’s developed a story that puts newcomers to the character (like me) on equal footing with America. We’re learning who she is at the same time she embarks on a path of self-discovery: she’s going to college.
In “Pa’ Fuera, Pa’ La Calle,” we’re first introduced to America the badass as she works with Spectrum and Captain Marvel to save a planet called Maltixa (located on the outskirts of the Utopian Parallel) from a mystery being. Then we see the vulnerable side of America as she reunites with her girlfriend, Lisa. America isn’t comfortable wearing her heart on her sleeve (it gets in the way when it’s time to punch things), so she lashes out particularly harsh when Lisa drops the bomb that she won’t be moving with America when she leaves to attend Sotomayer University. And yeah, the university is as amazing as you’d imagine with a name like that.
At school, we’re introduced to America’s ego and impulsive nature. After she makes a less than ideal first impression on a professor, she’s determined to overly excel on their first assignment. She ignores warnings from her old friend and fellow classmate, Prodigy, and activates a time machine he’d been working on. It sends her back to World War II Germany where America wastes no time punching Hitler in his face.
America is ridiculously gorgeous and I have to give props to Joe Quinones for sketching this full-figured, strong, brown woman and to José Villarrubia with vibrant colors that perfectly complement America’s energy. The book is also filled with women, people of color, and queer folks. It’s one of the few books out that nails what the world really looks like.
America feels totally relatable and like someone I could have grown up with in Brooklyn. And this first issue was mad topical: America is extremely social media savvy and follows her fans back on BeamChat (she promises!) and punching Nazis in the face is totally in right now.
See you in the next day or so for my review of America #2, “The Girls Wanna Be Her.”